Meeting with Dept. of Near Eastern Studies faculty, Monday, 26 October 2009. [Lounge, 410 White Hall; 12:10-1:05]
This meeting was initially scheduled several months ago but postponed due to other urgent issues NES needed to address in its last periodic meeting, related to NES own financial predicament. Attending was the majority of faculty (13)* in addition to Ali Houissa, Mid-East and Islamic Studies; Patrick J. Stevens, Jewish Studies. The entire meeting was dedicated to library issues. The atmosphere was very collegial and cordial, and all present showed keen interest in the wellbeing of the library collections.
Ali initiated our discussion based on the agenda distributed to faculty. In the event, we covered topics not always in the order of the agenda because of questions faculty members raised.
There was a fair amount of interest in 2CUL and the implications of the project for library operations and department needs. A question arose about this collaborative concept’s being limited to Columbia and Cornell. Patrick replied that the collaborative model attempted to avoid potentially unwieldy management issues that could come into play in attempts to coordinate among multiple institutions. Collocation in New York State, relative proximity, infrastructure, similar educational missions and philosophical compatibility seem all to be factors drawing the 2CUL participants together, at least at the higher administrative levels. (There were a couple of questions regarding the level of Mellon Foundation involvement and representation at the development phases).
Enrollment in Middle East studies and Arabic-language programs continue to grow on campus (Ali). Due to the budget situation there was substantial downgrade of Syrian/ Lebanese acquisitions (we dropped the approval plan for these with Sulaiman’s Bookshop). The main suppliers of Arabic material are now LC-Cairo and Laila Books. There will be more targeted firm-ordering to partially remedy this situation. An endemic problem has been the existence of long-standing gaps and weaknesses in some core areas of the collection. Ali explained that filling collection gaps, however, will not remain a constant priority for the foreseeable future.
Ali underscored some of these themes in remarking that the era of open-ended collection-building in our areas is at an end. The funds available cannot sustain this kind of growth. Therefore our purchasing, while capable of meeting current and projected exigencies in teaching and research, will necessarily be selective.
Specifically for Jewish Studies, Patrick mentioned the Middle-Eastern/Islamic Studies and Jewish Studies collection development programs were operating at roughly the same order of magnitude in terms of overall funding. He implied the considerable range of coverage for which Jewish Studies are responsible (e.g. archaeology, Biblical studies, Jewish history, Israeli social sciences). Serial cancellations and abrogation of monographic series standing orders are two realities requiring us to focus on cost savings, and we are no different from other selection initiatives in the library in this regard. We intend to review all new titles incoming that would formerly have been under MSSO aegis, and to query faculty frequently regarding the need for specific titles. In general, faculty input on selection is more crucial now than ever, as fewer monies necessitate greater precision based on projected course and research needs.
We were able to promote the Cornell Open-Access Publication (COAP) Fund (and its incentives) as part of our presentation. Handouts containing details were distributed.
*NES Enrollment Fall ca. 700
Current NES Majors: 34
Permanent Faculty: 15
Visiting Faculty: 5