Notes from the Chair Fall 2013

WESS Newsletter

Fall 2013, Vol. 37, No. 1


Nearly thirty years ago, as I was beginning my career as a librarian at the University of Iowa, my first supervisor emphasized to me the importance of becoming involved in the work of ALA. As a first step, she recommended that I try to join some WESS committees, since our new head of collection development, Ross Atkinson, was beginning his term as chair of the relatively young section. Ross soon became my first mentor as a collection development specialist, but commitments in other sections and other professional organizations precluded my active involvement in WESS until about ten years ago. Now it is with a sense of humility and awe that I step into the shoes worn by my late mentor in 1984, and by so many colleagues and friends in the years since.

As our section nears the end of its fourth decade, and as changing fiscal and professional conditions impel us to consider how we may best ensure that we are able to continue our contributions to the field and that we may be here to celebrate our fiftieth anniversary in 2024, one concept seems to be essential: collaboration. That is, not only collaboration among ourselves as WESS members, but collaboration beyond our section: with vendors, with other sections, and even beyond ACRL and ALA.

Particularly important in the past months and in the coming year is our collaboration with two of our sibling sections within ACRL: Literatures in English (LES) and Slavic and East European Studies (SEES). We already had a long history of fruitful work with these two sections in co-sponsoring programs at the ALA Annual Conference. Our recent highly successful program in Chicago, “Literary Texts and the Library in the Digital Age: New Collaborations for European and American Studies,” is but one of many examples of such joint programs offered over the years. As the number of available conference slots decreases, it will be essential that we continue to seek partners in order to offer programming that is relevant to our members. Indeed, for the 2014 Las Vegas conference we are again proposing a joint program with LES and SEES.

But recently our partnership has extended beyond conference offerings. In the past two years the European Study Grant, perhaps our section’s best-known and most prestigious offering, has been endangered by newly imposed administrative fees that could have depleted our section’s basic funding. Despite the generous support of De Gruyter, it appeared for a time that we would be forced to discontinue the grant. But thanks to a new partnership with SEES, we were able to maintain this important program, which is now officially the WESS-SEES De Gruyter European Librarianship Study Grant, and which can continue to offer invaluable research opportunities in all parts of Europe.

In a similar vein, we are joining LES and SEES in sponsoring a participant in the Emerging Leader Program. As many of us find that our job responsibilities expand to cover more and more disciplines, we discover that LES, SEES, and WESS all have something to contribute to our professional development, and it is only logical that the three sections continue to explore ways to further our common interests.

Of course, we cannot forget the generous support of our corporate sponsors, whom we see not only as vendors, but as valued colleagues with whom we share many common interests and values. In Chicago, not only did our sponsors help us to put on one of the best-attended programs in the history of our section; they also allowed us to feature one of our most exciting social events in recent memory: a full dinner cruise on the Chicago River and the lakefront, at an individual ticket price that might, if one were lucky, buy one a slice of pizza and a cup of coffee in Stockholm. And corporate sponsorship of our other activities was so generous as to leave sufficient funds in our basic section allocation to provide free food at our initial happy hour on Friday.

And since I seem to have moved from the theme of collaboration to general thanks, let me conclude by thanking all those who have served our section over the past year, beginning with our now-past-Chair Heidi Madden and her team of officers who so ably guided us through the last year. And thanks to all of our committee and discussion group members and chairs who carried out WESS’s activities in 2012/13. Special thanks are due to Katie Gibson for her social-organizing and membership-developing prowess, which is so impressive that I am considering proposing an amendment to the ACRL bylaws that would allow her to serve as Membership Chair for Life. And of course, thank you, all who agreed to serve in various positions in 2013/14.

And thanks to all of you for your continuing support of and participation in WESS. You are cherished colleagues, and I look forward to working with you in the months to come.

Timothy Shipe, Ph. D.
Curator, International Dada Archive
Editor, Dada/Surrealism
University of Iowa Libraries
timothy-shipe@uiowa.edu