The Library’s global reach

From the hosting of the Texting China symposium to the digitization of Library holdings to the exhibition of international histories and religious treasures, the Library did much to collect, preserve, and promote the use of its global collections in 2011-12 and continues to do so as the new academic year begins.

Global Collections and New Appointments

Dunhuang manuscript scroll

This Dunhuang manuscript scroll is held by the University of Chicago Library. An expert from the National Library of China examined the manuscript during the “Texting China” symposium and suggested that it dates back to the seventh century. (Photo by Michael Kenny)

Forty-five percent of the Library’s collections are in non-English languages and published outside the United States, supporting University of Chicago faculty research with a global impact and making the Library a mecca for international scholars. Areas of special strength include East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and Slavic and Eastern Europe. To complement its resources, the Library builds foreign area studies collections jointly with the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) and provides access to CRL’s international collections of foreign dissertations, global newspapers, and scholarly journals.

Since June 2011, several Library appointments were made to strengthen collection building and access in the Library’s South Asia and East Asia operations, including a Chinese studies librarian; a Korean studies librarian; and an assistant South Asia librarian.

International Scholars and Librarians

In 2011-12, 9,610 visiting researchers unaffiliated with the University used the Library. Some came to conduct research individually. Others came to work cooperatively, such as those attending the international symposium Texting China—Composition, Transmission, and Preservation of Pre-Modern Chinese Textual Materials. More than 100 scholars of pre-modern China, curators of Chinese research library collections, and preservation experts from China, Taiwan, the U.S., Canada, and Europe shared their expertise for three days at Regenstein and Mansueto libraries. The Library, the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the Center for East Asian Studies collaborated to plan the conference.

Texting China symposium attendees

Researchers, curators, and preservation experts from around the world applaud a speaker at the “Texting China” symposium. (Photo by Jason Smith)

The Library’s Robert L. Platzman Memorial Fellowships program supports visiting researchers whose work requires on-site consultation of Library archives and manuscripts. The Library awarded 14 fellowships in 2012 and another 13 fellowships for the 2012-13 academic year, bringing the total to 57 since the Fellowships were founded in 2006. Recipients come from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Britain and Germany. Those coming in 2012-13 will consult materials such as the papers of Joachim Wach, Melchior Palyi, Stephen A. Douglas, Robert M. Hutchins, and Harriet Monroe; 18th- and 19th-century books on midwifery; Batak manuscripts from Sumatra; and the Lincke Collection of German Popular Literature.

Ready access to extensive collections throughout the Library system will be an invaluable underpinning for the work of scholars from around the world who take advantage of the University’s new Collegium for Culture and Society.

Worldwide Discovery and Access to Library Resources Online

In partnership with Google through the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, we have digitized more than 100,000 Library volumes including 21,000 volumes in the public domain that are now available to scholars worldwide. Additional local digitization projects managed by the Library open our special and unique collections to the world.

 The Library is currently taking a leadership role in the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded project to plan a portal to the Chicago-focused historical collections in 14 area museums, universities and libraries that make up the Chicago Collections Consortium (CCC). The purpose of this Chicago Portal is to enable free and open access through a single search site to collections documenting the history and culture of the Chicago region. This web-based portal will provide access to descriptive information about the many Chicago-related research resources held by CCC members. It will also provide access to the digitized versions of the contents of these collections when available. Integrating our rich UChicago-based collections with those of the other participating members will be a boon to scholarship here and around the world.


Exhibitionsin Regenstein and Crerar libraries and in online web exhibitsmake the library’s rich and unique global resources available to local and international audiences. Five exhibits were offered in the Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery in Regenstein in 2011-12, drawing over 10,000 visitors, and the Library is hosting two exhibitions featuring holdings from abroad this fall: Transcending Tradition: Jewish Mathematicians in German-Speaking Academic Culture at the John Crerar Library and Swiss Treasures: From Biblical Papyrus and Parchment to Erasmus, Zwingli, Calvin, and Barth at the Special Collections Research Center.

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