TRLN was cool long before 2CUL

In September 2010, Columbia and Cornell University Libraries announced an agreement “to collaboratively support the Slavic and East European collection development activities of both institutions” using the services of a single subject specialist, namely Columbia’s own Librarian for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies. This agreement tacitly ratifies the decision to eliminate the position of Slavic librarian at Cornell. It also represents “the first in a series of resource-sharing agreements” developed through the so-called 2CUL partnership, a Mellon Foundation-funded initiative to “support the development” of an “innovative partnership” between these two Ivy League schools. According to the press release, the recently-announced deal “promises to enhance the depth and breadth of Slavic and East European library holdings by better coordinating collection development activity,” thereby limiting “collecting overlap” and “allowing the two libraries to acquire significantly more material across the two campuses.”

What many people may not know, however, is that for over 80 years, the Triangle Research Libraries Network has been quietly, but doggedly engaged in precisely just such an endeavor. And by creating, and recently re-filling the position of TRLN Librarian for South Asia, the members of this consortium have even experimented using a single subject specialist, who works across multiple institutions. According to the job ad that was listed on the Duke HR website, the Librarian for South Asia “develops the collections and provides library services in the interdisciplinary field of South Asian studies at Duke and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). He/she also coordinates all library activities related to South Asian studies in the Triangle Research Libraries Network (TRLN) with the objective of realizing an organically whole federation of collections and services” – a description that sounds remarkably similar to the responsibilities of 2CUL’s librarian for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European studies.

In the Research Triangle, cooperative collection development in Slavic, Eurasian, and East European studies dates from the end of the 1950s. Over the last 60 years, cooperation between Duke and UNC Slavic librarians has enabled both universities to develop a strong collection in practically all areas of Slavic and East European area studies. By the terms of the existing agreement, for example, Duke University Library is responsible for acquiring and providing access to Polish imprints, while UNC develops a comprehensive collection in Czech, Slovak, and Hungarian. In the case of Russian-language materials, UNC is primarily responsible for Russian history and literature (particularly of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries), while Duke collects comprehensively in Soviet and contemporary Russian/Eurasian history, economics, art, and linguistics. Both libraries also hold important special collections that are specific to or include material on Russia, Eurasia, and Eastern Europe, such as UNC’s Andre Savine Collection of materials on the post-1917 Russian emigration; and Duke’s new digital collection, “Americans in the Land of Lenin: Documentary Photographs of Early Soviet Russia, 1919-1930.” The combined TRLN Slavic collection covers nearly the complete spectrum of subjects taught at U.S. universities—a range and depth of resources that few very few North American consortia, and only a handful of individual libraries, can match.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the TRLN consortium must consult the article written by Patricia Dominguez and Luke Swindler, “Cooperative Collection Development in the Research Triangle University Libraries: A Model for the Nation,” College and Research Libraries 54 (November 1993), 470-96; and the bibliography listed on the TRLN website.

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