#32 Fall 1998
- News from the Chair
- ACRL Preconference:"Getting Ready for the Nineteenth Century: Strategies and Solutions for Rare Book and Special Collections Librarians"
- Notes from Paul Conway's Conversation with Members of the Nineteenth-Century Materials Discussion Group (EALS)
- Serials Review: Humanities Collections
- Recent Studies of Interest to English and American Literature Librarians
- EALSL and Related ALA Resources
News from the Chair
Two ALA themes have been on my mind this summer and fall. The first is the title of ACRL's 9th National Conference (April 8-11 in Detroit), "Racing Toward Tomorrow." I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm finding very little time to race toward tomorrow. Frankly, I'm too busy racing toward this afternoon. In fact, I often feel like I'm racing backward, trying to catch up with or do damage control for opportunities and deadlines already missed.
The issue of time allocation is, of course, connected to the larger environment of constant change in academic libraries and librarianship. Many of the issues the ACRL Conference promises to address"scholarly communication, electronic publishing, distance learning, alternate funding, outcomes assessment, and information literacy," to quote from the conference brochure, were not covered (as I recall) in my library school's curriculum twenty years ago, nor were they stressed, as such, in the job description for the position I now hold. Indeed, on both a daily and a yearly basis, I find myself spending less and less time performing the kind of traditional collection development-related tasks and projects, and virtually all my reference service is now done by email or in what I would call instructional settings.
Although I have some qualms and disagreements with Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits" program, he is certainly right that we all must schedule time for what he calls "sharpening the saw," the habit of renewal. I hope that EALS in particular, and ACRL in general, can be a medium for such professional renewal. If in fact we must race toward tomorrow, please consider joining me in Detroit next April for what I think will be a great opportunity to do so with a better professional road map in hand. If you have not received or have misplaced the brochure on this conference, please visit www.ala.org/acrl/prendex.html.
Second, ever since the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, I have been thinking about Past-President Barbara Ford's theme, "Global Reach, Local Touch," and wondering how this applies to EALS. One obvious connection, it seems to me, is in the very name of our Section. Whereas English has become the de facto language of much intercultural communication, and most of us are responsible— either in terms of collection development, reference services, cataloging for all literature written in English, our name implies that our concern is with librarianship relating to the literature(s) of England and the United States.
Several alternatives have been suggested, and the EALS Executive Committee will continue to discuss them at Midwinter in Philadelphia. Despite the acronym that might result, my preference is for Literature in English Section (LIES, or perhaps just LES). Some would argue for making the word literature plural, but I think this raises unnecessary and ultimately political issues of what constitutes a distinct literature.
Although there are many who would argue that the writing of each identifiable ethnic, racial, gender, geographical, or even behavioral group that writes in English is distinctive enough to constitute a literature, many who belong to such groups are offended by being pigeonholed; many would belong to two or more such groups simultaneously; and many do not refer to their group identity in their writing. The one thing that all such "literatures" have in common— their "global reach," if you will—is that they are written in English and that they are literary; thus, all are "literature in English."
If you have thoughts about this subject, please share them with me or, even better, with the section's listserv. I hope to see many of you in Philadelphia, Detroit, or New Orleans.
Rob Melton, Chair
ACRL Preconference: "Getting Ready for the Nineteenth Century: Strategies and Solutions for Rare Book and Special Collections Librarians"
The RBMS Preconference title this year, "Getting Ready for the Nineteenth Century," indicates its particular relevance for us as we come to the close of the twentieth century. Materials written or published in the nineteenth century are becoming more remote with the passage of time, and simultaneously they are becoming more fragile, particularly those on acidic paper. As one speaker put it, these are materials that fall in between the attention of rare book librarians who are often concerned with pre-1800 imprints and collection development librarians who are involved in acquiring current imprints. Yet because of the vast increase in publishing output over the nineteenth century, these materials constitute a significant portion of many academic libraries' collections. Essentially, this pre-conference posed the question, "What's to be done?" As you may surmise, the answers were not simple.
Many interesting and useful sessions addressed the question. Sessions included the cataloging of undated minor publications of the nineteenth century; nineteenth-century photographic collections; building research collections on the nineteenth century; brittle books in the open stacks; early publishers' trade bindings; a Web site as a preservation archives; using nineteenth-century sources in bibliographic instruction; and the descriptive cataloging of nineteenth- century books, among others. Lively plenary sessions included a slide show and dialog on the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution as historical competitors; the need and opportunities for collaboration for preservation; and the questions of valuing the nineteenth century and its future in cultural studies.
A number of important points stood out during these sessions. One is that bibliographic control of the nineteenth century is far from complete. For example, Sid Huttner's paper on his compilation of editions of Lucile by Owen Meredith (Bulwer Lytton) identified 330 variant editions or bindings of this one novel. The Nineteenth-Century Short-Title Catalog ( NSTC), still in progress, may reach four to five million records. Another point is that we are losing the evidence as time passes: books are frequently destroyed during the microfilming process, and examples of publishers' bindings are disappearing from our stacks as books are rebound, filmed, or simply withdrawn. (Sue Allen produced an excellent Library of Congress brochure called "American Book Cover 1830-1900" to assist staff in identifying important bindings in the stacks to preserve them. There was more demand for the brochure than there were supplies of it.) Another observation was that the acid paper problem is not so dire as previously thought: Paul Conway, Head of Preservation at Yale, noted that if books are stored under environmentally sound conditions and they receive little or no use, they will last much longer than we once thought. A survey done by Virginia Commonwealth University found that although a large portion of late nineteenth-century books were brittle, they were still intact enough to withstand the three-fold test.
In the plenary on the need for collaboration one speaker urged librarians to involve scholars in setting priorities and suggested this is best done through the scholarly associations. For example, the Modern Language Association's statement on the preservation of original materials was endorsed by both RBMS and EALS. Paul Conway observed that we must decide what evidence of the past we want to retain. Microfilming has reached about 800,000 books now, and the goal is three million. He noted that all publications of the acidic period are not in equally bad condition. Conway encouraged librarians to take the lead in setting priorities, because scholars can be paralyzed by the grim choices that face us.
In the last plenary Jim Neal addressed "The Future of the Nineteenth Century," rapidly reviewing historical and information trends and definitional and administrative issues. He likes the phrase "medium-rare," which rare book librarians are calling these materials. Other points he made were: much more need to involve faculty and researchers in collaborative planning; librarians have an educational role; we must inform the public, who can include our best allies; we need more sampling and surveys of collections; integration versus isolation of material (he believes the reality is that the majority of nineteenth-century material will remain in the general stacks); national availability projects, such as L.C.'s "American Memory" digital initiative; newspaper microfilming; digitization as preservation.
Overall, this preconference covered many of the difficult issues involved in the question of saving the nineteenth century. Solutions were proposed, but they are difficult ones requiring large investments of time, energy, personnel, space, and money, and these will depend on decisions regarding value and priorities. But the conclusion was clear that the solutions depend on librarians taking the lead.
University of Notre Dame
Notes from Paul Conway's Conversation with Members of the Nineteenth-Century Materials Discussion Group (EALS)
A small and congenial group met in the vast America bar in Union Station at ALA on Friday afternoon to talk with Paul Conway, Head of Preservation at Yale, about issues surrounding the preservation of nineteenth-century materials in the general stacks of (mostly) academic libraries.
We began by acknowledging the tension between preservation and access in the world of traditional preservation, and between reformatting and preserving the artifact. We then brought up various problems or questions, including:
1. Commercial micropublishing sets. These microfilm sets predate contemporary standards, they entail bibliographic problems, and the publishers' commitment to the sets' maintenance may be questionable. Often it is the case that the micropublishing took the cream of what the stacks had to offer, but the resulting products do not always meet NEH standards.
2. De-acidification. Acidity is of course highly damaging to paper over the long haul, but good environmental conditions can slow down the process of deterioration significantly. There are some residual problems with the
process of de-acidification (e.g., it is not a completely reversible process), and for materials already embrittled by acidity (30% of the stacks at Yale) de-acidification does not and cannot strengthen weakened paper. The deadidification process can be rough on the books; only fully intact volumes can be sent through the BookKeeper process, for example. On the other hand, for materials not yet brittle, de-acidification can be a salvation. Paul distinguished between mass- de-acidification (which involves the treatment of very large batches of books in a centralized location) and "de-acidification for the masses" (which involves small-scale, albeit highly effective treatments at facilities widely distributed geographically). The latter process is quite low-tech and could perhaps be accomplished regionally. The BookKeeper process being managed in Pittsburgh by Preservation Technologies, Inc. is such a low tech program. Large-scale processes are presently only available in Europe, yet manufacturers are eying the American market for potential customers. Again, a regional solution may be most appropriate for processes that can treat up to 250,000 volumes each year.
3. Preservation photo- copying. We discussed the possibility of setting up a listserv on which to post queries for preservation photocopies so that more than one institution could benefit. We also talked about the potential for digitizing material. We re-affirmed the need to hold on to the books themselves, the artifacts, in order to preserve a critical mass of nineteenth-century material.
4. We touched on the following topics for future conversation and action:
- The future of micropublishers' sets
- The future of de-acidification technology
- The definition of what is "rare"
- Terms of collaboration and/or competition among institutions
Thank you to Paul Conway for generously sharing your thoughts with us.
Margaret K. Powell
Serials Review: Humanities Collections
(vol. 1, no. 1, 1998. 86pp. ISSN: 1092-6763. The Haworth Press, 10 Alice Street, Binghamton, NY 13904-1580).
The ambition of this new quarterly journal from Haworth is to be "an international forum for collections in the Humanities, with contributors and readers worldwide." Although this focus may seem hopelessly outdated to those who believe technology has made such concerns irrelevant, Robin Kinder, the editor, points out that "it is erroneous to believe that the humanities have been standing still." Technological issues such as digital imaging, text encoding, and electronic access to collections are, of course, also well within this journal's scope.
The articles in this first issue exemplify this plan. A fairly long article by Karen V. Kukil describes the origins and establishment of the Francis Hooper Collection of Virginia Woolf Books and Manuscripts at Smith College, focusing on the correspondence between Woolf and Lytton Strachey. It gives us some background on this literary correspondence, summarizes the collector's career and the publication history of the letters, and ends with a brief description of the remainder of the collection. Another, much shorter article, describes the Edward Clark Collection of materials pertaining to the history of printing and publishing at Napier University in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Two more articles deal with the effects of the Web on the Humanities. In "The World Wide Web and the Humanities: Superhighway to What? Research, Quality and 'Literature,’" Byron Anderson discusses some of the pro- blems faced by the humanities scholar trying to do Internet research. His discussion of search engines should enlighten anyone who has been puzzled by the results of a Web search. The article concludes with Anderson's selection and annotation of comprehensive literary sites. In another article Alan Liu reflects on the origin and development of his now famous "Voice of the Shuttle: Web Page for Humanities Research." Begun as a local resource, it quickly expanded into a global one, organized along traditional humanities subject lines, i.e., period, nationality, etc.; in practice it also has the effect of re-organizing that knowledge along interdisciplinary lines. A bibliography of "Basque Linguistics and Literature Resources" by Martha Zarate and a review of three women's studies databases by the editor round out this inaugural issue.
Humanities Collections has the potential to be a useful resource to librarians and scholars alike. There is currently no other journal with precisely this one's scope, although Collection Building and Collection Management occasionally overlap. Haworth press seems committed to the goal of devoting a journal on every aspect of librarianship, including emerging trends: longtime publishers of The Reference Librarian, in 1996 they introduced The Internet Reference Services Quarterly. At eighty-six pages, the first issue of Humanities Collections seems a little thin when compared with longer running Haworth Journals, but the newer IRSQ is a comparable length. Its cover design does not stray from the familiar Haworth look, but unlike older Haworth publications, a few photographs and illustrations enhance the articles on collections. Robin Kinder, the editor, is also an associate editor for The Reference Librarian and The Acquisitions Librarian. The institutions listed for the members of the editorial board reflect a dominance of academics, although William Katz is the only name I recognized.
How well Humanities Collections ultimately fulfils its promise depends, of course, on the contributors it is able to attract. A close reading of the detailed instructions to authors reveals two potentially discouraging requirements. Firstly, the author must sign over his or her copyright before the peer-reviewing process even begins. Secondly, in regard to quoting other authors or describing collections, the aspiring author of a Humanities Collections article must get the copyright permissions and pay any charges for them. This unfortunate practice thus still seems alive and thriving three years after David Stowe's 1995 article in Lingua Franca "Just Do It" encouraging writers to assert their "fair use" rights. If you are undaunted by this and have an article you are dying to contribute, write an inquiry letter first; articles submitted "over the transom," so to speak, will not be considered.
Kristine J. Anderson
Recent Studies of Interest to English and American Literature Librarians
Anderson, Byron. "The World Wide Web and the Humanities: Superhighway to What? Research, Quality and ‘Literature’." Humanities Collections 1 no. 1 (1998): 25-40.
Bartholomae, David. "The Future of English." Critical Quarterly 39 no. 1 (Spring 1997): 3-7.
Brooks, Peter. "How Can We Keep on Doing This? Reflections on Graduate Education in the Humanities." In The Politics of Research. Ed. E. Ann Kaplan and George Levine. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1997: 162-69.
Cory, Kenneth A. "Discovering Hidden Analogies in an Online Humanities Database." Computers and the Humanities 31 no.1 (1997): 1-12.
Day, Pam. "Internet Reference Resources in Language and Literature." The Reference Librarian no.57 (1997): 153-59.
Dilworth, Collett and Nancy Mellin McCrack-en. "Ideological Cross-Currents in English Studies and English Education: A Report of a National Survey of Professors' Beliefs and Practices." English Education 29 no. 1 (Feb. 1, 1997): 7-17 .
Green, Geoffrey. "Canons to the Left of Us, Canons to the Right of Us!" Pacific Coast Philology 32 no. 2 (1997): 132-35.
Gunn, Arthur. C. "African American Humanities Literatures: A Brief History and Selected Bibliography." The Acquisitions Librarian 9 nos. 17/18 (1997): 111-124.
Harris, Wendell V. "Assessing the Publication Swamp in Literary Studies." Journal of Information Ethics 6 (Spring 1997): 47-58.
Hassan, Ihab. "Let the Fresh Air In: Graduate Studies in the Humanities." In Beauty and the Critic: Aesthetics in an Age of Cultural Studies. Ed James Soderholm. Tuscaloosa, AL: U of Alabama P, 1997: 190-207.
Kalish, Alan L. "Learning to Profess: The Enculturation of New Faculty Members in English." DAI 58 (1997): 3438A.
Lester, L. and K. K. Marshall. "Traditional Library Services and the Research Process: Are Social Sciences and Humanities Faculty Getting What They Need?" In Finding Common Ground: Creating the Library of the Future without Diminishing the Library of the Past. Neal-Schuman Publishers, 1998: 211-218.
Liu, Alan. "Globalizing the Humanities: Voice of the Shuttle: Web Pages for Humanities Research." Humanities Collections 1 no. 1 (1998): 41-56.
Nielsen, H. J. "The Nature of Fiction and its Significance for Classification and Indexing." Information Services & Use 17 no.2-3 (1997): 171-81.
Olson, Gary A. and Julie Drew. "(Re)reenvi- sioning the dissertation in English studies." College English (Sept. 1998): 56-66.
Pavliscak, Pamela et al. "Information Technology in Humanities Scholarship: Achieve- ments, Prospects, and Challenges. The United States Focus. " ACLS Occasional Paper No. 37. 1997. ED409002
Pierce, Sydney J. "Life Has Its Ups and Downs: Price Changes in Core Humanities Journals, 1977-1997." The Acquisitions Librarian 9 nos. 17/18 (1997): 95-109.
Pavliscak, Pamela. Information Technology in Humanities Scholarship: Achievements, Prospects, and Challenges: the United States Focus. NY: American Council of Learned Societies, 1997.
Powell, Christina Kelleher, and Kerr, Nigel. "SGML Creation and Delivery: The Humanities Text Initiative". D-Lib Magazine (July/August 1997). (http://www.dlib.org/dlib/july97/humanities/07powell.html)
Riesthuis, G. J. A. "Fiction in Need of Transcending Traditional Classification." Information Services & Use 17 no.2-3 (1997): 133-38.
Schleifer, Ronald. "Disciplinarity And Collaboration in The Sciences And Humanities." College English 59 (1997): 438-52.
Shelton, Marie-Denise. "Who Is Afraid of the Canon?" Pacific Coast Philology 32 no. 2 (1997): 136-39.
Terkla, Dan and Steve McKinzie. "The Revolution Is Being Televised: Pedagogy and Information Retrieval in the Liberal Arts College." College & Undergraduate Libraries 4 no. 2 (1997): 9-20. [collaboration between librarians and English Dept. faculty to teach writing and research tools]
Thurber, B. "The Internet and the Humanities." In Proceedings of The National Educational Computing Conference, Seattle, Washington, June 1997. Eugene, OR:: International Society for Technology in Education, 1997: 471-76.
Unsworth, John. "Some Effects of Advanced Technology on Research in the Humanities." In Gateways to Knowledge: The Role of Academic Libraries in Teaching, Learning, and Research. Ed. Lawrence Dowler. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997: 81-92.
Watson-Boone, Rebecca. "Humanities Collection Librarians Talk About Their Work." The
Acquisitions Librarian 10 no. 19 (1998): 55-67.
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