Close this search box.
Close this search box.

APPENDIX B Task Force Recommendations

Area Studies

A.1 Distance learning

Several members mentioned areas of success abroad that need further scrutiny to see whether they offer lessons for us. Examples worthy of study include the distance-learning models of the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, and the distributed collecting done by the Germans.

Widening access to area studies experts and resources through distance learning was viewed by some as realistic and salubrious, and even as an efficient way to gain new audiences for obscure subjects such as medieval Catalonian literature or the thought of St. Augustine. Others regarded it as one more threat to the profession because when teachers are considered a resource that can be networked, small colleges may believe they have a legitimate excuse to dismiss faculty members and library staff, who are already under-supported. There was general consensus that, while most teachers now had or felt obliged to have Web sites, very few of them know how to develop good sites or have the time to maintain and update them.

A.2 Intranet and Internet presence

Universities should assist area studies teachers and librarians in developing an Internet presence that is content-driven and easily kept current.

Internet-based materials may ease the seemingly intractable problem Western libraries have in acquiring or otherwise gaining access to foreign materials. Some members of the task force imagined the possibility of forming partnerships with libraries and archives abroad that would selectively digitize materials and make them available electronically. Others cautioned that past experience with analogous microfilming projects had not been uniformly positive. The idea of having partner libraries and archives abroad do the selecting and microfilming of materials was well regarded in the abstract, but those at the table with experience of foreign cooperative filming programs agreed that a large output of film was not usually the result. More often, the programs justified the considerable time, expense, and frustration because they introduced or built up a basic preservation infrastructure in countries that lacked them. The notion of building significant bodies of resources filmed abroad is a chimera. Increasing the acquisition of print materials from these nations usually results in a much greater burden on the preservation and collections management staff, because the paper is notoriously acidic, the bindings weak, and the print quality often quite substandard.

A.3 Funding levels

Area studies can be reestablished by shoring up a few major programs across the country. Private funding for digitization should be sought, if this can be done without pandering to commercial interests.

The discussion of resources inevitably led to speculation about how to find funding at levels appropriate to support area studies staff and collections. Money that had flowed into most universities during the Cold War has dried up and well-trained and highly qualified specialists are underemployed or have been forced to leave their fields altogether. The trend is not likely to be reversed dramatically, but suggestions were made about shoring up area studies in general. For example, students in certain social science disciplines, such as economics, should be encouraged to add an area studies focus to their training.

A.4 Faculty involvement

ACLS should work with scholarly societies to help members understand the intellectual and fiscal choices that must be made by libraries regarding their collections.

The discussion of the role that faculty members might play in responding to some of the group’s concerns began with a recommendation that they participate in decisions about what to consign to secondary storage. It was noted that, while many libraries have been successful in getting direction from faculty members about high-volume material, decisions about the selection of mid-level and lower-level use materials were usually forced back on to the library staff. Involving faculty in the weeding process-a process absolutely essential to the maintenance of a well-preserved and easily accessible resource base-was even harder than involving them in selection for offsite storage, in the group’s experience.

A.5 Resource guide

A resource guide to area studies should be mounted on a Web site in order to facilitate resource sharing.

To guide libraries in their decisions about area studies collections, one of the strong institutions in area studies should take responsibility for an online resource guide.

Audio Materials

B.1 Finding aids

B.1 (a) The task force was in general agreement on the fundamental need for bibliographic control of audio collections and for finding aidsof whatever degree of completenessto acquaint scholars and the larger public with the existence of these materials and to promote their use.

The principal problem with spoken-word materials is the cost of proper cataloging: with tapes, there is no getting around the need to listen in real time to know precisely what is there. Given the great volume of material to be processed, the costs of cataloging, and the surely limited amounts of money to get it done, what, if any, degree of compromise about the completeness of records is possible in structuring databases and finding commonalties? Library catalogers are traditionally disposed to prefer completeness, but is there not real benefit in the provision of at least some information, as compared to no information, about audio materials? The question, of course, is how much information is needed for scholars to know whether they will find the materials useful.

B.1 (b) The task force endorsed the notion of compiling inventories of audio materials, which would provide something between a full catalog record and a mere list. Once the inventories have been created, it will be easier to decide what may warrant full cataloging.

While some task force members urged scholars to set priorities for cataloging audio materials, librarians cautioned that such directives may be unreliable. Today’s scholarly interests may not be viewed so favorably in the future. The responsibility, they thought, would fall to curators.

B.1 (c) Information technologies should be used (1) to help create the finding aids, perhaps by imposing standards on existing data to bring them up to code and build a thesaurus, or by entering data into an existing thesaurus and (2) to disseminate the bibliographic information.

B.2 Costs

The group agreed that a framework for coordinating the digitizing effort and serving as the underpinning for cooperative activity is essential. They further agreed that the database is the essential component of a frameworkand, in the encouraging words of one participant, “We already have it.”

One member of the panel made the following critically important observation: “We are moving from ‘toy’ digital libraries to the next stage of digital libraries, when they will grow substantially, and we shall do something very wasteful if we all digitize the same things.” Within a widely recognized framework, new models of consortial sharing may evolve, and the inadequate delivery mechanisms that have been the undoing of resource-sharing efforts in the past may be rendered efficient-and therefore acceptable-in the digital environment. Because the financial costs are so high, institutions will also need to reallocate resources in order to create large virtual collections (and not just of audio materials) and make them accessible.

Manuscript Materials

C.1 Finding aids

Focus on the creation of finding aids and making them Web-accessible. A researcher should be able with a single search to find all the recorded instances of the manuscript materials on his or her chosen topic.

C.2 Project-by-project justification

Do not invest too heavily in wholesale digital conversion of manuscript materials. Each project should be well defined in purpose, adhere to the highest scholarly standards, and shun the opportunistic of fashionable.

C.3 Public records

Pay more attention to the appropriate retention of public electronic records than of private ones. We can reasonably expect private records to be kept in one form or another by interested parties. Retaining public records, however, poses a much greater problem and has implications that go beyond future scholarship.

Monographs and Journals

D.1 Improve access

Give more attention to improving accessibility of materials that have been put in storage or copied to microformats. The construction of a virtual library shelf would be helpful.

D.2 Information costs

We need to know more about the real costs of information. Technology is turning the library into a new type of scholarly resource. Yet provosts have no idea how much is being spent on library and information resources, since most of the budget for these resources is scattered under different budget categories, such as communications functions, computers and networks, and storage.

D.3 Book-like qualities

The book is still the best technology for many researchers. The qualities that make it so useful, such as page turning and indexes, can be better incorporated into advances in information technology.

D.4 Access vs. acquisition

In budgeting, do not think only about acquiring new materials. Consider also what can be done to make better use of what is already available, as through electronic resources that make print resources more available, such as indexes.

D.5 Cost sharing

Find new and efficient ways to share costs among libraries.

Visual Materials

E.1 Improve access

Many of the visual resources housed in libraries and archives have not been indexed or cataloged. Until bibliographic access is provided, these materials cannot be fully exploited by scholars.

E.2 Long-term preservation

As more visual resources are digitized and made available on the Web, ways must be found to ensure preservation of the digital files, just as the originals need to be preserved for as long as possible.

E.3 Integration

In the future, visual resources will grow in importance as primary source materials. Librarians must find ways to integrate these visual resources into the mainstream functions of the research library.

Plenary Session

F.1 Finding Aids

F.1 (a) Advocate acceptance of the EAD standard for form and content of finding aids for collections of all genres and formats.

F.1 (b) Prepare finding aids for collections of all genres and formats and publish them on the Web; promote the expansion and maintenance of a single site for EAD metadata on the Web, RLG Archival Resources Index.

F.1 (c) Convert existing finding aids to digital form and publish on the Web.

F.1 (d) Promote and advertise the development of software which facilitates the creation of EAD-compliant finding aids and discovery and retrieval software, making use of them convenient for scholars and students.

F.2 Primary resources for teaching and research

Promote the use of source materials in teaching and research. Collections not presently organized and described might provide useful material and challenges for seminars, even at the undergraduate level.

F.3 Role of libraries, archives, and museums

Conduct a national campaign to inform the academic community and the general public of the cultural role of libraries, archives, and museums, even in the age of digital information.

F.4 STM journal pricing

Disseminate in digest form the consequences of the STM journal pricing crisis on the humanities and social sciences in the academy.

F.5 Copyright

F.5 (a) Disseminate in digest form the consequences of the new copyright and intellectual property laws, treaties, and regulations.

F.5 (b) Promote conscious and careful management of authors’ copyrights among communities of faculty authors. Point out the advantages and possibilities of content licensing by authors rather than giving up copyrights to publishers.

F.6 Collaboration

Promote cost-effective collaboration among libraries and museums to ensure depth and redundancy in content of the logical national collections.

Skip to content