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Harvard College Library—Report of Nancy M. Cline

International Collaboration

International Collaboration


The Harvard College Library participates in many joint efforts with institutions across the world. In this context, the Library has not only made collections accessible and shared its expertise, but also has gained access to collections it otherwise may not have and benefited from the expertise of our international colleagues. This sometimes involves travel to many parts of the world, but the virtual world also facilitates meaningful outreach and inter-institutional programs.

During a June 2007 trip to China, Nancy Cline and James Cheng, Librarian of Harvard–Yenching Library, visited Sun Yat-sen University (SYSU) in Guangzhou, where they had the opportunity to observe the impact of the 2005 gift of the Hilles Library collection. When the Hilles Library was downsized to a single-level library, HCL donated some 140,000 books, knowing that the collection would remain together and be used by undergraduate students. The former Hilles collection now resides in a new library on a recently opened SYSU campus at University City outside of downtown Guangzhou. There is deep appreciation for the collection, as it is a liberal arts collection the likes of which could not have been built in China during the period when relations to the West were closed. While located at SYSU, the Hilles collection is also accessible to faculty members and students of other institutions of higher education located in University City. Seeing students working with materials from the literature, art history, history, and political science sections of the collection affirmed the value of keeping the collection intact. In order to ensure a degree of vitality, SYSU intends to maintain subscriptions for the journal titles.

In 2006, Harvard College Library and Peking University Library co-hosted the First Leadership Forum for Chinese and American University Library Directors in Beijing. The forum brought together over 30 library leaders from China’s most prominent universities, together with five library directors from large US research libraries, a facilitator from the Association of Research Libraries, and several staff from Harvard–Yenching Library for several days of intensive workshops. The forum provided an opportunity for the Chinese and American directors to share and learn from each other’s experiences in leading major research libraries in their respective countries, and it fostered a deeper understanding of the common leadership issues facing their institutions, including human resources, technology, collection development, and preservation. Since many Chinese universities are expanding enrollments and changing their academic programs, there was a great interest in understanding how US research libraries support teaching and research.

The Harvard–Yenching Library maintains close relationships with some of the leading research libraries in East Asia, in particular Peking University Library in Beijing and Fudan University Library in Shanghai. Harvard–Yenching is recognized for holding the largest East Asian collection among academic libraries outside of East Asia and for supporting teaching and research programs across Harvard, as well as researchers from around the world. In FY 2007, the Library hosted several visiting librarians from China, Japan, and Korea who participated in

  • preparation of scholarly annotations for the second volume of the Annotated Catalogue of Chinese Rare Books in the Harvard–Yenching Library, Harvard University;
  • cataloging of the Chinese rare books in the Rare Books Room and completion of an inventory of the Chinese Rare Book Collection;
  • organizing the materials in the Korean audiovisual collection; and
  • development of Japanese digital resource guides and the creation of a comprehensive bibliography for the Japanese constitutional revision web site.

The visiting librarians brought substantial experience and subject expertise as well as new ideas and perspectives. Their stay at Harvard gave them the opportunity to observe and learn firsthand how a large and complex academic library functions in the US. These visiting librarians contributed to strengthening the institutional ties and relationships between Harvard and libraries and research institutions in East Asia.

Staff across the Harvard College Library who specialize in working with different regions of the world have found creative ways to foster international collaborations in an effort to strengthen Harvard’s research collections. The Middle Eastern Division, working with the Library of Congress’s Islamabad Office, has begun to receive more Persian-language materials from Afghanistan, filling a major gap in our acquisition efforts. Though not a comprehensive selection, these materials are extremely difficult to acquire, and they represent a new front in Persian acquisitions.

In an effort to enhance external relations and on behalf of the Collaborative Initiative for French and North American Libraries (CIFNAL), staff in Widener Collection Development and HCL Technical Services met with the French Cultural Attaché. This resulted in donations of scholarly monographs to Widener.

The Modern Greek Section has encouraged cooperative efforts within the Hellenic Studies library community. In December 2006, the head and bibliographer for modern Greek and the director of the Gennadius Library of the American School of Classical Studies organized a historic meeting in Athens that brought together Greek, American, and British academic librarians to create the Modern Greek Resources Project (MGRP), with the intent that it would become part of the Center for Research Libraries’ Global Resources Network. The meeting provided an invaluable opportunity to meet and make contact with librarians and archivists in Greece. The Library of the Parliament, the University of Crete, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the Benaki Museum, and the Gennadius Library enthusiastically agreed to participate in the new initiative, and the Greek Ministry of Education promised its full support. Oxford University and the British Library indicated strong interest as well. Proposed goals included digitization, cooperative collection development, bibliographic data exchange, indexing, interlibrary loan, and document delivery.

The Slavic Division has been cooperating with the Czech National Library to help fund a project to microfilm Ukrainian periodicals published in Czechoslovakia from 1918 to 1945. In return for its financial support, Harvard will receive one copy of all films produced. The division also received approximately 200 current scholarly monographs from the offices of the Slavic Review, of which ten titles were added to Widener, 100 titles were added to the collections of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Library, and the remaining titles were sent to the Czech National Library. In exchange, HCL has received monographs and microfilms.

These are but a few examples of the Library’s ongoing international collaboration. The time expended in such areas typically produces mutual benefits for Harvard and for the other participating institutions. And the results produced for Harvard, whether in gaining collections or in making them more accessible, indicate that collaborative and global outreach supports the teaching and research mission of Harvard.