Committee on Libraries and Information Resources (CLIR)

The ASEEES Committee on Libraries and Information Resources (CLIR), formerly the Bibliography and Documentation Committee, consisting of scholars and librarians in the fields of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian studies, works throughout the year on a wide range of topics and initiatives that include, but are not limited to: collection development, vendor issues, the American Bibliography of Slavic and East European Studies (ABSEES) online database, copyright and licensing, digital initiatives, and microfilming projects. These tasks are carried out by CLIR subcommittees: the Subcommittee on Collection Development, the Subcommittee on Copyright Issues, the Subcommittee on Digital Projects; and the Slavic & East European Microfilm Project (SEEMP), a hybrid CLIR subcommittee based at the Center for Research Libraries (CRL). In addition, the committee manages the Distinguished Service Award  established in 2010 that recognizes ASEEES member librarians, archivists or curators whose contributions to the field of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian studies librarianship have been especially noteworthy or influential. 

The committee meets annually at the ASEEES National Convention to discuss the progress and outcome of the year's efforts.  If you have any comments or suggestions, please send an email to Joe Lenkart,, the committee's Chair, or to any other committee member. For questions about, or any suggested changes to the website, contact Joe Lenkart.

ASEEES CLIR Statement on Collection Development in the time of COVID-19

The Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies Committee on Library and Information Resources (ASEEES CLIR) acknowledges recent statements and resolutions made by our colleagues in the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM), the Middle East Librarians Association (MELA), and the Committee on South Asian Libraries and Documentation (CONSALD) addressing the deleterious effects of library strategies for managing the COVID-19 crisis on area studies collections and their special collections counterparts. These statements address the present unprecedented circumstances, as well as long-standing concerns, about building diverse and discipline-based collections, and sustaining the labor and language- and professional expertise required to support the development, cataloging, and use of such collections. They also encourage fruitful and collaborative relationships between our libraries and those of our international partners. The members of CLIR applaud our area studies colleagues for their vision. We share and echo many of their concerns with respect to our own field.

Slavic, East European, and Eurasian library collections in North America have come a long way since their origins in the 19th century. Their breadth expands beyond humanities and social sciences to encompass all aspects of contemporary academic pursuits. Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia are among the most ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse regions of the world. Consequently, acquiring materials from these regions presents numerous complexities and challenges heightened by budgetary constraints and policy decisions resulting from changes necessitated by COVID-19.

Libraries are undergoing significant stresses due to the institutional effects of managing COVID-19, such as severely limited access to on-site and remote physical collections. The enforced distancing between faculty, students, librarians, and collections has also upended traditional processes of scholarly communication and library collection development, limiting faculty and student input which often helps shape collections and, in part, limiting the ways in which collections can direct avenues of their research. Among potential longer-term consequences for library collections are reduced collection budgets and travel funds, as well as the increased emphasis on licensing electronic resources at the expense of purchasing print resources.

While the members of ASEEES CLIR acknowledge many of these measures as unavoidable in the short term, we are concerned about the long-term implications for collections.

First, while many library administrations demonstrate a preference for electronic resources during the present crisis, this choice ignores the continued prevalence of print in the vast and diverse regions of Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia. An e-preferred policy offers scholars access to materials during a time of remote research and teaching, yet to focus exclusively on such a policy impacts collecting in languages and areas where print publications are crucial and limited in supply, and undermines many university libraries’ stated goals of creating diverse and representative collections.

Second, the transition to more exclusively e-preferred policies raises concerns about the long-term preservation of this content. Although content from Western publishers is often specially archived to ensure long-term access, the smaller, more limited circle of vendors covering our region still struggles to ensure that materials from Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia are similarly available in the event of a change in format, access model, or licensing rights.

Third, a substantial pause in print collecting has the potential to create permanent gaps in our holdings, which in turn create new hardships for scholars, publishers, and vendors. In the best of times, keeping up with the scope and variety of publishing in our region is a challenge, but the present circumstances not only exacerbate those challenges but also render all aspects of library collecting more precarious. As scholars well know, the publishing industry in Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia produces valuable academic publications in small print runs. Without purposeful, attentive, and timely collecting, scholarly publications become incredibly difficult to find within a few years. The publishing sector has become even more vulnerable as a result of multiple disruptions in local economies and in regional market mechanisms. Essentially, the whole realm of cultural and scholarly production in the region is under threat.

Finally, while we applaud our SALALM, MELA, and CONSALD colleagues’ endorsement of collaborative collecting, it should be understood that such plans must find a balance between serving local interests and being broadly proactive. Expanded use of streamlined and automated approaches toward collecting, in conjunction with a potential decrease in the number of viable regional vendors, could result in the creation of increasingly duplicative holdings across fewer and fewer research universities. This homogenization of collections would endanger the depth and breadth of academic library holdings that are at the heart of scholarly research and teaching, further marginalizing linguistic and ethnic groups that have been historically sidelined in our collections, and making it more difficult for libraries to respond with agility to emerging areas of research.

For the above reasons, the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies Committee on Library and Information Resources in solidarity with our colleagues in global studies across academia, encourages librarians, administrators, and scholars working in our field to:

o Continue developing academic and special libraries’ collections by acquiring current and rare materials in all formats published in Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, including publications from traditionally underrepresented cultures, languages, and peoples of the region.
o Maintain existing and pursue new global connections with publishers, librarians, researchers and users to expand open access to electronic books, digital collections and archives, national bibliographies, and other resources. Open Access publication models may help to mitigate some of the negative global trends noted above.
o Continue collaborating with librarians and scholars at national and international levels to build globalized resource networks by engaging in culturally inclusive programs and practices, digital humanities projects, studies, and research.
o Collaborate with other organizations involved in international and area studies collection development in facilitating the description of such collections via the development of catalogues, indexes, finding aids and other discovery tools.
o Maintain and develop local digitization projects which serve to make distinctive print and archival collections more widely available, discoverable and accessible, and advocate for the resources needed to carry out these projects and ensure their long-term preservation. Support digitization and preservation efforts by our colleagues across the world whenever possible.
o Support in-country vendors and work with library administrators and staff to facilitate careful and considerate policies that recognize the business practices and economic situations of each country and region. As libraries adopt e-preferred collection development policies, there is a need to advocate for the continuation of collecting in analog formats, which better reflects the realities of publishing and scholarly communication in these regions.
o Foster collaborative collecting that balances current local research interests with the traditional broad-based collecting in academic and research libraries. To do otherwise puts libraries in danger of perpetuating long-standing collection gaps and limiting possibilities for future research.

The economic and social challenges of COVID-19 will not last forever. The Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies Committee on Library and Information Resources advocates for policies that continue the robust development, preservation and discoverability of collections in our world area in anticipation of the day when these collections will once again be accessible to researchers in all formats.

Written by the ASEEES CLIR Task Force members in July 2020.

Andy Spencer (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Anna Arays (Yale University)
Heghine Hakobyan (University of Oregon)
Liladhar Pendse (University of California-Berkeley)
Robert Davis Jr. (Columbia-Cornell Universities)
Ksenya Kiebuzinski (University of Toronto)

Nov 19, 2019, 9:46 AM