Notes from the WESS Chair - Spring 2003
Another ALA Midwinter conference has passed, and once again WESS members were extremely active in meetings and discussion groups, within the Section and within ACRL and ALA. Our attendance in Philadelphia was strong, and morale was high. We in WESS are never at a loss for great ideas and how to translate them into reality.
The committees, comme d’habitude, were hard at work with the business of the Section and with eyes keenly focused on the future. The Membership and the Research & Planning Committees got together to share ideas on recruiting new people to our profession and our section. Up to now we have concentrated on encouraging academic librarians and library students to get involved in join Western European studies. But at this meeting the R&P emphasised attracting Western European scholars to librarianship. In this spirit I encourage us all to share with members of these committees our ideas on how we can shine our Western European light on librarians and scholars in academic communities.
The discussion groups, wie gewöhnlich, provided stimulating, productive discussions and featured a wide array of guest speakers. We heard from museum directors, academic scholars, and our own colleagues on such topics as the three centuries-old Swedish presence in the Delaware River Valley; our colleagues’ favorite European-studies resources in history and the social sciences; the German translation project for AAC2rev and the preparations for a multilingual dictionary of cataloging terms; a project to create a Western European studies resource guide for college libraries; a guide to archives and libraries for historical research in Europe; bringing humanities scholars and new electronic resources together in the library; Portuguese women authors; and the classical and medieval women’s-studies databases Acta Sanctorum and Feminae. And WESS colleagues reported on the November 2002 study tour of German libraries sponsored by the Goethe-Institut; and about new travel-support opportunities for ACRL librarians to attend and participate in the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2003. Watch WESS Web for details!
At ALA Annual in Toronto this June, be sure to attend the WESS Program “Across the Pond: New research library networks in Europe and across the Atlantic.” Five librarians, from Edinburgh, Montreal, Washington (DC), Reykjavik, and Bologna, will talk about new European research-library initiatives for collaboration and cooperation and the forging of new links between our two continents. And don’t forget Paris. Mark your calendars for the conference on “Migrations in Society, Culture and the Library” at the Paris Salon du Livre March 22-26, 2004. For more information, visit the Conference’s web site at http://www.library.jhu.edu/rsd/other/wess2004/wess2004.html.
The WESS Midwinter meetings concluded with a very well attended General Membership meeting. http://www.lib.virginia.edu/wess/genmw03.html. It took us the entire time just to get through meeting reports and special announcements of all the activities WESS members are engaged in. And we didn't get to a topic that I think should be on our minds and on more than one future meeting agenda.
Two of our upcoming programs discuss transnational networks and the migration of people and books. What I would like us to think about is the subject of the agenda item we didn’t get to – “Shifting Boundaries and the Future of WESS.”
In the international political climate of late winter 2003, there is a lot of talk, not necessarily positive, about an “old” and a “new” Europe. Suffice it to say that fifty years ago Old Europe was a New Europe – a bold international-relations experiment in sharing basic resources, eliminating borders, and bringing peoples together under a common currency, a supranational parliament and, yes, a transnational bureaucracy. In 2004 that Europe will welcome ten members from Central Europe, considered by some to be the New Europe, but whose histories and cultures have roots as deep as those in Western Europe.
WESS’s sphere of discourse has been largely coincident with the countries of the European Union, which lie in the Romance and Germanic language areas. In 2004 the EU will bring in ten new members -- Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia – all from the other European language groups, mainly Slavic. Most of these countries have until recently been considered to be Central or Eastern European; are they now Western European countries? In Europe in 2003 and 2004, where are West and East, Old and New? Who are the Europeans?
At Midwinter 2003 in Philadelphia we presented programs and worked on projects around the themes of new resources, new links, and new members. I encourage us to think about and explore how we can make new links to colleagues in the newest EU member states.
Lawrence, Kansas February 2003