Panel 15: The Impact of Campus Internationalization on the Research Library: A Round Table Discussion (2015)

Moderator: Luis A. González (LG)

Jeremy Adelman, Princeton (JA)
David Magier, Princeton (DM)
Michael Stoller, NYU (MS)
Steven W. Witt, UIUC (SW)

Luis González (LG)’s introduction: Today we witness a roundtable discussion on campus internationalization and its impact on the research library. Our four panelists have been deeply involved in campus internationalization initiatives on their campuses. Jeremy Adelman (JA) is a scholar of Latin American and World History at Princeton and was the chair of the President’s Advisory Committee on Internationalization, about the impact of globalization on the university. As a scholar he is a Latin Americanist expanding into world history and globalization. David Magier (DM) is Associate University Librarian for Collection Development and the acting Associate University Librarian for Research and Instructional Services, acting South Asian Studies Librarian at Princeton, and has also served as director of the Center for Human Rights Documentation and Research at Columbia University. Michael Stoller (MS) is the Associate Dean for Collections and Research Services at NYU’s division of libraries. He came to NYU in 2001 and has been involved in promoting new modes of scholarly communications and has worked with NYU campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai and their 12 global academic centers. He has a Ph.D. in Medieval History from Columbia University. Steven Witt (SW) is head of the International and Area Studies Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was the Associate Director of the Center for Global and International Studies at UIUC before that. We had in mind a lively, dynamic conversation about this topic, based in a set of questions and a couple of shared readings to have a shared background from which to approach the subject. From time to time we will open up the floor for questions and comments from the audience. First we will ask each presenter to talk about two significant international initiatives at their institutions.

MS: I will mention the initiatives at our global campuses, especially the two “Portal” (Bachelor-degree granting) campuses in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi. It has been challenging to build a support network for these global sites, and to negotiate how we build a campus in different scholarly, political, and cultural context, as well as getting students access to NYU paper materials in a timely manner (within 48 hours). The second initiative would be the development of three digital projects with global scope. First, the Afghanistan Digital Library project digitizing all published material in Afghanistan from its origin in 1871 to the 1930s, the first time that this material has been available publicly in the world, as it had been gathered by individual Afghan scholars. We set up a conservation and digitization lab at the national archives in Kabul and sent staff there. This effort has faced serious military challenges. Second, we developed the NYU Hemispheric Institute’s digital video library to document performance used as a political tool throughout the Americas and to build teaching tools and research tools in conjunction with institutions across the hemisphere. The third and most recent initiative has been the Arabic Collections Online, which has as its goal to digitize as much out-of-copyright Arabic material (25,000-30,000 volumes up to about 1955) so they can be put online to make them publicly accessible. We have worked with Princeton University, Columbia University, Cornell University, the American University in Beirut, and the American University in Cairo. This has meant interacting with people around the world, especially at their Abu Dhabi campus, which spearheaded this project.

SW: I will start first with campus-level internationalization. First has been the rapid increase of international students, especially undergrads, while the graduate student population has stayed consistent. The campus now has the largest number of international students of any public university. Many of them are from East Asia (especially China), often first-generation students, but they also bring different cultural expectations of universities and libraries, and different expectations of what they will do after graduation. The library works closely with our campus international office to make sure someone from the International and Area Studies library is part of every event for international students. This seems to have been a good first step. At the same time the library is serving rapidly growing ESL services and classes, so they are now training their graduate students how to work with these ESL students. We also must think about how we should adjust out international collections to serve these students (do we need to be sure we have adequate primary source materials in East Asian or South Asian languages, for example?). The second point is typical of what many other campuses are going through, that with each new strategic plan we get more new initiatives and goals. One new goal at UIUC is an emphasis on global impact in everything we do, promoting more international research collaboration and more global understanding. This is challenging in the library because the university president and provost are from STEM, on a heavily STEM campus, but area studies librarians are not typically used to working with STEM projects. So we see more Japanese travel and collaboration (my background is Japanese studies) from STEM than from humanities or the social sciences, and librarians must be able to support these types of initiatives.

DM: Here at Princeton the programmatic interest in foreign material and research abroad long pre-dates my work, and is reflected in the library collections. Historically this has been more focused in some disciplines than others. My focus will be in the library rather than broader campus initiatives. Internationalization can mean many different things to different people, from mere lip service to serious brick and mortar engagements (like NYU’s) to the increasingly international campus population. In more traditional area studies projects for the longest time international work was not envisioned as a collaborative endeavor, but instead focused on what we could acquire here at Princeton for our scholars and students. But in recent years I have been putting more emphasis on collaboration with other libraries or institutions in other areas. One example of this is a project responding to an endangered collections scenario in Yemen, a vast collection of manuscripts by a particular minority in Yemen whose identity, political and physical existence, and archives were physically in danger. So an international consortium of scholars and libraries worked with leaders from the group to get training and equipment from Princeton under an NEH grant out to Yemen to work on digitizing private family collections and putting them up on the internet. This project was very collaborative, and we can think of this as technology transfer (computers, cameras, training) and collaborative collections. The second project is the digitization of Latin American ephemera. This is international collaboration because it is starting with Princeton’s forty-five year collection of ephemera from Latin America, which we gathered and then sold in microfilm copies, but has moved to digitizing these microfilms and making them available open access (and so useable in Latin America). To follow up the theme of changing demographics on campus, we are changing services on campus (orientations) and finding students coming to Princeton to get expertise that they will then bring to their home country, often in fields outside typical area studies expertise like politics, policy, international affairs, and especially engineering. We now have to rethink how engineering collects materials in various languages, and get more information on the economics, politics, etc. of engineering, so engineering has now broken from science in the library and is located with our specialists in area studies. This was a deliberate move to foster synergies between global studies and engineering.

JA: Starting off, I am not a librarian so I am commenting from having worked on the design for the overall international plan for the university and as a teacher and scholar using the library. To look at this question “from above,” as departments came to me as the Chief Academic Officer overseeing the globalization of the university for seven years, they treated the library as an afterthought in how they imagined their global ventures were going to occur. I met with DM several times to figure out how we could press the library into the core of how departments and units imagined how they were doing teaching and research in the initiatives they were planning. To pivot to a couple of examples of how we are trying to do this “from below:” people think of internationalization as going out into the world, but libraries tend to be fixed points in particular locations even as universities are being deterritorialized (unless they are creating branch campuses like NYU; Princeton has chosen instead to emphasize networks and partnerships). So I could proliferate the number of metaphors that we draw on to think about the library (“hubs,” “bridges,” etc.). One way I got involved was in designing a MOOC. Princeton was one of the first co-signatories in the formation of Coursera, and mine was the first pilot humanities course, a global history survey taught to Princeton students in this room and broadcast to about 100,000 students worldwide. It took a while to figure out how essential the library was to this, especially the staff. The bigger example is something a few of us have been trying to develop, and that Fernando Acosta [Princeton University] and I have been thinking about with the Latin American ephemera collection is to think about the library radiating out into the world. So working with Fernando I am developing a course based on the ephemera collection, combining it with my research and the outreach work that the Program on Latin American Studies does that brings in Latin American scholars as visiting fellows. These fellows traditionally were not necessarily working with the library. It would be an accident if we had someone apply wanting to work with the ephemera collection, it was not baked into the design of the fellows program. We are now moving to a course that integrates students, the collection, and a visiting scholar working together in collaboration with Fernando and I.

LG: Now that we have done the overview of the programs and have in a way touched on the second question, let’s focus on the challenges that you have faced with these program and the achievements that you have had.

MS: One of the complexities of doing anything global is the pragmatics and practicalities of what’s involved in the process: the hardest part of building a library in Shanghai was getting the books into China while avoiding the censors. We figured out how to do that (we would test censorship by sneaking in material on Tibetan resistance, for example). Some of the biggest challenges are just moving people around in a global world, though we think of the world as being smoothly, effortlessly global, getting a Chinese national living in the U.S. a visa to return to China, or getting a scholar to Dubai who has spoken out about labor abuse, can be quite difficult. Challenges of getting the Afghan digitization and conservation program set up with all of the challenges of negotiating government, security difficulties, etc. We have to work with cultures that get things done in very different ways, with different ideas of what is scholarship, what parts of American culture they do or do not want (how to work in Dubai or Shanghai without it being an imperial project). We in the libraries who have been working with other parts of the world for decades were in some ways ahead of the game. We have learned a lot from exchange programs, LC’s work abroad, etc.

SW: We deal with the challenges of trying to engage more deeply with our campus, especially those in the library working in area studies. We need to show how the library is and has been engaged in area studies, but also to highlight the deep expertise within the library side by side with what a huge capital investment the library has been. We have created an International Teaching Engagement Committee, Antonio Sotomayor [UIUC] is the chair, where we work in collaboration with faculty on campus doing interesting research that might transcend regions or follow on major world events with talks on the topic in the area studies library with local experts (so we had one with about 110 people in attendance about the Ukraine crisis). We call this “Chai Wai,” a South Asian phrase for tea and conversation, and it has been quite a success getting people from across campus and in the community and introducing to the people and resources in the library. We also did another event with our new Associate Provost for International Affairs so this person would know that the library is a central player involved in international projects and so would include us in new initiatives. Essentially we showed a range of international activities we were doing, ranging from work with engineers at Kyushu University to intense involvement of the libraries in UIUC’s international policies. We also put together a GIS map of the librarians’ travel internationally over the last year, which shows so much activity (conferences, research, collections trips, consultations, etc.) all over the globe, and how we are a part of dynamic campus international projects.

DM: I will try to briefly focus on a couple of challenges we have faced of different types. We had to face almost cinematic challenges with the Yemeni project, involving a conflict zone, the fact we couldn’t bring the Yemenis to the U.S. because of visa problems, we couldn’t send our digitization experts and metadata cataloging experts to Yemen because the State Department wouldn’t allow U.S. citizens to go there. We had to meet through our partner in Berlin, but once the digitization tools got to Yemen we had a range of problems we never anticipated. How do you get the data (high-resolution TIFF images of manuscripts along with initial metadata created by the librarians in that country) back to where they are going to be placed on the internet (Princeton)?  We cannot fit enough information on a disc, we need a hard drive, but those needed to be shipped and all international shipping agencies shut down in Yemen. The internet was no help, internet in Yemen couldn’t handle that much data. Even the U.S. embassy couldn’t move the data we needed. This meant one time needing to send a $60,000 replacement camera through a friend of a friend of a friend traveling as a student going to Yemen through Berlin, etc. Other challenges arise in the sphere of moving content, allowing scholars and students access to content when abroad. For example, the Princeton Global Seminars abroad with Princeton students and scholars co-teaching and working with students in host countries have problems because while Princeton affiliates can access library material, non-Princeton participants do not get that access, which limits the collaboration they want to have with host institutions. We had to work out how to get around this commercial limitation on the flow of information. Another limit has to do with interlibrary collaboration/sharing, where many vendors limit our ability to lend internationally (we can ILL in the U.S. but not abroad, which limits international collaboration possibilities).

JA: I could tell more stories from getting things into MOOC platforms, which libraries have trouble with. Speaking as faculty, the faculty have difficulty thinking of the library inside of what we do. The “natives” think of the library as a place they go to get the volume they need, and most don’t realize that their digital materials come through the library, they think of JSTOR as this disembodied space that they go to that has all of this journal content. The conversations I would have when I was provost with faculty about how they design a project and I would mention the work this would bring to DM here, it had not occurred to them, and that is a big problem. I was not successful in expanding this understanding, so my goal has been to further the conversation through example, showcase models where the library is baked into the teaching and research they do. We will see how that goes. There are incredible practicalities, but also major conceptual issues, a mind-shift, that are at stake, and there has been a lag on campuses about that.

LG: That’s the point of this panel, to see how teaching faculty’s perspectives and librarians’ perspectives can dialog, to see how we can support the work that you do. Perhaps at this time we can entertain some questions or comments from the audience.

Barbara Tennenbaum (Library of Congress): JA, can you give us an example of where a “mind-shift” needs to take place.

JA: I am challenged on this, I can say faculty treat the library as a passive and not an active agent, particularly because the vocabulary and “grammar” of internationalization sees the library as a fixed space, even though it is not, while everything else is to be put into hyper-mobility. We have created a unit within the History Department called the Global History Lab dedicated to new models and experimentation in teaching and learning in which the library is part. The library is part of the redesigning of the MOOC, and the Lab will put up some of the resources for my collaboration with Fernando using the Latin American Ephemera collection. I think maybe five years from now we will have some examples of where the library is an integral part of what students encounter in the university rather than an afterthought.

DM: A mindset that I think should change, and that would lead to good results, is a faculty member who is going to be in country X for research will think of “their” librarian as a person who will get them a specific object. But if their librarian is an area studies librarian, or the relevant librarian for their subject as an area specialist, they would realize they have lots of contacts with librarians and archives in the country where they are going. The faculty doing research think they know everything about the libraries and archives they need to visit, how to get what they need when they are there when in fact they only have a piece of the information and the relevant librarian would know a lot more.

JA: To jump in, the worst infractions are not from the faculty, they are from the graduate students, that is where you really see the missing conversation.

SW: To expand on the World History Lab idea, UIUC founded its Slavic Research Lab in 1974 with State Department support. Since then slavicists from around the world come there, and all of those researchers work one-on-one with a Slavic Studies librarian before they come, while they are there, and after they leave. It remains powerful even as the State Department has been cutting back on research support in Slavic Studies/Russia. UIUC would like to try to get similar projects in other areas, but this kind of center took generations to come together.

MS: When NYU’s scholars travel around the world, they expect their librarians to move with them. We had this pipe dream of effortlessly moving books around the world, which we can sort of do but it is expensive ($60 to send a book overnight to Abu Dhabi). We have found many faculty who go to work at Abu Dhabi or Shanghai build/gather data then assume they will effortlessly get that data into their high-performance platforms, and do not realize the challenges of moving data (it is hard to stream video between New York and Abu Dhabi, for example). Also, they do not understand that U.S. copyright does not travel with them, and wonder why they cannot post a chapter or article for students when they are in, for example, Germany (where fair use rights are less strong than in the U.S.). On the other hand, less restrictive copyright in Arab countries (where copyright goes up to 1955, or even 1970 in some cases) allowed NYU to go much farther with their digitization projects than they could in other countries. Librarians are especially well equipped to understand these kinds of issues, and to prepare faculty for the practical challenges they will face in other countries.

LG: The third question is about a somewhat contradictory phenomenon. We have a growing population of international students, new international campuses like NYU’s, but at the same time there is evidence that U.S. social science is increasingly parochial. Are we becoming globally parochial, or parochially global?

MS: A contrast I often make is that in the early years of the Cold War the U.S. government rationally decided that it was good for Americans to know more foreign languages, to foster research and education in international studies (PL480, Title VI, etc.), but since 2001 the trend seems to have gone in the opposite direction. American universities have been passionate about international research and education, but the funding and infrastructure is not there. This “rational” response is gone, so we are going “international” without the infrastructure that the government and foundations like Ford or Rockefeller provided.

SW: I do not want to be cynical, but I would point out that Title VI was a Defense initiative responding to Sputnik, and the second biggest influx of government cash to area studies through Title VI was under George W. Bush. The animating force of area studies scholars is a desire to know more about the history or politics or culture of a people/country/region/etc., but the motivation of funders is to build a security wall around the U.S. Our scholars’ motives are different from their funders, so one person’s internationalization is different from another’s. Some funders are thinking that technologies can stand in for internationalization, Google can translate texts and we can rely on outsourced support from the countries we want to know about.

DM: This is a depressing part of the conversation, and I’m afraid I have to add to that depression. The motivation of international studies support has often been the need for material NOW, to be used now, and that is where assessment is these days, which has the implication of the destruction of the research library in the long term. To build a good research institution you need a base of material available for people to build on, even if it is not being used now. Within universities themselves (not just among outside funders) we see that short-term thinking, with universities undermining their own research. The “50,000 feet” view sees foreign language material as “low use,” but studies (Schadl and Todeschini “Cite Globally, Analyze Locally” for example) have shown that, if you look at the research being done locally, you see what the researchers are actually using. We have to convey this perspective to those who are looking at the library solely from that “50,000 foot” perspective.

MS: This thinking is in the library profession itself, as well, where we hear people refer to books as an “under-performing asset class.”

JA: That sounds like my hockey team.

MS: When I started evaluating library collections in 1985 a heavily used item was one that had been checked out once in the last five years. At Columbia University in the 1990s we managed a major off-site storage shift by using 1972 as the cut-off to send an item to storage, and we managed to move about 300,000 items off site, and that doesn’t mean that they aren’t valuable, either. But somehow that notion, that these items are not valuable, has made its way into the profession and I find that heartbreaking.

JA: I am not so pessimistic, I see a paradox where we have a mix of globalization and localization growing and complementing each other, going both ways. I can now teach from my laptop out to distant corners of the world. However, a problem I would underline is in the social sciences, the drift to thinking digitization and creation of large stores of data, frequently hosted in libraries, is a solution to our social problems, and therefore they do not have to move or have the encounters that are essential to internationalization.

DM: Another problem related to that is that this data is content, and someone has to host and distribute it. Most of the access to data is limited to the hosting institution and cannot be shared with others. How many duplicated collection of the same expensive, hard-to-maintain data can you create?

JA: Well, one effect of the paradox is stratification among globalizing institutions. Speaking as an economic historian, globalization always produces more global inequality, and libraries are exhibiting this.

LG: The fourth question is specifically about SW’s co-written article “Mapping Academic Libraries’ Contributions to Internationalization.” Can you briefly summarize your argument?

SW: The American Council of Education (ACE) does a survey of campus internationalization every five years, but their last one had not a single question about libraries, so some colleagues and I took ACE’s survey, modified it, and sent it out to libraries at selected four-year institutions, with ACE’s blessing. We got a decent response rate and learned that libraries are not on universities’ strategic plans for internationalization, and libraries are not thinking about how they can foster international work.

LG: One of the findings of the piece is that academic libraries have been doing a lot in many areas, from instruction to work with international studies programs to building collections to supporting high-level faculty research, but that work is not known at the high levels by people who set budgets and priorities for universities. How can we be better advocates for research libraries as equal partners in initiatives on our campuses?

DM: My experience is that university administrators see librarians coming and they hide because they know they are there to advocate for something (more money, etc.). That advocacy needs to be done by the libraries’ constituents, especially the faculty, so people like JA need to talk about the library with administrators. Librarians advocating directly to administrators for themselves does not work.

MS: For administrators faculty are the life of the institution. Administrators are far more likely to listen to faculty than librarians, so they need to speak on the library’s behalf. Librarians sound self-serving to administrators. If we do our job well faculty will speak on our behalf, if we do not they will complain about us. It is easier in humanities and social sciences than in natural sciences to do that advocacy.

JA: That’s the problem of public goods in the United States in general, the library is a dramatic example of the non-acknowledgment of the public goods that allow you to pursue private passions. The Council for International Teaching and Research which I founded at Princeton which oversees the process of Princeton’s globalization put in all of its calls for initiatives that create global partnerships a specific bullet that asks faculty to indicate how their project involves library resources and staff, but the proposals we received over my six years on that council never addressed that bullet because they don’t see the library in their work. The library has been successful at deterritorializing itself, but now the faculty don’t see what the library does. There is a narrative to be told about what it takes to run a twenty-first-century library and it needs to be brought to the attention of administrators and faculty. It’s very typical that ACE left the library out.

DM: So we’re victims of our own success.

MS: Some have said librarians need to explain to people how difficult it is to run a library and how complicated they are, but like with figure skaters you want to work with the one that makes it seem effortless.

LG: We have time for one question or comment from the audience.

Alison Hicks (University of Colorado, Boulder): One thing that hasn’t been talked about here is teaching and learning. Can you address teaching and how the library works in that?

JA: For my MOOC, we wanted the library active beyond the course packet or the reserves reading room, to be visible and involved so students saw how it provided the materials they used in the class, and we found that very hard. I also learned a lesson about how much could be done through the changing nature of the classroom itself, as a collaborative and interactive space rather than one where I am the teacher and the students are passive learners. The library plays a very cool role in this, Princeton’s ephemera collection can help to really change how we see the classroom works itself. I had taught in the Firestone Library, but we had not gotten hands-on with materials and broken stuff down. Having talked with science faculty about this, I see that the library can be a lab for humanities and social science students.

MS: As the university is more global, students don’t understand how much the globe is full of people who speak so many languages. Students come from high school without the linguistic skills to deal with these global topics; for example, they need to read Japanese to talk about attitudes of Japanese people to US in WWII, and don’t understand that.

SW: We are finding that with new global, interdisciplinary courses librarians have more opportunities to co-teach. In our new global studies minor there were several courses that librarians co-designed and co-taught. This is a trend that they embrace and will continue to do so.

LG: Thank you for coming today and sharing your thoughts on these interesting topics.