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Collection Development Policy


Chris Winters
May 2009

Brief overview of the collection

·         History: Anthropological materials have been collected by the Library since the early days of the University, but anthropology did not become a separate department until 1929, and collecting definitely became more focused after that date.

·         Broad subject areas emphasized and de-emphasized: Material on all fields of anthropology is acquired, but there has always been some attempt to concentrate on those subfields of anthropology and areas of the world in which there has been the most intensive local interest. Emphases have changed with the decades, but the collection in social and cultural anthropology is stronger than that in physical anthropology.

·         Description of Academic Program: The Department of Anthropology offers B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees. It is generally reckoned one of the most distinguished anthropology departments anywhere. It is also, with more than thirty faculty members, one of the world’s largest anthropology departments. Research and teaching cover all the major subfields of the discipline: above all social and cultural anthropology, but also physical and biological anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics. There is also considerable interest in the history of anthropology and in the intellectual underpinnings of the discipline. Over the years members of the Department have done scholarly work on all the world’s major regions.

·         Audience/Purpose. The collection supports the research and teaching needs of faculty and students in the Department of Anthropology as well as those of scholars in numerous other disciplines.

Collecting guidelines

·         Levels of selection. It is impossible to define the anthropology collection in terms of a set of Library of Congress call number ranges. Only a small minority of anthropological material is assigned a GN call number, and the GN's include much material that is not anthropological (e.g., books on ethnic conflict). Approximately half of all anthropological material ends up with regional call numbers DA-F. Many anthropology books are put into the H's. Some anthropological material also gets assigned call numbers in the A's, B's, J's, L's, M's, P's, Q's, R's, S's, T's, and Z's. Little attention is paid to call number in doing selection work. The anthropology collection consists of works by anthropologists, works on subjects that would widely be considered to be anthropological in nature, and works requested by anthropologists that do not clearly fall in anyone else’s territory.

Generally, all areas of anthropology are supported at the “research” level (see general policy statement for definition). Social and cultural anthropology are supported somewhat more intensively than physical anthropology. See below for additional details.

Collecting also encompasses several subject areas that strictly speaking lie outside the bounds of academic anthropology, in certain cases with some limitations. Thus, the anthropology fund is used for works on the visual art and architecture of peoples in whom anthropologists have traditionally been interested, but not works on “primitive art,” the art market, or non-traditional art by the same peoples unless clearly written by an anthropologist. The anthropology fund is also used for grammars and dictionaries of and texts in Amerindian, sub-Saharan African, Oceanic, and (less often) certain Asian and minority European languages. Other subjects covered by the anthropology fund are archaeological techniques and the problems and responses of traditional peoples threatened by aspects of the modern world unless the emphasis is almost entirely on politics. In every case works deemed in scope are acquired at the “research” level.

Because of its call number (GV), non-discipline-specific material on sports and play are to some degree the responsibility of the anthropology and/or geography bibliographer. Scholarly material in this area is acquired at the “instructional support” level.

Similarly, traditional studies of folklore (sometimes falling in GT) are acquired only selectively, although serious scholarly works on folklore are acquired as intensively as those in mainstream anthropology.

 ·         Type of materials included and excluded. Emphasis is put on printed scholarly works.

A distinctive characteristic of anthropology is its interest in the use of primary data. Fieldwork may play a more central role in anthropology than in any other field. Written sources of information often constitute primary data as well. Travel accounts, newspapers, and government records are only some of the possible genres. Conceivable sources of published primary data are many times larger in size than all the scholarly literature put together. The Library tries to acquire some of this material, but, because of budgetary limitations, primary material can be purchased only selectively.

As with other fields, introductory textbooks, anthologies of previously published works, and unedited dissertations are generally not acquired.

 ·         Physical formats included and excluded. All formats are acquired. The great bulk of monographic literature is still available only in paper. Serials and certain reference sources increasingly are available in electronic form; subscriptions to these are considered adequate substitutes for paper equivalents.

Ethnographic films constitute a significant part of the anthropological literature and present a problem because of their substantial cost. They are acquired in so far as possible (preferably in DVD rather than VHS format) but for the moment are purchased at the “instructional support” level.

 ·         Publication dates collected. The anthropology fund is used largely for current material, although older imprints are acquired when requested, to fill gaps in the collection, or to replace lost or damaged copies. The increasing availability of older imprints on Google Book has lessened the need for purchase of pre-1923 material or reprints of early books.

 ·         Languages. There are no absolute language limitations on collecting activities. But, other things being equal, the threshold for the purchase of material in English is a little lower than for other languages. Material in the major continental Western European languages─French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian─is funded to nearly the same depth. Material in Dutch, the regional languages of Spain, and (especially) the Scandinavian languages is acquired somewhat less intensively. As noted elsewhere, the anthropology bibliographer is responsible for acquiring grammars and dictionaries of and texts in Amerindian, sub-Saharan African, Oceanic, and certain Asian and minority European languages, but there is essentially no scholarship published in these languages. Material in most non-Western-European languages that are used for scholarly purposes is the responsibility of the area-studies bibliographers.

·         Geographical range. There are no limitations, but see comments below about the relationships with area-studies colleagues.

 ·         Chronological span. There are no limitations.

 Areas of distinction

The anthropology collection at the University of Chicago Library is characterized more by its breadth than by its distinction in any one area. Statistical analysis of OCLC records suggests that only one other academic library has reported holding a larger number of recent works in the field.

Related University of Chicago collections

Several colleagues are responsible for the purchase of certain classes of material.

The area-studies bibliographers generally acquire anthropological material on the Middle East and North Africa; South Asia; East Asia; and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet states. The anthropology bibliographer sometimes acquires Western-European language material on Greece, Afghanistan, Mongolia, the Sahara and certain other areas for which no area-studies bibliographer seems to take full responsibility, and on rare occasions even funds material overlooked by area-studies bibliographers that would clearly be of interest to anthropologists.

Similarly, while the Bibliographer for Classics and the Ancient Near East is responsible for most works on the Classical world and the ancient Near East, the anthropology bibliographer feels some responsibility for certain left-over periods and places (e.g., pre-Roman Europe except Italy; pre-Islamic Nubia).

Southeast Asia is a special case. The Bibliographer for South Asia has some responsibility to purchase Western-language materials for Southeast Asia, but Western-European-language anthropological material on this area is historically the responsibility of the anthropology bibliographer.

There is an intricate relationship between anthropology and linguistics both on campus (several faculty members hold joint appointments) and in the Library. Generally, the linguistics bibliographer is responsible for funding works on linguistics proper, while the anthropology bibliographer funds dictionaries, grammars, and texts for all the languages that are not the responsibility of either the area-studies or the literature bibliographers.

There is also some overlap between anthropology and history. For the most part, material on pre-Columbian America and pre-colonial Africa is considered by definition to be anthropology, regardless of the disciplinary affiliation of the author. And, while material on archaeology that is not the responsibility of the area-studies or Classics bibliographers generally falls to the anthropology bibliographer, works on the archaeology of medieval Europe and historical archaeology are the responsibility of the history bibliographer.

Folklore presents a complicated problem. Generally, theoretical folklore and the folklore of Third-World countries (except for the regions covered by colleagues in area studies) are the responsibility of the anthropology bibliographer. But in the past the bibliographers for Western European literature traditionally had some responsibility for Western European folklore and still do for those components of folklore that have been absorbed in any way into the literary canon.

There are also overlaps between anthropology and such fields as religion, music, sociology, economics, and biology.

The Special Collections Research Center holds a large collection of the papers of scholars associated with the Department of Anthropology. It also holds other material likely to be of interest to anthropologists, e.g., early travel accounts, and the data on Mesoamerican languages accumulated by Norman McQuown and colleagues.

Cooperative arrangements and related collections

There are no formal arrangements for cooperative acquisition, but the existence of certain materials in other libraries has influenced the building of the anthropology collections over the years.

For example, because of the superb Africana collections at Northwestern University's Herskovits Library, the University of Chicago Library's holdings of materials on sub-Saharan Africa (especially material published in sub-Saharan Africa) are not as good as those for other regions of the world. No collecting weakness has caused more disappointment among local anthropologists, and some attempt has been made in recent years to improve the Africana collection, but it is impossible to do as well as Northwestern.

Similarly, the excellent Southeast Asia collections as such institutions as Northern Illinois University, Cornell, and elsewhere have allowed one to pay somewhat less attention to Southeast Asia than to certain other areas; few materials in Southeast Asian languages are collected.

The Newberry Library has a first-rate collection of older material (including popular material) on North American Indians; as a consequence the University of Chicago Library has put only modest effort into this area.

The Field Museum of Natural History has strong holdings of serials from museums and scholarly institutions from all parts of the world. Anthropology selectors have sometimes taken the Field Museum's holdings into consideration.