The University of Kansas Libraries
Slavic and Eurasian Collection history
- The Slavic Collections
- History of the Slavic Collections of the University of Kansas Libraries
- South Slavic Collection
- Polish Collections
- Russian and East Slavic Collections
of the University of Kansas Libraries are a significant resource for both the University and for patrons across the nation and worldwide, who come regularly to use the more than 300,000 bound volumes, 3,000 periodical titles, and ot her documents spread among the various units of the Libraries system.
The extent of the Slavic Collections is symbiotically related to the strength of the University's academic programs in the Russian and East European area, of which KU is justifiably proud. An outstanding library collection contributes directly to the preeminence of KU's academic programs by facilitating learning, intellectual development, and research. More than 45 KU faculty members in 14 different departments and schools and their 250 students are presently engaged in advanced work in different areas of Slavic studies; they rely on the University Libraries to provide them with materials vital to their scholarship. Each year the Libraries welcome more than 50 visiting professors and scholars from the region, the nation, and the world who come to use the Libraries' special collections in Renaissance Polonica, late medieval Slavic imprints, World War II documents, pre-revolutionary Russian pamphlets, and early 20th century materials on Yugoslavia and the Balkans, among others.
In 1941 the University of Kansas began to offer an unpretentious program of Russian language courses; from this modest beginning, an extended Slavic curriculum developed within a single generation. Today's KU students study not only Russian, but many other Slavic languages (including Polish, Serbian and Croatian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Slovenian, and Old Church Slavonic). KU faculty regularly provide students with courses in the history, political science, economics, geography, culture, literature, philosophy and religion of Russia and the former Soviet Union, Poland, Ukraine, and the Balkans. Many students and faculty travel abroad for study and research, frequently cooperating with KU's Slavic librarians to maintain book exchanges with KU's many partner institutions in Russia and Eastern Europe.
The Center for Russian and East European Studies, the constituent teaching departments, and the University Libraries have now worked together for 35 years to prepare area specialists for academic, government, and private sectors. Together they also serve as a superior resource locally, regionally, and nationally, providing a variety of services and information to school, government, civic, community, and business constituencies. KU is, in fact, the only university in the vast region between the Mississippi and the West Coast that offers B.A. and M.A. degrees in Russian and East European Area Studies and the Ph.D. degree in Slavic Languages and Literatures (as well as Ph.D.s with area focus in the traditional disciplines of history, geography, economics, political science, anthropology, and other fields). In acknowledgment of the quality of its academic programs, the University of Kansas became a Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center for the Russian and East European area in 196 5 and today is one of only 12 such Comprehensive Centers in the United States.
During these decades of growth and development in KU's Russian and East European area academic programs, the Libraries' Slavic Collection grew apace. With the support of the Dean of Libraries and the University administration, committed faculty and librarians worked together to build solid core collections in the Slavic social sciences and humanities for the University's teaching and research mission. The present Slavic Collections are the result of many years of intelligent collection development and responsible stewardship.
Today new obstacles face the KU Libraries and Slavic librarians. While the Libraries can certainly count the Slavic Collections as a jewel in the crown, now is not the time to stand still. We have entered an arduous phase in the building of the Collections. The artificially depressed book prices mandated by the centralized Soviet and East European economies are gone forever. Just when publishing in the Slavic world has crawled out from under the carapace of censorship and is enjoying an explosi on of freedom of information and expression, two factors have conspired to complicate collection building. The first is the difficulty of collecting at a time when many books are published by a myriad of ephemeral presses that are here today and gone tomorrow; the second is the difficulty of acquiring foreign publications as book prices go through the roof and library budgets go through the floor.
The severe political, economic, social, and cultural upheavals now taking place in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe are inevitably mirrored in the new problems, unforeseen by pre-glasnost Slavists, that confront Slavic collection building tod ay. The challenges are vast, but the faculty, librarians, and students of KU's Russian and East European programs are committed to maintaining the present prominence of the University's Slavic Collections.
former Director, Center for Russian
and East European Studies,
University of Kansas
Thanks to the foresight and efforts of University of Kansas faculty members during the early years of Russian and East European studies in the United States, the University Libraries are home to one of the premier Slavic research collections in the Midwest and perhaps in the country. The Slavic collection has been actively developed since the early 1950s, with some South Slavic book exchanges dating back to the 1930s. Materials are acquired from dealers throughout the world and KU Libraries maintain book and serial exchanges with over 160 libraries and scholarly institutions in Eastern Europe and Russia.
Along with the acquisition of current materials, retrospective collecting has been emphasized. As a result, there are also substantial holdings of nineteenth century materials. The three greatest strengths of the collections are in Russian, Serbo-Croatian and Polish materials, but materials in all other Slavic and many non-Slavic East European languages are also acquired on a selective basis. The preponderance of the collection is in the social sciences, humanities, and arts, with an emphasis on literature, languages, culture, history, political science, economics and geography.
The languages and literatures collections for the major Slavic groups and the holdings in Russian and East Central European history are extensive and considered to be of sufficient strength to support the research needs of the University's faculty and doctoral level students. Other East European and Russian area studies collections are ranked at a level to support advanced graduate study and research. The Serbo-Croatian collection of language, literature, history and cultural materials is one of the strongest in the country and the East German component of the KU German collection has been praised as one of the four or five best in the nation.
The KU Libraries' Slavic holdings also include a number of special collections, including: sixteenth century Polonica; sixteenth to eighteenth century Slavic imprints with an emphasis on travel literature; revolutionary Russian pamphlets; a Balkan collection of early twentieth century publications on the Yugoslav question; and Russian, Ukrainian and Polish e‚mige‚ literature. The Slavic reference collection has been developed at a comprehensive level and every effort is made to collect the national bibliographies and all other relevant reference sources in the humanities and social sciences.
During the 1950s and 1960s, KU professors and librarians made several book buying trips to Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, and Western Europe. As a result, KU obtained, on exchange and through purchases, an impressive collection of Slavic publications, primarily Russian, from the duplicates of several major Russian libraries including the Russian National Library (formerly Saltykov-Shchedrin State Public Library) in St. Petersburg, the Russian State Library (formerly the Lenin Library) and the State Historical Library in Moscow. Arrangements were also made with these libraries to purchase selected materials from antiquarian bookstores in Moscow and St. Petersburg and allow Kansas to pay for the materials through exchange agreements. Many publications were purchased from antiquarian book dealers in West Europe, particularly Helsinki, and in the United States. Similar arrangements were established elsewhere in Eastern Europe. In addition, KU acquired extensive Polish and Yugoslav materials through the PL 480 program. The unique value of the pre-1917 Russian holdings of the Slavic backlog was recently recognized when the U.S. Department of Education awarded the Libraries a Title II-C grant for their cataloging and preservation during 1993 and 1994. These Russian books and serials (comprising over 5,000 volumes), many of which represent unique holdings among North American libraries, were painstakingly acquired by KU Slavic studies librarians between 1950 and 1980, but it had not been possible to give the books full processing. The same care and expertise on the part of the Libraries' staff were invested in the selection of current Russian and Yugoslav publications beginning in the early 1960s. The Social Science Research Council awarded the KU Libraries a grant for 1994 to hire additional staff to catalog materials of Russian and Yugoslav provenance published during major post-World War II periods of liberalization in those countries, i.e., for Yugoslavia, materials published from 1962 through 1967, and from 1987 to 1991, and for Russia, materials published from 1958 through 1963, and from 1987 to 1991.
Over the past forty years the Slavic collections at KU have continued to broaden in scope and grow in size. In July of 1960, a survey revealed that there were 4,751 volumes of Slavic language materials held in the Libraries. Currently, the Slavic collections consist of over 300,000 volume , and over 3,000 periodical titles, of which approximately 1,250 are currently received.
The true origins of the Slavic collection can be dated to the inception of the Slavic languages program at KU. The University offered its first Russian language course in 1941. One would assume that the library had a small collection of Russian materials to support the course work. During the 1950s, Professors Oswald P. Backus (History), Roy Laird (Political Science), Sam Anderson, and George Ivask (both from Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures) began to teach courses which served as the foundation for the Soviet and East European Studies program, now known as the Russian and East European Studies program. All these professors understood the importance of strong library collections to support their teaching and research needs and worked to develop library holdings.
During the winter of 1955-1956, the KU Libraries' Exchange Section sent letters to the Soviet Academy of Sciences Library in Leningrad inquiring about the possibility of starting a book and serial exchange between the two libraries. As a result of the Academy's positive response, the following summer Professor Sam Anderson traveled to the Soviet Union to continue to work on establishing book and serial exchanges with Soviet libraries. He visited the Academy Library in Leningrad and the Lenin State Library in Moscow, which also agreed to begin an exchange with KU. Following these initial successes, Oswald P. Backus made several trips to the Soviet Union during 1957 and 1958 and created additional exchanges with libraries and learned institutions.
Exchanges were established for several reasons. First, although their operation is very labor-intensive, exchanges permit the acquisition of publications in a very cost-effective manner. Second, in many instances publications could not be obtained in any other manner. For example, although there were Western vendors for Slavic materials in the 1950s, the Soviet government prohibited the export of most antiquarian materials and many of the scholarly publications that would be of interest to researchers in the West. However, Soviet libraries were allowed to export this material legally. In payment, American, European and Asian libraries would send publications from their own countries. In most of the exchanges, even today, books are selected title by title from lists of offerings or prepublication information. Books received on exchange have a monetary value assigned to them by the sending partner (past agreements have also operated on an exchange of a book for book, or page for page accounting system). In turn, Western monographs and journals of equal value, selected by KU's exchange partners, are sent as payment. These exchanges allow the KU Libraries to assist other libraries by providing important scholarly publications which would not normally be available to scholars in Eastern Europe.
Thanks to the establishment of KU's exchanges, the Slavic library program developed to such a degree that a Slavic bibliographer, John Siedzik, began working in the library on a half-time appointment during the summer of 1959. Although most of his duties were clerical, Mr. Siedzik did have a relatively small fund for the purchase of old and rare Slavic materials.
During the 1958-1959 academic year, the newly created Slavic and Soviet Area Studies committee offered its first degree program. In the summer of 1960 Mr. Siedzik went on a book selection trip and visited the University of Helsinki and several Soviet and East European libraries. It is interesting to note that Mr. Siedzik went as an official representative of both the University of Kansas and the University of Illinois (which now ranks as having the most comprehensive state-funded library Slavic collection and research center in the United States). He gained access to the duplicate collections at the libraries of the University of Helsinki, the University of Leningrad, the University of Moscow and the Academy of Sciences in Leningrad, and selected over 10,000 volumes of nineteenth and early twentieth century materials at an average cost of $4.50 per volume. The items selected were paid for through the exchange agreements, and sent to Lawrence, from where part was forwarded to the University of Illinois.
Backus and Siedzik in 1960 had both noted that the duplicate collections at the Soviet libraries visited were extensive. The libraries at the University of Leningrad and the University of Moscow each held at least 100,000 duplicate volumes. Although he believed that these holdings could supply the needs of several major Western universities, Siedzik attempted to complete several exchange transactions quickly in an effort to obtain the most valuable research materials for KU.
In 1961 the university established a separate Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. KU now had programs in both Slavic area studies and Slavic languages and literatures, with the number of faculty increasing annually. By 1964 there were seventeen professors in the two areas and by 1968 the number of faculty increased to twenty-seven. The Libraries made every effort to support these growing programs. In 1962 George Jerkovich assumed the duties of Slavic bibliographer on a full-time appointment. Over the next two decades Jerkovich established many more exchange agreements which have proven to be beneficial for both the University of Kansas and its exchange partners. Throughout his tenure, Jerkovich made regular visits to exchange partners in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to assure continued good relations, and to obtain further important books and collections. Michael Palij, Slavic cataloger and bibliographer for Polish and Ukrainian, also made several trips to the region.
By 1967 the Libraries' Slavic collections numbered 50,000 and were growing by about 15% per year. On March 31, 1967 the Libraries created an independent Slavic Section (in July, 1969 the name was changed to the Slavic Department) within the library. The staff consisted of three librarians, three assistants, and a number of student employees. With its creation, the department took over almost all responsibility for the acquisition and processing of Slavic materials, functions which had previously been distributed throughout the library system.
Although the department functions as an independent unit of the Libraries, the Slavic books themselves are integrated into the general collections in Watson and the branch libraries. The Slavic Reference Alcove located in the Reference Department on the third floor of Watson Library houses important Slavic language reference materials, such as the national bibliographies of the various countries.
Currently, two librarians, one half-time program assistant, and the full-time equivalent of one and one-half student assistants work in the the Slavic Department. In addition, one reference librarian in the genmeral library is a Slavic specialist and does collection development for Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. There is also a Slavic specialist in the Department of Special Collections. Finally, the two grant-funded projects to process the Slavic backlog have included two more librarians, three research assistants, and a number of student assistants.
KU Slavic librarians continue to travel to Russia and Eastern Europe to cultivate KU's exchange agreements and to purchase materials. This has become particularly important since the period 1989-1991, years that witnessed the collapse of communist-led governments in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Most restrictions on publishing have been rescinded and the governmental monopolies on information have ended, resulting in a Slavic information explosion. While the liberalization of East European publishing is a welcome development, the collapse of communist-led governments also resulted in the failure of state-run publishing and book-distribution systems. For example, late in 1991, during the disintegration of the Soviet Union, many Russian/Soviet book vendors in the West went out of business because they were no longer able to obtain publications from the country. Over the past three years new vendors have been working to create new publishing and distribution systems in all of the new countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union with varying degrees of success. With this, the cost of publications has steadily risen, approaching and surpassing prices for comparable Western publications. However, because of the University of Kansas Libraries' well-established ties with libraries in Eastern Europe, even in the most chaotic times KU has continued to receive important publications through exchange agreements.
Given that KU faculty and students work on such a vast range of topics in the field, both historical and contemporary, and since acquisitions funds are limited, the first priority of Slavic collection development has been and continues to be the acquisition of materials that support the current teaching and research needs of KU faculty and students. However, because KU's Slavic collections are nationally significant as one of the major resources for Slavic studies, it is also important to collect in areas that may not have an immediate impact on current patrons' research needs, but support the overall strengths of the Slavic collection. This pro-active collection development ensures that the collections will continue to support the future needs of the University community.
The South Slavic CollectionsContact
When he joined the University in 1962 as its sole Slavic librarian,
responsible for acquiring and cataloging materials in all Slavic languages,
George Jerkovich also brought with him particular subject expertise in the South
Slavic area. In addition to buying materials in the areas of strength
established until then, Russian and Polish, Jerkovich was also responsible for
the intensification of the Library's Yugoslav acquisition efforts.
The greatest boon to the development of the collection was the Library's participation in the U.S. Public Law-480 (PL-480) program for Yugoslavia, which lasted from 1967 through early 1972 and provided KU with one copy of every current Yugoslav publication judged to have research value. The KU Library was one of twelve U.S. research libraries that were originally included in the program. During each of the PL-480 Yugoslav years, the Library received nearly 3,000 volumes in all three of the official Slavic languages of the multi-national Yugoslav state, Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, and Macedonian. It was the great fortune of all participating libraries that PL-480 coincided with the most significant period of liberalization in Yugoslavia's postwar history; from 1967 to 1971 censorship abated, important older works were reissued, and seminal new works appeared. Thanks to the PL-480 program, all of these found their way into the Library's Slavic collection.
As KU's PL-480 experience began, Jerkovich also undertook the first of many book-buying trips to Southeastern Europe and the Soviet Union. His first trip, in May-June 1967, resulted in the purchase of 3,200 antiquarian Yugoslav titles of every provenance: Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian, Slovenian and Macedonian. Many of the books and serials bought on this and subsequent trips were rare, historically important, and essential to provide a strong base for the growing South Slavic collection.
Throughout the late 1960s the Library received as many as 6,000 volumes of South Slavic materials each year, out of total Slavic and East European receipts numbering 10,000. Space in the Slavic Department was at a premium, and staff members had to wrestle with the ubiquitous stacks of books waiting to be processed.
After 1972 Yugoslav receipts declined sharply. The Library began to rely more heavily on some of its exchange contacts with Yugoslav partners, but it was impossible to allocate enough money to maintain the comprehensive coverage that PL-480 had provided at virtually no cost to KU. Much of what the Library acquired through the 1970s was purchased in the course of a half-dozen acquisitions trips to Eastern Europe.
Yugoslavia in the early and mid-1980s already began to undergo the political and social upheavals that were inevitable after the death of the country's longtime dictator Josip Broz Tito in 1980. The driving force behind change in Yugoslavia was the country's multi-national makeup; each of the federation's six republics at some point during the 1980s embarked on its own impassioned campaign for national self-realization. At the same time, the tenor of publishing underwent subtle modulations. Politically risqué topics were once again being raised in the press, periodicals, and separately published books. More and more established literati moonlighted as opposition statesmen. Beginning in Slovenia about 1982, writers banded together to launch new journals or remake old ones along more liberal or more particularist lines than had been countenanced till then. As an equal and opposite reaction to Slovenian rebelliousness, a similar trend soon took hold in Serbia, and then spread to Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, and Macedonia in reaction to Serbian recalcitrance.
At first isolated, unexpected, and understated, these societal shifts and the publishing activity that either documented or helped propel them could easily have gone unnoticed by research libraries in the United States. It became especially important at that time for the Library to turn to diverse suppliers from Belgrade to Zagreb and Ljubljana to maintain a balance in its Yugoslav acquisitions; otherwise, as more than one major U.S. research library began to learn through experience, excessive reliance on centralized sources in Belgrade for nationwide coverage would result in shipment after shipment of materials skewed geographically and politically toward Yugoslav centralist ideology.
In the late 1980s the KU Library, which had modest exchange agreements of longstanding with institutions throughout Yugoslavia, began to expand those exchanges and turn to regional vendors in each of the Yugoslav republics. Book-buying trips by Slavic librarians in 1988, 1990, 1992 and 1994 included Zagreb, Ljubljana, Skopje, Belgrade and Sarajevo in their itineraries, and helped the Library to identify and obtain many valuable and hard-to-get titles at relatively low prices. With the intensity of its South Slavic acquisitions activity during this period, the KU Library maintained its role as an important collector among North American libraries.
This most recent period of collection building has not been without its challenges and a crisis or two. The first critical juncture occurred in late 1989 when the Yugoslav federal government introduced a fiscal reform program intended to move the country toward a market economy. What became apparent only after the dissolution of Yugoslavia was that government agencies had sabotaged the reform from the start. The first signs of trouble appeared in 1990 as prices for monographs supplied by the main Yugoslav vendors began gradually creeping upward, eventually inflating to as much as four times their pre-1990 level. Throughout all of 1991 and part of 1992, the cost of collecting books and journals from Yugoslavia became prohibitive by any standards, and the KU Library, like its peers across the nation, had to scale back acquisitions drastically.
By early 1992 the artificially overblown Yugoslav economy had finally burst, with positive results for the Library's collecting efforts. While we can once again afford to buy books from most regions of the former Yugoslavia, new challenges continually surface, as they inevitably must when the Library deals with a region wracked by war and economic instability. Serbian and Macedonian books have become difficult to obtain due to U.N. sanctions and blockades; Croatian and Slovenian materials, while obtainable, have once again started to rise substantially in price.
For the South Slavic area, the Library's primary focus in collecting is on languages, linguistics, and literature, to meet the University's most immediate curricular and research needs. Research-level collecting is conducted for Slovenian, Serbo-Croatian, Macedonian, and Bulgarian language and linguistics, with equal priority placed on collecting reference materials of all kinds to support general and specialized research. The corresponding literature collections are maintained at a slightly less intensive, graduate study level. Materials in history, political science, economics, and the fine arts are also acquired at a graduate study level, for although there has been no chair of Balkan history on the University faculty for nearly 20 years, the demand among Russian and East European faculty and students for materials pertaining to the present Balkan conflict remains high.
The University of Kansas, through its Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, can boast strong and longstanding ties with key educational, research and cultural institutions throughout Southeastern Europe, including the University of Zagreb, the Croatian Matica, the Slovene Academy of Arts and Sciences, the University of Ljubljana, and Kliment Ohridski University in Skopje. For many years, both senior and junior scholars from those institutions have been invited for semester- or year-long stays at KU to teach and conduct research in their areas of specialization. Their often astonished comments about the ability of the KU Library's collections to support their research and teaching thousands of miles from home have been one form of assurance that the Library is on-track in its efforts to serve its patrons.
Providing support for these areas of particular interest and sustaining the development of a strong overall South Slavic collection will be among the Library Slavic Department's challenges in the years to come.
Polish CollectionsContact giullian@KU.EDU
Polish studies at the University of Kansas have always been an important component of the Russian and East European Studies Program. Since the Program's founding in 1959 the Libraries have invested significant personnel and financial resources in the collection, and today it supports doctoral-level research in Polish literature, language, and history, and graduate-level research in all the other humanities and social sciences. In addition, the collection contains a significant number of books and journals in geology, mathematics, paleontology and the life sciences.
The Libraries' Polish holdings in the mid-1960s numbered over 5000 volumes, chiefly in literature, history and other social sciences, and language and literature studies. The Library subscribed to over 40 periodicals.
The Library maintained exchanges with some 45 research libraries and scholarly institutes about one sixth the total number of such libraries in Poland (excluding medical libraries and schools of art and music). Exchanges were shown to be the only effective way to acquire Polish dissertations, scholarly monographs, university publications, and research reports and studies. Because these materials were printed in runs of less than 500 copies they were impossible to acquire through the Polish book trade. The librarian and the scholar in the West had virtually no chance of ever acquiring a copy of such publications except through contacts with colleagues in the Polish research community or exchange partners in Polish libraries.
From the beginning it was common practice for librarians and professors to purchase new and secondhand books through local book dealers and publishers' retail outlets in Warsaw, Cracow, and other cities while on book-buying trips and exchange visits to Poland. Many exchanges between the KU Libraries and Polish libraries were established during faculty visits and buying-trips in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Professor Oswald Backus worked on exchanges with libraries in Poznan during his research sabbaticals there in the late 1960s. KU professors Anna Cienciala (History) and Jaroslaw Piekalkiewicz (Political Science) represented the Library during their research trips to Poland in the 1960s. In 1968 and 1972 Dr. Michael Palij made extensive visits to Poland, both to exchange partners and to book dealers.
For many years the Libraries purchased current Polish books and antiquarian materials direct from the state book exporter Ars Polona. Because it is cumbersome for one bureaucracy to deal quickly with another, problems in shipping and in currency transactions arose and compelled the Library to seek out Western commercial book vendors to work with Ars Polona. The Library transferred its paid standing orders for most current Polish serials from Ars Polona to the West German vendor Otto Harrassowitz. In time Szwede Slavic Books in Palo Alto, California, became a major vendor for acquiring current Polish monographs (also via Ars Polona). The Library has also worked closely with Kubon & Sagner (Munich), Orbis Books (London), Neustein (Tel-Aviv), and Polonia Bookstore (Chicago) to the present day.
Established in 1962, the Federal Government's "Food for Peace" (Public Law 480) development-assistance program provided several US research libraries with substantial numbers of publications from about a dozen "Third World" countries. The US Government had arranged to use the local currencies accumulated from the sale of US agricultural products to purchase many of their books and journals. Eventually Poland and Yugoslavia (part of the "second world") were brought into the program. By 1966 the KU Libraries, along with other major US Slavic libraries, actively sought acceptance into the PL-480 Program, which the Library of Congress administered. The KU Libraries were also among the original participants in the Yugoslavia program, which began in 1967. Poland did not join PL-480 until 1972, and in 1973 the Library of Congress added the KU Libraries to the list of US libraries receiving comprehensive shipments of Polish books and journals. During his 1972 visit to Poland, Dr. Palij met with several Polish exchange librarians and worked to expand Polish exchanges to include many more books and journals on exchange through the PL-480 program. The Polish PL-480 program lasted only two years, and by 1977 the Libraries had to cancel a good number of these journal subscriptions, unfortunately leaving many broken serial runs and fragmented multi-volume sets.
Having established effective acquisitions methods and reliable sources in the 1960s, Polish collection development accelerated during the next decade and a half. When Dr. Palij retired at the end of 1983, the Polish studies collection contained over 35,000 volumes.
As Polish studies grew at KU, the Libraries needed to increase acquisition of current Polish trade books and periodicals. The major Polish exchange partners in Warsaw, Cracow, and Wroclaw offered to provide current trade publications on exchange in addition to the university publications they already supplied. In return, we would purchase for them current US imprints at an equivalent value. The exchange rate agreed upon was quite favorable to the KU Libraries, and our Polish library partners were now able to acquire Western publications without having to pay in Western currencies they did not have.
By the late 1970s the publishing scene in Poland had begun to change dramatically in ways unique to the Soviet Bloc. In the aftermath of major strikes and social unrest in Poland in 1976, a network of independent publications began to emerge from the workers' defense committees. These activists published uncensored newspapers, newsletters, and later books and journals, in defiance of the communist party's claim to total monopoly over the creation and dissemination of information. In 1980-1981 these publications assisted the independent trade union federation Solidarity in its struggle for durable guarantees of decent wages, benefits, and working conditions.
When the government imposed martial law in December 1981, these publishers quickly retreated underground but continued to grow and flourish. Bona fide publishing houses emerged, producing journals, books, and other types of printed matterþ calendars, posters, and the like. Even bibliographic control soon followed, as several underground bibliographies of Polish unofficial publications were compiled during the 1980s. In the West, the IDC Corporation of Zug, Switzerland, undertook a major project to microfilm all these unofficial publications. The KU Libraries own all the titles of the first series (released in the early 1980s) plus the supplements from the second series (issued in the late 1980s). Two victims of the success of democracy and the free market in Poland since 1989 have been scholarly publishing and creative writing. The Libraries no longer receive the extensive array of Polish scholarly materials we saw in the 1970s and 1980s. Many publications of the Polish Academy of Sciences, for example, ceased abruptly, and they are only slowly being replaced or superseded by new publishing initiatives. General consumer tastes for popular fiction, self-improvement guides, religion, sensationalism, and pornography have quickly dulled the hunger for the truth, and Polish publishing now differs little from publishing in other European democracies. Thus, at present the KU Libraries acquire fewer Polish materials than during the 1980s. However, the quality of the scholarly materials acquired more than compensates for lost quantity.
The Polish studies collection in the University of Kansas Libraries remains a major North American resource for the study of Polish history, literature, language, and culture. The collection is an especially valuable resource for the study of Poland since World War II, a period in which Poland has played a significant role in European affairs. The collection has served scholars well in the past four decades. The challenge now is to ensure that the Polish studies collection will support the study of Poland's future. In this sense, it is time to begin again.
The Russian and East Slavic (formerly Soviet) CollectionContact
The phrase "Russian and East Slavic" is used to refer to the successor states of the Soviet Union including what is now known as the Commonwealth of Independent Statesþ Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, UzbekistanþGeorgia, and the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The term "East Slavic" is used with the understanding that it includes many non-Slavic languages of the former Soviet Union. Traditionally, collection development of the Russian and East Slavic collection has focused on the acquisition of Russian language publications, and even with the creation of these 15 "new" states continues to focus primarily on Russia, the nation studied by a majority of Slavic scholars at the University of Kansas. However, since 1992 the Russian and East European Studies Program has offered an MA degree with a concentration in Ukrainian area studies, resulting in an increased emphasis on the acquisition of Ukrainian materials.
In the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s the University of Kansas Libraries acquired, through book exchanges and from antiquarian bookstores, an outstanding collection of nineteenth and early twentieth century Russian publications. These acquisitions were supplemented by the purchase of the personal collections of several scholars of Russian studies. The most notable private library obtained during this period was 600 volumes from the legal historian Sir Paul Vinogradov. His collection focused on history (particularly legal history), education, religion, philosophy, Russian literature and current affairs from the period of 1890-1925. As a result of these early acquisitions, KU has excellent history and literature collections from nineteenth century Russia, including complete runs of the most important scholarly journals. These publications serve as the foundation of the Russian/East Slavic collection.
During the Soviet period, before 1991, the KU Libraries focused collection development activities on Russian language materials. However, publications on and from all of the fifteen Soviet republics, especially reference works, were also collected. At this time the acquisition of quality scholarly materials was difficult. As in all the Slavic countries, Soviet books, particularly scholarly books, were printed in limited press runs and had to be acquired immediately. Decisions to purchase or to acquire books on exchange were usually based solely on information provided from the bibliographic citation, namely the author, title, and publisher, because there was no system for the review of books. Often, the books acquired turned out to be important scholarly works, but sometimes they were simply tools of Soviet propaganda. Luckily, Soviet publishing was heavily subsidized, keeping the costs of publications low, so KU could afford to acquire many of the titles that fell into the collection development parameters. Ironically, many of those examples of official propaganda will now serve as important sources for the study of the Soviet Union.
The 1985 implementation of Soviet reformer Mikhail Gorbachev's policies to push the Soviet Union out of an extended period of political and economic stagnation resulted in major political and social reforms, including the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. One effect of these reforms is that scholars have been given unprecedented access to previously restricted information, which in turn has resulted in a virtual information explosion of studies on the region of the former Soviet Union. Since the demise of the Soviet Union the centralized system of publishing and book export has collapsed, pushing the academic publishing industry of the region into a state of disarray. Bibliographic control, i.e., identifying what is currently being published, is erratic at best, making the acquisition of materials difficult. For example, during the Soviet period all books, regardless in what region they were published, were generally available on exchange or through the central state-run distributor. Now there are fifteen independent states, none of which has established a publishing distribution system of its own. However, over the past few years many new Western vendors have been making strides to fill the void left by the collapse of the Soviet publishing and distribution system.
Exchange agreements continue to play an integral role in the acquisition of materials in the most cost-effective manner. Over the past forty years the University of Kansas Libraries have operated exchanges with most of the major libraries and academic institutions of the former Soviet Union. Most recently, KU's Russian bibliographer traveled to the region in 1990 and 1993 to meet with major exchange partners in order to assure the continuance of productive exchange relationships, and investigated the possibility of hiring in-country agents to purchase important scholarly materials not provided on exchange, at a much cheaper rate than from Western vendors. Currently, this promising project is in its initial stage of implementation.
Given the vast amount of Russian and East Slavic materials published annually, the KU Libraries have done an exceptional job of collecting publications that support the teaching and research mission of the university. Both the U.S. Department of Education and the Social Science Research Council (in a grant focusing on both Russian and Yugoslav publications) have awarded over $300,000 to KU in 1993 and 1994. These funds are for the preservation and cataloging of important Russian materials previously housed in the Slavic backlog. The strength and national significance of the Slavic collections was one of the major considerations for awarding this grant to the University of Kansas Libraries.
Authors: Maria Carlson is Director, Center for Russian and East European Studies, University of Kansas; Brad Schaffner was former head of the Slavic Department, KU Libraries; Michael Biggins heads the Slavic and East European Section, University of Washington Libraries, and was formerly South Slavic Bibliographer, KU Libraries; Gordon Anderson is a reference librarian and West Slavic Bibliographer, KU Libraries. James Helyar edited and designed this issue. The decorations are reproductions of bookplates drawn from: K roly Andrusk¢: Slovenija: 20 ekslibrisov v izvirnih odtisih. Ljubljana, 1970; E.N. Minaev: Ekslibrisy khudozhnikov Rossiiskoi Federatsii. Moskva, 1971; E.N. Minaev & S.P. Fortinskii: Ekslibris. Moskva, 1970; and Andrzej Ryszkiewicz: Exlibris polski. Warszawa, 1959.