Recruitment Experiences in Area Studies Library Organizations: The Case of ACRL's Western European Studies Section (WESS)*

Recruitment Experiences in Area Studies Library Organizations: The Case of ACRL's Western European Studies Section (WESS)*

George I. Paganelis (California State University - Sacramento, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-601-8.ch006
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This chapter discusses the urgent need to recruit individuals into academic librarianship for positions within or otherwise related to area studies. It first outlines the major problems that continue to inhibit recruitment efforts in area studies including negative perceptions of academic librarianship, a narrow interpretation of qualifications, deterrents of the library and information science curriculum for subject Ph.D.s, and the shrinking number of dedicated full-time positions. Educational incentives, experiential opportunities, and a stronger focus on professional recruitment and collaboration by area studies library organizations are each explored as potential solutions. The second half of the chapter presents the activities and accomplishments of WESS’s Recruitment to the Profession Committee as a model for other area studies library groups to use to stimulate professional recruitment in their respective specialties.
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One of the goals of area studies is to moderate the cultural bias in all our accustomed patterns of life and thought. –Howard W. Winger (1966, p. 169)

While “area studies” in American higher education dates back to the 1930s, it was only with the rise of the Cold War and the passage of the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) in 1958 that government leaders formally acknowledged the pressing need for America, in the interest of national security, to be better informed about heretofore neglected areas of the globe. From the outset, then, area studies was implicitly understood to exclude Western Europe and North America. The NDEA used area studies as a vehicle for the nation to meet its new security challenges by providing funding that helped create centers and institutes at leading universities on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the Near and Middle East, Latin America, and elsewhere. These interdisciplinary centers facilitated the study of scores of foreign languages and the respective cultures of these world areas, becoming storehouses for the accumulation of intellectual and material capital that would in turn provide a source of expertise for the government’s national security needs and concomitant benefits to the academic and business communities.

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