CSAL, the Center for South Asian Libraries, is an American overseas research center designed to facilitate scholarly research and teaching on South Asia in all academic disciplines through improved preservation of and access to the heritage of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, as embodied in their intellectual and artistic output in all forms. It functions as a research support facility for American scholars in the region by providing infrastructures and facilities to enhance research effectiveness and the exchange of scholarly information. These aims are accomplished through current and planned activities of the Center operating in conjunction with several organizations and institutions in South Asia holding similar objectives. CSAL also works closely with the Council of American Overseas Research Centers' American Overseas Digital Library.
CSAL was founded by Columbia University, University of Chicago, and the Center for Research Libraries (a consortium consisting of universities and research organizations in North America). In its first operational year (2001), CSAL anticipates new membership applications from six additional universities with significant research interests in South Asia. With contributions from participating member institutions and consortia, and significant funding from the U.S. Department of Education, the Association of Research Libraries, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and other agencies and foundations, CSAL operates in the subcontinent to connect students and scholars directly with the research information they need. CSAL's initiatives are designed to create research support structures that parallel those available for the study of classical antiquity in libraries operated by the Council of American Overseas Research Centers bodies in Rome and Athens.
CSAL is based upon the principle of mutual benefit to U.S. and South Asian scholars. Consonant with that objective, CSAL works with research centers, universities, libraries and archives throughout South Asia to preserve important local resources (usually by microfilming), to provide full bibliographic access (by cataloging, article indexing, and other means), and to prepare them for full-text or full-image delivery over the Internet. Unlike other approaches based on acquisition, CSAL's modus operandi allows the original research materials to remain in South Asia for the benefit of local scholars, while the information products of CSAL's activities are disseminated over the Web for research use by scholars in the U.S. and elsewhere. In a typical example, CSAL works with the Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya (our research center partner in Kathmandu) to preserve unique Nepali newspaper holdings on microfilm. The master negatives of the film are shipped to CSAL's facility at the Roja Muthiah Research Library in Madras, where trained staff make duplicates of the film for dissemination, produce complete cataloging records, and run the microfilm through a film scanner to produce digital copies of the entire corpus of material. The original master negatives, positive use copies, and a CD-ROM containing the digital data (full-text images) will be sent back to Kathmandu for use by local and American scholars working in Nepal. Another copy of the film is archived in the U.S. at SAMP (South Asia Microform Project, at the Center for Research Libraries, Chicago), and the digital data is mounted on the Web for global access.
Libraries are inadequately funded in South Asia. Therefore, without a cooperative effort such as CSAL's, it is unlikely that the issues of preservation and access would be addressed to the satisfaction of scholars and students doing fieldwork in the region. Despite their acknowledged importance, many of the scholarly resources in CSAL's purview are rarely found in libraries in South Asian or other countries. (Amazingly, this paucity of holdings even extends to the Oriental and India Office Collections at the British Library.) But through the efforts of CSAL and the projects it undertakes, South Asia scholars and librarians in the U.S., Europe, Japan, and Australia are able to consult many of CSAL's resources via the Internet. These projects include the Digital South Asia Library project, now in its second phase, and the Digital Dictionaries of South Asia project.
For more information on the Center for South Asia Libraries please contact:
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The URL of this page is: http://dsal.uchicago.edu/csal/objectives.html