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Center for Research Libraries provides new scholarly resources

by Suzanne Zack - October 31, 2005

Kate Capshaw Smith recently needed to locate issues of The Pittsburgh Courier from the late 1930s and early 1940s. Capshaw Smith, an assistant professor of English, is doing research on Bessie Woodson Yancey, a poet and sister to historian Carter G. Woodson, founder of “Negro History Week,” which evolved into Black History Month.

When she checked Homer Babbidge Library, she found it only held a few current copies of the weekly African American newspaper.

So, at the suggestion of the interlibrary loan department, she made a request from the Center for Research Libraries, a non-profit organization that holds primary materials for scholarly research, including the second largest circulating collection of newspapers in North America.

Capshaw Smith, who is editing the collected works of Yancey, received multiple copies of the newspaper on microfilm from the Center for Research Libraries, and was pleased to find poetry and editorials by the writer.

She was even more pleased when she uncovered the work of two other African American writers from Louisiana who had edited a children’s column in the newspaper. It gave her a sense of young people’s participation in the larger political and cultural life of the African American community.

“Since my overall area of research is early African American children’s literature, discovering two new Southern writers was a true thrill,” says Capshaw Smith. “You might have heard me cheering in the microfilm section. I couldn’t have found these writers without the services of our incredible interlibrary loan department.”

The Center for Research Libraries, which UConn joined this past summer, has been building and maintaining shared collections of primary materials for scholarly research for more than 50 years.

Its members include more than 200 North American universities, colleges, and independent research libraries.

Materials are made available to member institutions without cost for extended loan periods via interlibrary loan and electronic delivery.

The Center for Research Libraries maintains more than four million publications, archives, and collections and over one million digital resources for its member’s libraries.

Original deposits from the founding members – Chicago, Kansas, and many of the Big Ten universities – were predominantly printed volumes, but most subsequent acquisitions have been in microform.

Unlike the Library’s membership in the Boston Library Consortium – whose “Virtual Catalog” enables UConn community members to request materials directly from participating institutions – the Center for Research Libraries materials come from a single facility in Chicago and must be requested through UConn’s interlibrary loan department.

Brinley Franklin, vice provost for University Libraries, says the Libraries hope to load the Center for Research Libraries’ holding records into their online catalog Homer in the near future so the UConn community can more easily identify the Center for Research Libraries’ vast and rich collections in the humanities, the social sciences, and the sciences.

“Joining the Center for Research Libraries is in keeping with the UConn Libraries’ strategic plan, which calls for institutional ownership of library materials, joint ownership of library materials, and coordinated collection development and sharing of library materials with other research institutions in New England and beyond,” says Scott Kennedy, head of the Libraries’ research and information services.

“Our membership in the Boston Library Consortium and participation in its ‘Virtual Catalog’ represented our first major step in that direction and has been welcomed by the community. We hope faculty and graduate students will find time to explore the Center for Research Libraries’ holdings to see how these primary research materials might enhance their teaching and research.”

Among the Center’s resources are: 6,500 international newspapers, many dating back to the 1700s; 4,500 U.S. newspapers, many dating back to the colonial era, including 2,000 ethnic titles; foreign journals that are rarely held in U.S. libraries; and more than 800,000 foreign dissertations.

Center for Research Libraries materials support topical and analytical studies across regions and disciplines, providing data and primary evidence for a range of interests, including the history of science and technology, law and government, environmental and physical sciences, economics, trade and finance, immigration and population studies, international diplomacy, and cultural studies.

The holdings are global in scope, including items relevant to every region: proceedings of Western European medical societies, for example; agricultural journals from India and Pakistan; presidential messages from Brazil; archives from French colonial Senegal; technical publications of the Russian Academy of Sciences; and reproductions of Tibetan sacred texts.

To access the Center’s catalog, go to http://www.crl.edu/catalog/index.htm. To request materials from the Center, visit the UConn Libraries’ interlibrary loan department: www.lib.uconn.edu/online/services/ill.

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