Statement on Collection Development, Access, ​and Equity in the Time of COVID-19

Issued by the Committee on South Asian Libraries and Documentation on July 17, 2020 and endorsed by the AAS Board of Directors on September 28, 2020.

The Committee on South Asian Libraries and Documentation (CONSALD) recognizes the tremendous work of the Collection Development and Equity in the Time of Covid-19 Task Force in the crafting of the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM) Resolution, as well as the substantive and important response by the Middle East Librarians Association (MELA).

We share the concerns articulated by both groups surrounding the vulnerability of print materials and the economies that support their production, as well as the potentially exclusionary impact of e-preferred collection policies. We strongly advocate for the continued support of Open Access initiatives, and the preservation of funding and expert staffing required to acquire and process materials from these regions. 

Like Latin America, the Carribbean, the Middle East, and other areas of focused study, South Asia has had its own experience of the impact of COVID-19 since the beginning of 2020. Over the last several months, South Asians have been grappling with the pandemic and the associated violence caused by the pendulation of lockdowns and subsequent quick reopenings that disproportionately affect at-risk groups, including forced migrations. In addition, the recent natural disaster, Cyclone Amphan, in the Bay of Bengal has compounded already precarious and unprecedented circumstances. These events have touched every aspect of the economy of scholarly and cultural production, from creation, to publication, to dissemination of works. 

Therefore, CONSALD endorses the SALALM Resolution and MELA response, and asks libraries to consider the following addenda:

Whereas, most U.S. and Canadian-based South Asian Studies collections rely heavily, if not exclusively, on the Library of Congress Cooperative Acquisitions Programs, SACAP (New Delhi) and PIACAP (Islamabad), for acquisitions of print and other physical media from South Asia, and the full impact of COVID-19 on LCCAP’s staffing, collecting, and distribution remains unknown; 
Whereas, acquiring materials from South Asia also relies on experienced regional suppliers to locate and distribute materials, and these vendors often additionally facilitate cataloging and shipping of materials purchased at a distance and during acquisitions trips in South Asia;  
Whereas, commercial electronic resources from South Asia, when available, are not well suited to library lending and interinstitutional resource sharing, and in the rare cases that they are, licenses can be difficult to negotiate across languages, national boundaries, and jurisdictions; moreover, they also present the potential for permanent loss of content if access to subscriptions ceases;
Whereas much of the cultural and intellectual heritage of South Asia held in libraries and archives across the world is unavailable to scholars in South Asia and elsewhere; 
Whereas, no one institution can collect, describe, provide access, and preserve the breadth and depth of scholarly output from South Asia; 

On behalf of its members, CONSALD:

  • Urges libraries to preserve the budgets and staffing workflows necessary for participation in the Library of Congress Cooperative Acquisitions Programs, and urges the Library of Congress to continue robust support of these Overseas Office initiatives and staff members; 
  • Urges libraries to support South Asia-based vendors whose accrued expertise, supply networks, and specialized services are in danger due to loss of livelihood for an extended period;
  • Urges the continued acquisition of commercial print resources and non-commercial ephemera despite recent shifts to e-preferred strategies;
  • Urges libraries to begin and/or continue robust investment in innovative Open Access initiatives in South Asia and North America, such as the South Asia Open Archives (SAOA); to support projects that archive born-digital content; and to foster digital scholarship that brings resources and knowledge about South Asia to diverse audiences;
  • Urges libraries to fund and support collaborative and interdependent efforts (e.g., South Asia Open Archives [SAOA], the South Asia Materials Project [SAMP], and the South Asia Cooperative Collection Development Workshop [SACOOP]) that maximize the potential for research on South Asia from broad disciplinary perspectives; these initiatives reduce duplication in LC profiles and encourage the development of niche collections that are critical for diversity in the collective collection;
  • Urges libraries to invest funds, time, and staffing to support the development of metadata and academy-owned infrastructure to facilitate the discovery of shared resources and to provide more evenly distributed access inter-institutionally and internationally, including controlled digital lending in times of crisis.​

In the face of significant challenges to research due to limitations on resource circulation, lack of access to libraries and archives, and reduced ability to travel, we furthermore encourage enhanced partnerships and dialogue amongst the community of South Asia scholars and librarians. CONSALD continues to strengthen communication with its parent organization, the South Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies, and CONSALD’s members welcome opportunities to liaise with academic and archival partners. By working together, we will weather the difficulties prompted by COVID-19 and continue working towards inclusive, discoverable, and accessible South Asia collections.