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Harvard University Library Notes / September 2007 / No. 1339
Cline and Cheng Visit Sun Yat-sen and Fudan Universities
Harvard College Library maintains close ties with the libraries of Sun Yat-sen and Fudan universities in China. To foster these important relationships, Nancy M. Cline, Roy E. Larsen Librarian of Harvard College, and James Cheng, librarian of Harvard-Yenching Library, visited both institutions.
At Sun Yat-sen University (SYSU) in Guangzhou, Cline and Cheng had an opportunity to witness the impact of Harvard's donation of the Hilles Library collection in 2005. 140,000 volumes, formerly in Hilles, occupy nearly the entire fifth floor of SYSU's relatively new library building, and the collection entrance is marked by a panel describing the collection, its history, and how it came to be there.
"We walked through the collection and looked at the work that students were doing with the materials, particularly using some of the fine arts and art history materials," said Cline.
SYSU has opted to keep the Hilles classification system, and the spines of the books read the same as when they were housed in Cambridge. "They felt that if it worked for the students here, it would be a very good thing to keep it intact," said Cline.The library also decided to continue subscribing to many of the journal titles in the collection in order to keep them current.
"The exciting thing is that the SYSU library allows the materials to circulate, and this is not a common practice in Chinese academiclibraries," said Cline. However, because Huan-wen Cheng, director of the Sun Yat-sen University Library, has visited and spent time at Harvard, UCLA, and the University of Texas at Austin, he followed their lead. "He thought that it was very important for students to actually be able to take materials out and spend time with them while studying," said Cline.
While in Guangzhou, Cline and Cheng discussed with Professor Huan-wen Cheng possible future exchange programs between the Harvard College Library and the Sun Yat-sen University Library, including a three-year librarian exchange program through which the SYSU deputy directors will come to Harvard.
Cline and Cheng also visited Fudan University in Shanghai, an institution that has sent a number of visiting librarians to Harvard-Yenching Library. Cline met individually with the visiting librarians who have participated, or will be participating, in the exchange program with Harvard-Yenching. "For them to be willing and able to send librarians to spend time here working with our collections has really created a very good bond between our universities," said Cline. "They feel that they learn much about American librarianship, and the benefit on our side is that their expertise has helped us in many ways with our rare book collections."
The expertise of the visiting librarians is invaluable. "Through our librarian exchange program," explained Cheng, "Fudan's Chinese rare book catalogers have helped us catalog the Chinese rare books left uncataloged over the past eight decades."
The timing of Cline and Cheng's visit gave them the opportunity to bid farewell to the retiring library director, Zengfu Qin, as well as to meet the incoming director, Professor Jian-Xiong Ge, formerly director of the Institute of Historical Geography of Fudan University, and ensure the continuation of this institutional relationship. These tight bonds with foreign universities can have a significant impact on collection development. Chinese librarians, for instance, are better informed as to when particular materials are published and can advise HCL on when to acquire certain new items.
"This network helps to build the quality of our collections so that we are not only dependent upon getting those titles that the vendors want to sell to us," explained Cline. "We know more about what's being published as it's coming onto the market."
Added Cheng, "Harvard-Yenching has been successful in establishing a wide network of exchange relationships with major libraries and institutions across China that are willing to send Harvard hard-to-find journal articles, books, copies of manuscripts, or even copies of rare books through our document delivery programs to meet the needs of Harvard faculty, students, and visiting scholars."
While Cline and Cheng were in China, Sun Yat-sen University Library donated a set of its recent reprints of the Chinese manuscripts in the collection at the SYSU Library and at the Guangdong Provincial Library in Guangzhou to the Harvard-Yenching Library. During their visit, Cline and Cheng were presented with one volume, and the others are being shipped.