CONSALD Meeting 10/17/2013

CONSALD – Business Meeting Minutes
Thursday, October 17, 2013, 1:00-5:00 p.m.
University of Wisconsin-Madison Library

I.     Introductions & Welcome

Attending: Judy Alspach (CRL), Bronwen Bledsoe (Cornell), Sarah Calhoun (Yale), David Faust (Minnesota), Gary Hausman (Columbia), David Hirsch (UCLA), Bill Kniffen (Wisconsin), Richard Lesage (Harvard), Jeff Martin (Michigan), Philip McEldowney (Virginia), Edward Miner (Iowa), James Nye (Chicago), Mary Rader (Texas), Laura Ring (Chicago), James Simon (CRL), Pushkar Sohoni (Pennsylvania), Mara Thacker (Illinois), Allen Thrasher (emeritus)

Simon welcomed participants and passed along regards from those not in attendance.

II.    Approval of minutes, financial report

Minutes were approved without corrections. CONSALD’s finances remain unchanged since last meeting.

III.   CONSALD Web site update

Simon reported little progress on Web updating. Drupal is a flexible and powerful tool, but also requires knowledgeable administration. Tim Bryson has managed the infrastructure to date, but hopes others will be willing to take over. Simon cautioned members that it may not be too soon to think about our needs and to plan for the next iteration of the site, should Drupal prove too difficult to maintain.

IV.   CONSALD Nominations / Elections

Simon called for a nominating committee to select candidates for two at-large positions, effective March 2014. Mary Rader, Bronwen Bledsoe volunteered to serve as the committee. Members suggested an e-mail ballot issues one month prior to the meeting would be desirable. Simon remarked that his term as Chair has ended, and we will need to appoint a new chair for the next meeting.

V.    Journals Subcommittee Report

Simon presented the journals subcommittee report submitted by Aruna Magier (See appendix A). The subcommittee was formed to address issues of journal indexing and discovery.

Aruna met with JSTOR to continue conversations about South Asian content. David Hirsch reiterated that a JSTOR package for South Asia (or other area groups) would likely be unaffordable to institutions with modest collections budget.

Members also discussed the recent ProQuest offering of Indian Journals. The title list appears to be aimed at the Science/Business/Technology sectors, with little Humanities/Social Science representation. Perhaps aimed at the Indian market? Members agreed that requesting trial access, perhaps for the group of institutions, may shed more light on value/interest. (a longer trial may be needed for proper assessment).

Members commented on the draft proposal from the committee for cooperative, distributed tables of contents (ToC) scanning for South Asia language journals. There was general enthusiasm for the idea, acknowledging that while we really prefer full indexing, the possibilities for such seem remote.

  • Would this be for current journals moving forward, or some retrospective additions? Both options would be desirable, if feasible.
  • Scans should be of sufficient quality to enable future OCR, when feasible.
  • Are there copyright issues? It is unlikely this would pose much or any risk, as the content itself is not being scanned. Publishers may welcome exposure.
  • Should we explore partnering with publishers themselves, who may be willing to give ToC contents on a regular basis?
  • Does the ToC need to be an “authentic” scan? Could we also consider pulling text/images from journal web sites?
  • Re: distribution. Could some services be centralized rather than distributed? E.g., members might scan and deliver images to one assistant for upload, rather than each performing all steps. Should we consider working with outside partners (LoC field offices, South Asian partners) where admin costs may be lower?
  • Jim suggested exploring linkages with the Guide to Indian Periodical Literature, which has been a longtime supplier of English-language titles. A subvention for Hindi titles?
  • The project should endeavor to incorporate the “fits and starts” of different indexing projects (DSAL, Wisconsin indexing, others) into one common space, if possible.

Some concerns

  • A project requiring extensive cataloging/tech services intervention may be difficult. Members advocated for simple solutions, such as a single 856 pointing to the ToC index.
  • Would institutions actually update and overlay records to include such links?
  • Some expressed concern over the difficulties of maintaining commitments over time. Numerous similar projects in other areas have come and gone over time. Maintaining a manageable level of commitment is an important consideration.

It was agreed to encourage further development of the proposal, perhaps with some fact-finding and information sharing among similar projects prior to the next meeting to determine best practices / potential linkages. Some examples mentioned:

  • Attaching scans to bibliographic/item records in local catalogs (Cornell is exploring this for journals sent to remote storage)
  •  Columbia’s Korean (and other) journals ToC scanning in CLIO.

VI.     CONSALD/Member Presentations (@ Madison, AAS Panel)

Members were encouraged to attend two sessions at Madison: Subaltern Archaeologies of Medieval and Early Modern South Asia (Pushkar Sohoni presenting) and Home and the World: Labor, Domesticity, and a South Asia in the Making? (Laura Ring discussant).

Simon expressed praise for the group of members (Aruna Magier, Deepa Banerjee, Monica Ghosh) that submitted a proposal for an AAS panel, entitled "Researching South Asia Today: Challenges of Discovering and Accessing Research Materials." Unfortunately, the panel was not accepted by the AAS. Members encouraged the group to resubmit, possibly for next year's Madison conference.

VII.   CONSALD Honors, Announcements

  • Gary Hausman began serving as the South Asian Studies Librarian at Columbia University Libraries, effective July 2013.
  • Richard Lesage, Harvard, became Librarian for South and Southeast Asia effective February 2013.
  • Aruna Magier accepted a position as regular tenure-track library faculty position of Librarian for South Asian Studies at NYU, effective May 2013
  • Mary Rader began a new appointment as the Global Studies Coordinator and South Asia Librarian at the University of Texas at Austin this fall.
  • James Nye was the recent recipient of an AISLS fellowship for "Lexical, Book, Audio, and Cartographic Resources for the Study of Sri Lanka."
  • Philip McEldowney was selected to be the “Librarian at Sea” for University of Virginia’s Semester at Sea program (Spring 2015).

At AAS 2014 in Philadelphia, CONSALD will be hosted by the University of Pennsylvania, Thursday, March 27, 2014.

VIII.    CRL/SAMP update

Judy Alspach reported on SAMP, reporting that elections and By-Law amendments are coming out shortly for consideration and voting. CRL is providing augmented support for digital projects proposed by the Area Microform Projects. Details forthcoming. Members expressed appreciation for the added support.

Simon reported on a recent discussion with the area groups on the challenges of collecting government documentation and information. This is a special focus for CRL discussions this year. South Asia shares many challenges of other areas (inconsistent publications, lack of robust web representations of data, unstable media formats, and more). Members emphasized the importance of local publications of IGOs (UN, UNDP, etc.). Lots of such publications are issued locally, not held in repositories.


Nye reported on progress with Digital Dictionaries of South Asia (DDSA). A proposal was submitted to NEH to continue work on eight new dictionaries (including ones in Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Panjabi, Prakrit, Sindhi, Sinhala, and Telugu). In addition, prospects are good for private/foundation funding to continue work on Konkani, Prakrit, and Sanskrit. Jim’s fellowship in Sri Lanka will allow work in the Sinhala Dictionary Office to mount the complete volumes of the Sinhala-English dictionary.

Despite funding cuts for the Digital South Asia Library (DSAL), some work progresses.

  • Nye used U. Chicago funds to complete scanning of pre-1947 topographical maps from the Survey of India (1/2 in=1 mile). This includes ultra-high resolution sheets for major cities.
  • For audio resources, Chicago scanned the complete EMI archive catalogs (1908-1942), as well as “monthly release sheets” that often contain full transcriptions of recordings.
  • DSAL is creating scans for the Census of India (1911, 1921, 1931), even though these will only be page images at this point, pending additional funding.
  • There have been tentative discussions about parking resources within Hathi Trust for long-term storage.

Work continues for the South Asia Union Catalogue (SAUC) as well. Work has been done on nearly 82,000 records from the British Library holdings: looking to integrate these into the BL catalogue and into OCLC. There are good prospects for continuing work on additional records (up to 270,000) to include all historical holdings in the BL/British Museum collections. Also prospects for funding Sanskrit retrospective cataloging, utilizing donor funds to the university. Progress has been hampered by the reduction in cash flow from excess OCLC credits, but hope to revive this arrangement.

X.    Global Dimensions of Scholarship Report – CONSALD feedback

Simon reported on the background and discussions leading up to the “Global Forum” report. He related the general feedback the Advisory Committee has received thus far, and strongly encouraged that CONSALD consider a formal response.

Many participants agreed the report was too general. Specifically, they suggested that nobody would disagree with the recommendations, but the crux of the issue was how to actually undertake them? There is little by way of additional institutional support for opportunities such as digitization, much less funding for training, cataloging, and additional staffing.

There exists a tremendous bias towards Eurocentric availability of digital. With the trends reflected in the report, South Asia and other groups are threatened with marginalization, since so much of the content is still print-based. One role may be to press for a balanced playing field for resources coming from the region.

The committee recommended that the CONSALD Executive Board, perhaps combined with the SAMP Executive Committee, formulate a response that contains a balanced critique of the assumptions and recommendations, but is also forward thinking.

XI.     SARAI / South Asian information portal

Simon raised the topic of linking to digital resources for users. How are we tracking and/or informing our users of digital resources created at our institutions and elsewhere? There are some notable subject guides on institutional sites that point to resources (see NYU, UCLA, for example), but little coordination among them. CONSALD has discussed the creation of a “scholars’ portal” to link to resources such as these, but little has been done to implement it. Gary Hausman reminded participants of the potential of Drupal in tagging and presenting data. The concept of the portal has evolved considerably since its origins. What is the unique value we can bring to highlighting resources?

SARAI has not been updated for a couple of years: there exists a large backlog of current sites to add to the resource. There have been some discussions of moving SARAI from Columbia to New York University, but the technical issues are not insignificant. Hausman presented some statistics on the present use of SARAI. The resource has been moved around of late, which has affected use, but by most accounts the use of the resource is quite low.

Is there interest in collaboration on a shared resource like SARAI? The general sense of the committee was that SARAI, like other web portals aiming for "comprehensiveness," had its day in the 1990s. Members no longer look to SARAI, nor point others to it. Given the challenges of keeping current, the parallel work done at our campuses on subject guides, and developing discovery systems, there was little support for continuance.

However, members did feel that some high impact areas were worth further exploration -- one example raised was a reference page bringing together all government agencies and their sites. If Columbia and/or NYU decide to continue SARAI, one should consider carefully what areas would best serve scholars and focus attention there.

Jim Nye suggested users will scarcely come to CONSALD or SARAI to find resources (“people want what we know, not another portal”).  Our institutions buy “boxes” that allow universities to provide better indexing of their sites for Google. We will explore this idea further.

XII.    Human Rights Web Archive - South Asia contributions

Simon summed up recent discussions on the listserv relating to Web archiving of human rights sites being undertaken both (separately) by Columbia and Texas. There is informal collaboration on site selection, and appears to have little overlap. However, South Asia still may not be widely represented in the resources crawled. Mary Rader encouraged members to consider submitting sites for crawling, particularly those that are prone to disappear.

XIII.    Collecting practices of South Asia area specialists / Policies for acquisitions trips

Mara Thacker reported that her survey of South Asia librarians has been completed, and that the results will be compiled for a longer presentation in the spring. There were few surprises, but confirmation that we all rely heavily on LC for our profiling.

XIV.    South Asia paraprofessional network – interest?

There was little time to discuss this issue (and not representation at the meeting from cataloging or tech services). This is an issue we want to raise again as a future possibility.

XV.    Round Robin Reports / Other business

  • Richard Lesage (Harvard U) reported that Harvard has agreed to store all the images produced thus far for the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center. They will ingest their catalog with a link pointing to their website. Additionally, Harvard, with the assistance of Peter Scharf at the Sanskrit Library ( is embarking upon a project to catalog and digitize 1, 700 Sanskrit manuscripts held at the Houghton Library.
  • Jeff Martin (U. Michigan) mentioned an upcoming exhibition for their “India in the World” theme. They are creating a map exhibit, and Samip Mallick (SAADA) will present a gallery exhibition.
  • Gary Hausman (Columbia) announced the availability of the directory of scholars of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia (AMESA). Columbia also hosted a conference to celebrate the centenary of Dr, Ambedkar’s admission to Columbia University.
  • James Nye (U Chicago) reported that the preservation of Urdu periodicals through the Endangered Archives Programme continues on schedule. The University Center in Delhi is opening March 28-29, 2014. Gerald Barrier’s collection is coming to Chicago (including long runs of Punjabi newspapers).Will mesh well with the Ken Jones collection.
  • Sarah Calhoun (Yale U) – Funding cutbacks at Yale. Has taken on religious studies selection. Yale received an Arcadia Foundation grant focusing on scanning SA Persian philological material.
  • David Faust (U Minnesota) – reported the scanning of a rare 1822 atlas of India (Arrowsmith). Also recently cataloged a collection of ca. 80 confidential docs from Hyderabad govt.
  • Lana Soglasnova (U Toronto) (via email) reported on the partnership in Tibetan Studies with Columbia University Libraries. The project will include jointly sponsored acquisitions trips to enhance the Tibetan collections at both universities. Toronto plans to hire a South Asia librarian in the coming year. Toronto recently hosted an exhibition: “Windows to Buddhism in the Academy”.

Meeting was adjourned.

Submitted 11/8/13 by James Simon with assistance from Gary Hausman

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