Monday, July 18, 2011

Non-English pamphlets

Non-English pamphlets from South Asia, dating around 1960s to the mid-1980s - are these treasures or trash - should they be added to a library or discarded?

25 boxes of non-English pamphlets
After reviewing a large number of "PL 480" pamphlets, around 25 boxes of them have been identified as non-English pamphlets, each containing around 45-50 pamphlets or an estimate of around 1200 pamphlets.

The difficulty is identifying each of the pamphlets - their titles, and possibly their authors, publishers, and maybe date, because they are in several different languages, using several different scripts and alphabets.  About 60% of them are in Hindi, Urdu, or Bengali.  A considerable number of them (maybe 30%) seem to be in South Indian or Sri Lankan languages, such as Tamil, Sinhalese, Kanada, Telegu, Malayalam, etc.  And a remaining number (about 10%) are in other South Asian language - Marathi, Assamese, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Rajasthani, etc.

Do other libraries have these? A recent (June 2011) visit to Duke University indicates that they have about 4 shelves of uncataloged non-English pamphlets.  They are in the languages which Duke has taught in the past - mainly Hindi and Urdu and mainly dating from the late 1970s or the 1980s and afterwords.  Duke has cataloged, listed or inventoried around 7,500 English pamphlets, but they are mostly from the late 1970s and after.  There may be some duplication of non-English pamphlets in the microfilm sets of emphemera processed in Delhi since 1986, and held at the Library of Congress in DC or at the Center for Research Languages.  But it is hard to tell if the 1200 pamphlets presently at the University of Virginia are duplicates or unique,  since they have not been identified yet and appear to be mainly before the 1986 microfilming. Certainly Duke may have some duplicates of Hindi and Urdu among its uncataloged shelves of pamphlets, but our estimate is that 90% of these non-English materials in the the 7 or 8 Indian languages at the UVa are not duplicated nor held at other institutions or libraries. The other possibility is that some or all of these English and non-English pamphlets may be uncataloged and unprocessed in the old "Maureen Patterson" file cabinets at the University of Chicago, but that possibiity has not yet been  investigated or confirmed.

Multiple languages thus is a challenge, especially if there is a desire or need to identify and add these pamphlets to a library or institution's holdings. There are only 3 or 4 libraries or institutions in the world which might be able to handle all or most of these languages for purposes of identifying their titles, subjects, and content. 

Tamil, Sinhalese, or ??
At the University of Virginia, we have only basic knowledge of Hindi and Urdu, but especially are unable to deal with even simple identifications of materials in other languages. Such as what is the language of the journal or series in the photo to the right here. Are they in Tamil or Sinhalese, or some other language?  Are the 27 issues of this journal or series a treasure or trash - are they unique and rare enough, or valuable enough, for someone to spend time identifying them, and then cataloging them, and finally adding and holding them in their collection?

Here are two other 'composite' photos which are samples of non-English pamphlet materials, some of them are in Hindi, one in Bengali, and some in Urdu.  The second is a photo of 9 small Urdu pamphlets (part of a set of 23) at the size of 11 x 13 cm (about 7 or 8 pages each), with the overall title of "quran roshni hai"  

Might the identification, evaluation, and decisions to add (or not) these non-English pamphlets be taken up as part of a long-term (several years) project to gradually process these 1200 non-English South Asian pamphlets?  Where might we apply for a grant for this project?  It might be worked on in stages with trained persons knowing Hindi, Urdu, or Bengali first to go through the set and identify and add them to a collection; and then gradually bring in experts in other languages to process the remaining pamphlets. Possible places where these might be housed for the processing of these might be the Library of Congress in Washington, DC or shipping them back to the New Delhi Office, or in Chicago at the University there or at the Center for Research Libraries (though CRL policy is not to handle this type of material), or some other place.

The University of Virginia would love to handle this process for these non-English pamphlets, but we have none of the language expertise to handle them, nor the personnel or funds, nor future space to house them. So, we need suggestions of how to distribute or ship or dispose of these items.  We would be glad to hear from you.

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