Introduction to WESS

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This text is adapted for the Web from a print brochure.
A pdf version of the brochure is also available.


What is WESS?

The Western European Studies Section (WESS) represents librarians and others who specialize or are otherwise professionally involved in the acquisition, organization, and use of information sources originating in or related to Western European countries. Our aim is to promote the improvement of library services supporting study and research in Western European affairs from ancient times to the present.

A Brief History

WESS grew out of a discussion group started in 1973 within the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). The Western European Language Specialists Discussion Group (WELS) became a section within ACRL five years later and was renamed the Western European Specialists Section (WESS). Since then it has sponsored major programs at each ALA annual conference and held its own conference with European librarians in Italy in 1988. In 1999, the section changed its name to Western European Studies Section.

Since its inception, WESS has been instrumental in promoting cooperation between libraries and scholars in West European fields and publishers and book dealers in Western Europe.

For more details, see the History of WESS


The Western European Studies Section Newsletter, semi-annual and free to all WESS members, contains reports of meetings, committees, news about individual members, and articles on some topic of Western European studies. Newsletter columns focus on electronic information resources and services related to Western Europe, new publications of note, personal and institutional news, WESS committee and discussion group minutes, and other announcements. Print publications that WESS has issued through ACRL include:

Women's Studies in Western Europe: A Resource Guide (1986).
Directory of European Specialists in North American Research Libraries (1990).
Western European Studies: Current Trends and Library Resources (1990).
"Euro-Librarianship: Shared Resources, Shared Responsibilities" in Collection Management Vol. 15, Nos. 1/2, 3/4 (1992)
Migrations in Society, Culture and the Library (2004).

Coutts Nijhoff Study Grant

In cooperation with ACRL, WESS awards the Coutts Nijhoff International West European Study Grant annually to an ALA member. The grant is donated by Coutts Nijhoff International and supports two weeks of research and study in Western Europe on topics pertaining to West European librarianship or the book trade.

WESS Programs at ALA Conferences

See: Past WESS Conferences and Related Events

In addition to annual ALA programs, international WESS conferences have been held:

in Florence, Italy, (April 1988)
Proceedings published in Collection Management Vol. 15 (1992), Nos 1/2,3/4 as "Euro-Librarianship: Shared Resources. Shared Responsibilities."

in Paris, France (March 2004)
Proceedings published by ALA as Migrations in Society, Culture and the Library.

Plans are underway for another international conference.

Committees and Discussion Groups

Within WESS there is an executive committee, composed of the Chair, Vice-Chair, Past Chair, Secretary, Member-at-large, and Chairs of the standing committees. In addition, other ad hoc committees and WESS Discussion Groups are appointed to carry out special projects. Connected with the discussion groups, Electronic Discussion Groups cater to ongoing dialogue on various interests within European Studies librarianship.

How to Join WESS

WESS contributes to the advancement of Western European studies both in North America and abroad. Through its programs, discussions, conferences, and publications, it continues to further research on Western Europe and to foster collaborative projects. For the librarian or other professional with an interest in this part of the world, WESS provides a stimulating forum for discussion and opportunities for professional enrichment.

Here is information about current WESS officers and committees.

To join:

Contact the Association of College and Research Libraries for application information.
50 East Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60611
Toll free 1-800-545-2433 Ext. 2523

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The European Studies Section (ESS) is a section within the Association of College and Research Libraries, which is itself a division of the American Library Association.

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