Open Journal Systems

Editorial Editorial

This issue of World Libraries focuses on The Center for Research Libraries (CRL), located in Chicago, Illinois. For those of you unfamiliar with it, CRL was founded in 1949 as the Midwest Inter–library Corporation, or MILC. It was created when a number of Midwest university presidents and library directors decided to build a single storage facility to hold collectively their library materials that were of value but infrequently used. MILC was designed as a consortium supported in large part by member fees. In addition to merging collections, another aspect of the consortial agreement was that of interlibrary loan. MILC members would be able to borrow any of the deposited materials regardless of who initially owned them. By 1965, MILC had outgrown its Midwest roots. Member libraries were primarily the large, academic research libraries in the United States and Canada. The name change to The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) reflected this change.

In this issue of World Libraries, we hear from a number of the CRL staff who have worked intimately with its collections — developing them, providing access to them, and working closely with libraries to coordinate collection development activities. The first article is one by the current CRL director, Bernard F. Reilly, Jr. He traces CRL’s history from its inception and purposes as seen in its articles of incorporation with Ralph T. Esterquest as its first director (1949–1959).

In the early 1950s, the Center began to purchase materials in addition to accepting those on deposit. Such areas of collecting included foreign newspaper titles, documents issued by governments outside of the United States, and non–English language materials. Both Esterquest and his successor Gordon R. Williams (1959–1980) were responsible for this expansion of the Center’s collecting activities.

In 1980, the Center was headed by Donald B. Simpson (1980–2000). The construction and expansion of a new building and consolidation of materials from the original building to the new occurred during this time. CRL’s area studies microfilm programs were expanded and the Center’s holdings were made available online and over the Web.

Beverly P. Lynch served as interim director from 2000–2001 before passing the reins to Bernard F. Reilly, Jr., the current director. The Center is currently expanding its activities towards working with libraries in the developing countries themselves. Today, CRL has more than 200 members and over 4.5 million items. Membership in the Center has recently included its first member outside of North America.

Based on CRL’s annual reports, William V. Jackson, Senior Fellow in Dominican University’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science, describes and analyzes CRL’s financial situation. Having some understanding of CRL’s financial underpinnings along with its history provides a solid basis for tracking its growth, program development and collections.

The next two articles are by James Simon. The first deals with the Global Resources Network, a collaborative initiative of major North American universities and research libraries to support international studies through the preservation of materials. It includes a description of the Digital South Asia Library project by Gerald Hall. Simon’s second article deals with Area Studies Microform Projects, one of the Center’s oldest programs. These six projects are excellent examples of cooperative collection development and preservation.

The Center began to subscribe to U.S. (particularly ethnic) and foreign newspapers in the early 1950s. Linda Ronan then describes this rich collection and the collaborative effort that has resulted in the International Coalition on Newspapers, or ICON. In this article, she provides an overview of the coordinated collecting of newspapers — not an easy task given the complexity and fragility of these materials — and the development of a database to track and monitor them.

In her article, “A Library without Borders”, Diane Ryan discusses the organization, goals and accomplishments of the Digital Library for International Research (DLIR), a Web–based digital library that receives library and technological assistance from CRL. The DLIR is comprised of a union catalog based on the holdings of overseas research centers that participate in the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC).

The last article is by Mary Wilke and Ginger Reilly, describing the Center’s STM (science, technology, and medical) resources. It focuses on the five core components of CRL’s STM collection and includes information on traditional and digital preservation activities for these materials.

The work of the Center for Research Libraries and its members over the years has built not only an impressive collection of resources but also exemplifies how cooperation among libraries can build collections, preserve them, and provide access to them. We are delighted to feature The Center for Research Libraries in this issue of World Libraries.

About the Author

Marjorie E. Bloss is an Instructor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Dominican University, River Forest, Illinois, USA.
E–mail: mbloss [at] dom [dot] edu

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