South Asia Cooperative Acquisitions Program (SACAP): 60 Years of Building Unique Collections

Today, as inflation and economic uncertainty put severe stress on library collection budgets across North America, cooperative collection development is en vogue once again. Fortunately, librarians who collect for international and area studies have always been at the forefront of collaborative efforts to build robust and distinctive collections, even during tough economic times. One of the earliest and finest examples of such initiatives is the South Asia Acquisitions Program (SACAP), which this year celebrates its sixtieth anniversary.

The South Asia Cooperative Acquisitions Program (SACAP) was launched by the Library of Congress in 1962. This federal initiative was intended to foster the systematic and collaborative collecting of books, journals, and ephemera from this large, diverse, and multi-lingual region by research libraries right here in the United States. Recognising the importance of this field of study and the timeliness of this project, Duke University Libraries joined 10 peer institutions in agreeing to pay an annual fee of $500 USD—over $4,900 USD by today’s standards (according to the CPI Inflation Index)—in exchange for a selection of the latest South Asian publications. This collective investment in international collecting was an unparalleled success and SACAP continues to this day with Library of Congress field offices in New Delhi and Islamabad.

The materials on display in this 60th anniversary exhibition come from Duke University Libraries’ South Asia Pamphlet collection. Reputed to be the largest such collection in North America, it contains approximately 7,500 English-language pamphlets, with another 392 in Urdu and Bengali still waiting to be catalogued. The pamphlets cover a plethora of subjects: in addition to the items currently displayed in the Hubbard Case, there are pamphlets documenting tourism, economic development, arts, and refugees, among other topics. The collection comes from several South Asian countries: India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.

The items in the Hubbard Case will be on display until 2 January 2023. After exploring this exhibition, come on up to the International & Area Studies suite, on the second floor of Bostock Library, to view the exhibition “Land of Lapis lazuli and Gold Afghanistan in the Collections at Duke University Library” while it lasts.

Additional resources

  • Patterson, Maureen L. P.  “The South Asian P.L. 480 Library Program, 1962-1968.” The Journal of Asian Studies, 28: 4, (Aug., 1969):  743- 754.

(Photo credits: Sean Swanick & Luo Zhou)

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