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This paper details questions on access, use, collection policies, cataloguing and classification, staffing, weeding, preservation and funding for women's studies collections at women's centers or libraries.
In this era of growing interest and enthusiasm about womenis issues, women's studies (sometimes called gender or feminist studies) are of primary importance in higher education. Women's Studies scholars often lobby for the development of a center to disseminate information on women's studies courses or in fact to encourage professors to teach such courses. The fledgling center often needs a board or committee to discuss the options for this center. Perhaps it will be a women's center at a university which will also be open to community women and their needs as well as scholars. Perhaps it will be a center affiliated with a women's studies or gender studies program and open only to scholars. However soon after such a center, whether academic or community or a combination of both, opens, people start bringing in books and materials from their personal libraries, faculty bring in papers, reports, and journal articles, others bring in bibliographies, and flyers and announcements of events of interest to women appear in the mail. Unfortunately the center is often unprepared. It may have been set up with no intentions of having a library. Perhaps there is already an excellent library on the campus and no one wishes to duplicate efforts. On the other hand a gender or women's studies center may wish to have a library attached to it. Or perhaps there is a need for just a reading room with a bulletin board for flyers and other such material. In all these cases some thought should be given to a policy for such a library.
These are some questions to be asked:
1. Should there be a library?
2. Who would use this library?
3. Will people be able to check out these materials or just use them there? Will there be copying facilities?
4. What type of materials should be collected? Books? Journals? (popular, women related, academic) Newsletters? Student papers, bibliographies? Ephemeral materials such as articles, letters, leaflets from organizations or demonstrations? Audio or visual tapes? Films?
5. Will there be periodical indexes available such as Women's Studies Abstracts or Studies on Women Abstracts? Will these indexes be in paper or on computer?
6. Should there be funding for materials and where should such funding come from?
7. How should these materials be arranged? Should the books be catalogued? By author, title, subject? Will a numbering scheme be used? Will a subject classification scheme be used? Will it be the Library of Congress classification or another library classification system or one made up for this particular collection? Will there be handwritten or typed cards or will there be a computerized catalog ?
8. How long will materials be kept? Where will older materials be housed? Will there be any attempt to preserve materials?
9. Who will be present to help users? Will a librarian be hired? With library training?
10. Who will do the collecting? the classifying? the weeding?
11. Who will make the decisions about this library, its focus, its parameters?
All these questions may seem overwhelming but need to be thought out hopefully before a single book is put on the shelf or a single article is filed away in a drawer.
Although there have been innumerable books published in practically every country and in many, many languages on women's issues and the women's movement, these topics have also generated many pamphlets, oral history tapes, videos, films, and articles in alternative magazines as well as academic journals. There are also unpublished reports, bibliographies and guides. Materials on women's issues ar e proliferating.
The rule seems to be when a women's center has empty shelves they will be filled almost immediately with much of these materials. Women are very generous in donating their books and other materials. Sometimes there are materials that are not relevant for the center and therefore have to be rejected. This is when the center's criteria for inclusion will come in handy. Women's studies are inter dis ciplinary covering many fields of knowledge. It will be impossible to collect in all these areas so a focus on particular areas of special interest to the scholars using the library will be beneficial. Duplication of materials particularly journals and books in other nearby libraries may not be necessary. Ephemeral materials such as newsletters and flyers are very useful and not usually collected in university libraries. However they should be weeded regularly unless this will be a historical collection and these materials will be preserved.
Another area which is very important for discussion is the classification of all the materials in order to make them easily accessible to the users. The language of women's studies changes as new topics come up for discussion, new terms are invented or old terms are changed to reflect a new awareness of cultural, racial and sexual differences. For example, in the United States the terms used by a nd for a person of African heritage residing in the United States have changed from Negro to Colored to Afro to Afro American to Black to African American. Therefore, the words used to define a subject and to put various materials under should not be offensive to anyone. These words should also readily come to mind, as much as possible, when a scholar researches a particular topic.
Often traditional subject headings are inappropriate for women's collections. Therefore, the National Council for Research on Women in the United States developed a list of terms in English used for various women's issues, including those of international women, after close consultation with librarians, scholars, and women in community women's organizations. As they state in the foreword to their excellent book, "A WOMEN'S THESAURUS sets national standards for terms to use in writing, cataloging, and research and is an up to date reference guide for non sexist use of language." This thesaurus can be used as a start to developing subject headings for files and even for books. Then the needs for that particular library and its clientele should be analyzed and other headings could be develo ped to fit those needs. A broad heading such as health probably needs to be broken down into narrower headings such as abortion, birth control, nutrition, pregnancy but probably not into even more narrow headings such as ectopic pregnancy, types of birth control and so on. The main priority for subject headings or any kind of classification system is their ease of use so that people may find mate rials as quickly as possible and others will be able to file or shelve them in a timely manner.
A list follows of useful books and articles to help in classifying books and other materials on women's issues as well as building a women's studies collection. These are in English and primarily contain English language materials; however some also list materials in other languages.
Chapman, Anne. FEMINIST RESOURCES FOR SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES: A GUIDE TO CURRICULAR MATERIALS. Old Westbury, NY: Feminist Press, 1986.
Ariel, Joan, ed. BUILDING WOMEN'S STUDIES COLLECTIONS: A RESOURCE GUIDE. Middletown, CT: Choice, 1987.
Ballou, Patricia K. WOMEN: A BIBLIOGRAPHY OF BIBLIOGRAPHIES. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1986.
Capek, Mary Ellen., ed. A WOMEN'S THESAURUS: AN INDEX OF LANGUAGE USED TO DESCRIBE AND LOCATE INFORMATION BY AND ABOUT WOMEN. New York: Harper & Row, 1987.
Dickstein, Ruth. WOMEN IN LC'S TERMS: A THESAURUS OF LIBRARY OF CONGRESS SUBJECT HEADINGS RELATING TO WOMEN. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx, 1988.
FEMINIST BOOKSTORE NEWS, PO Box 882554 San Francisco, CA 94188, USA. A newsletter of women's bookstores, publishers, book reviews from an international perspective.
FEMINIST COLLECTIONS: A QUARTERLY OF WOMEN'S STUDIES RESOURCES. v.1, No.1 (1980) present. Madison: Women's Studies Librarian, University of Wisconsin System. Quarterly.
Loeb, Catherine, Susan Searing and Esther Stineman. WOMEN'S STUDIES: A RECOMMENDED CORE BIBLIOGRAPHY. Littleton, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 1987.
Marshall, Joan K. ON EQUAL TERMS: A THESAURUS FOR NONSEXIST INDEXING AND CATALOGING. New York: Neal Schuman, 1977.
WOMEN'S COLLECTIONS: LIBRARIES, ARCHIVES AND CONSCIOUSNESS. New York: Haworth, 1986.
This collection of essays includes information on collections of international women's materials, reference works for the study of minority and third world women, feminist library services and issues of non sexist language.
All libraries in women's centers whether affiliated with a community or women's organization or a university program should be aware of and collecting in international women's issues. There are many resources available. The various agencies of the United Nations, the Commission of the European Communities and other women's agencies around the world produce pamphlets, bibliographies, newsletters a nd various other kinds of materials. The most useful directory is WOMEN'S MOVEMENTS OF THE WORLD which lists the principal official and unofficial organizations for each country. Many of these organizations publish materials in a variety of languages.
Following is a list of organizations, books and journals with information on international women.
African Training and Research Centre for Women (ATRCW), ECA, P.O. Box 3001, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Publishes various reports, bibliographies and ATRCW UPDATE.
Asian and Pacific Centre for Women and Development (APCWD), APCD, P.O. Box 2224, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Boulding, Elise. HANDBOOK OF INTERNATIONAL DATA ON WOMEN. New York: Wiley, 1976.
Carter, Sarah and Maureen Ritchie. WOMEN'S STUDIES: A GUIDE TO INFORMATION SOURCES. London: Mansell Publishing, 1990. An excellent source of English language reference works and annotated listings of many international journals and organizations.
CHANGE INTERNATIONAL REPORTS. P.O. Box 824, London, SE24 9JS. England. Publishes reports on the condition and status of women in the world.
CONNEXIONS: AN INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S QUARTERLY. 4228 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, California, 94609, USA. A journal which publishes articles from around the world translated into English.
Fenton, Thomas and Mary Heffron. WOMEN IN THE THIRD WORLD: A DIRECTORY OF RESOURCES. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1987.
International Center for Research on Women. 1717 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Suite 501, Washington, DC, 20036, USA.
International Labour Organization INSTRAW, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Published WOMEN IN ECONOMIC ACTIVITY: A GLOBAL STATISTICAL SURVEY (1950 2000), 1985.
International Women's Tribune Center. 777 United Nations Plaza, New York 10017, USA. Publishes a journal, THE TRIBUNE, and various reports.
ISIS International. Via San Saba 5, 00153 Rome, Italy; Casilla 2067, Correo Central, Santiago, Chile. Publishes two journals, THE ISIS INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S JOURNAL and WOMEN IN ACTION. Also published POWERFUL IMAGES: A WOMEN'S GUIDE TO AUDIOVISUAL RESOURCES, 1986.
Nordic Association for Feminist Research, Centre for Feminist Research and Women's Studies, University of Copenhagen Amager, Njalsgade 106, 2300 Copenhagen S, Denmark. Published a guide to women's studies in the Nordic countries in 1988.
Richter, Werner, Liissa Husu and Arnaud Marks. THE CHANGING ROLE OF WOMEN IN SOCIETY: A DOCUMENTATION OF CURRENT RESEARCH, 19841987. Berlin, Germany: Akademie Verlag, 1989. A major source on Eastern Europe including the USSR. It lists sponsoring institutions and researchers.
Seager, Joni and Ann Olson. WOMEN IN THE WORLD: AN INTERNATIONAL ATLAS. London: Pluto, 1986.
Shreir, Sally. WOMEN'S MOVEMENTS OF THE WORLD. London: Longman, 1988.
THIRD WORLD WOMEN'S REVIEW. Third World Communications, Kwame Nkrumah House, 173 Old St., London EClV 9NJ, England. A journal published since 1986 focusing on third world women.
United Nations, Statistical Office. WOMEN'S INDICATOR AND STATISTICS DATABASE (WISTAT), United Nations, New York 10017, USA. Microcomputer spreadsheet files covering 178 countries on a variety of topics.
Women's International Democratic Federation, Unter den Linden 13, 1080 Berlin, Germany. Publishes WOMEN OF THE WHOLE WORLD, a journal in six languages.
Women's International Network (WIN), 187 Grant St., Lexington, Mass. 02173, USA. Publishes WIN NEWS, a journal on women's health internationally.
World Feminist Commission, Ave. des Scarabees, 1050 Brussels, Belgium.