Slavic Studies Collection Development Policy

Bobst Library, New York University
Diana Greene, Librarian for Slavic Studies


Bobst Library's Slavic Studies collection supports instructional and research programs at the College of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Wagner School, and the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. At NYU more than 40 undergraduate and 40 graduate courses deal with Slavic Studies in the following disciplines: art, Central and East European literature, cinema studies, comparative literature, cultural studies, drama, economics and economic development, gender studies, history, immigration studies, international education, linguistics, music, politics, public administration, Russian language and literature, theater, and translation studies.

On the undergraduate level the department of Russian and Slavic Studies offers a major and a minor. On the graduate level, the department offers an interdisciplinary Master of Arts degree in Russian studies, with concentrations in literature and culture, area studies, and linguistics. A newly instituted Ph.D. program is now being offered with emphases on either History or Comparative Literature. In addition, the department participates in two dual Master's degree programs: a Master of Arts degree in Russian and Journalism, in association with the Arthur L. Carter Jounalism Institute; and a dual degree in Library Science and Russian, jointly sponsored and administered by Long Island University"s Palmer School of Library and Information Science, and NYU's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The latter program allows library students to be trained as Slavic subject specialist librarians. In addition, the department is in the process of adding Czech language and cultural history in connection with the recently-opened program, New York University in Prague at Charles University. Finally, the Departments of Comparative Literature, History, and the Program in International Education grant doctorates on Slavic subjects.


  1. Language

    The majority of materials are acquired in Russian and English, and more selectively in Old Church Slavonic, French, German, and Italian. In the last few years core collections have been initiated in Polish and Czech on the subjects of Polish and Czech history, literature, and cultural studies. English translations of titles in non-collected Slavic languages are acquired when available and of scholarly interest. Materials on Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are acquired in English only.

  2. Geographical Areas

    The Slavic collection covers the following areas:
    - For material concerning events before 1917: the Russian empire, all Slavic-speaking countries of Eastern Europe, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Georgia.

    - For materials concerning events between 1917 and 1991: the 15 republics of the Former Soviet Union and all Slavic-speaking Eastern bloc countries.

    - For materials concerning events since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991: the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Georgia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and former Yugoslavia.

    Also of interest for Russian literature, history, intellectual history, migration and ethnic studies are the three waves of Russian emigration -- after the Revolution, after WWII, and starting in the 1970s -- as are the resulting Russian communities established in Europe, the U.S., China, Australia, and New Zealand. Of similar interest is recent Russian emigration to all former Soviet republics.

    Materials concerning Romania, Albania, Moldova, and Hungary are part of the European collection. Materials concerning events before 1917 and after 1991 in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the Former South Eastern Republics (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan), are part of the Middle Eastern Studies collection.

  3. Chronological Periods

    Emphasis is on all historical periods from the beginning of Slavic culture to the present, with particular emphases given to nineteenth- and twentieth century Russian and Soviet history, the period since the break-up of the Soviet Union, and literary history from nineteenth through twenty-first centuries. Resources concerning the pre-literate period before the Christianization of Russia are acquired more selectively.

Types of Materials

  1. Included

    Monographs, monographic series, serials, newspapers, proceedings, facsimiles, reprints, microforms, audio-visual and electronic media (including electronic texts). Acquired on a more selective basis: dissertations, exhibition catalogs, government documents, pamphlets, scores, textbooks, and working papers.

  2. Excluded

    Ephemera, realia.

Background, Strengths, and Weaknesses of the Collection

The Slavic collection at Bobst reflects the history of Slavic Studies at NYU. When NYU's Ph.D. program in Russian literature was discontinued in 1972, collecting in Russian and other East European languages virtually stopped. The acquisition of Western-language resources about Russia and Eastern Europe, however, continued. Collecting in Russian, and to some degree Czech and Polish resumed in 1995, but despite retrospective acquisitions, many lacunae from the 1970s, '80s, and early '90s remain.

The break-up of the Soviet Union, and the end to the government monopoly of the book trade led to a great deal of confusion in Russian book acquisition. Although Western vendors have tried to fill this niche, at present blanket order acquisitions or an approval plan for Russian materials are not practical, and materials are ordered individually to support curriculum and faculty research needs. Orders are based on vendor and publishers' catalogs, library acquisition lists, bibliographies and review media as well as faculty recommendations. Journals are acquired very selectively, principally through faculty request.

The strength of the Slavic Collection is in Russian materials; collecting has always been much stronger for Russia than for any other Slavic country. While historically, the collection was strongest in language, literature and history, in recent years the social sciences and cinema have become central as well, reflecting changes in faculty research and curriculum. At present, in addition to these subjects, collecting for Russia and the Soviet Union focuses primarily on cultural history, politics, international relations, social, and economic conditions. The collection coverage for individual authors, literary criticism, literary movements, philosophy, and folklore is very good, as is the Russian video collection. Steadily becoming noteworthy are Russian cultural history, post- Gorbachev politics, Russian women in society, literature, and the arts, and Russians in emigration (history and literature), as well as reference resources such as guides to Russian archives. Areas of relatively recent scholarly interest at NYU are currently being developed and strengthened: Czech language and cultural history, Russian journalism, Russian cultural studies, the Russian, Ukrainian and East European avant-garde, local and provincial Russian and Soviet history. Slavic topics in anthropology and ethnology are emerging areas of interest.

The library offers a wide range of electronic resources, including remote and in-library access to the American Bibliography of Slavic and East European Studies (ABSEES), the major electronic index in Slavic Studies, the Central East European Library Online (CEEOL), and the INION (Institut Nauchnoi Informatsii po Obshchestvennym Naukam) index. The library also offers numerous databases which contain Slavic material, including Historical Abstracts, PAIS, the MLA Bibliography, and Dissertation Abstracts. Online access is also available for Russian journals through BobCat in areas such as arts, literature, theater, science, politics, and economics. Many Slavic electronic resources are available through the Slavic Studies web page which also includes links to the online catalogs of major national and international Slavic libraries.

The Business and Social Science/Documents Center holds many publications and statistical sources important to social science research in Slavic Studies. The United Nations and International Governmental Organizations Collection receives on deposit or standing order, the publications of the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe (which covers Russia and Eastern Europe), The International Monetary Fund, the International Labor Organization and the International Council for Migration. NGO publications of interest include Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The Center also has extensive microform collections covering historical and current socio-economic statistics.

The Tamiment Institute Library in Bobst holds many rare materials concerning international communism, socialism, and anarchism before and during the Soviet period. In addition to the Communist Party USA collections, materials include books, pamphlets, posters, serials, archival and manuscript collections, photographs, films, and oral histories.

The Avery Fisher Center has a strong collection of Russian and East European videos from the silent era to the present.

News broadcasts in Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Polish, and Russian are available via satellite through SCOLA, in the Library's Avery Fisher Center as well as at other locations around the University which receive NYU-TV. SCOLA programs may be recorded off-air for use in classrooms or by individual researchers.

The Institute of Fine Arts collects selectively, and in European languages, in the following related subjects: archeology of Baltic countries, and the Caspian and Black Sea regions, Byzantine art and architecture, 19th and 20th century Russian art and architecture, Russian conservation, history of art, methods, and art historiography.

Some of the collection weaknesses are as follows:

  1. Russian humanities and social science imprints from the 1970s to 1995. Some of these lacunae can be filled through out-of-print dealers, reprints, and microfilm. At present, many pre- Revolutionary historical and literary works and works by dissident and emigre writers are obtainable because they are being reprinted in Russia. However, Soviet-era social science, and works by official Soviet writers will be difficult or impossible to obtain.

    Government publications except for population census materials and statistical abstracts.

  2. Serials in general. Subscriptions to many Slavic journals were canceled in the 1980s. Since 1995 current subscriptions (including 23 Russian newspapers) have been added on a very selective basis due to budgetary constraints. The library relies on the larger Slavic serial and newspaper collections of Columbia University and the New York Public Library's Baltic and Slavic Collection.

    Czech and Polish imprints. As Czech and Polish studies at NYU grow (e.g., at NYU's recently expanded program in Prague, which is expected to spark a greater interest in Czech studies on the main campus), it will become increasingly necessary for the collection to support curriculum and research needs in these areas.

  3. Central European history. Recent trends in Slavic Studies suggest growing scholarly interest in the historical and cultural connections between Eastern and Central Europe -- a consequence of changes brought about by the fall of the Soviet Union and the break ups of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. A reconceptualized Eastern Europe will be reflected in NYU curriculum and faculty research, and require support by the Slavic collection.

  4. Preservation problems contribute to gaps in the collection. Most Slavic materials from the 1950s and earlier are brittle because of the poor quality paper traditionally used in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. In addition, the use of acidic paper continues in the region, which will create preservation problems in the future. The library is addressing the problem by routinely binding new material and replacing brittle material with microfilm copies.

  5. In addition, past neglect of the collection has resulted in lost, stolen, or misshelved books. The library-wide Holdings Inventory Cleanup Project (1996-2002) -- in which staff inventory books on the shelf in comparison with the online catalog -- has been very effective in finding lost books, identifying missing books, and helping selectors try to replace important works. However, many missing books cannot be replaced in any format as they are out of print and do not exist in microfilm copies.

Other Resources/Resource Sharing

New York City is a center for Slavic scholarship thanks to the rich Slavic collections at the New York Public Library's Slavic and Baltic Division, and at Columbia University. The NYPL Baltic and Slavic Division holds over 400,00 volumes and 1,200 current serials in regional languages. Columbia University's Butler and Lehman Libraries hold 700,000 volumes and 8,000 journals in regional languages. Columbia's Bakhmeteff Archive has over 900 collections of papers concerning the East European and Russian emigre communities, as well as American views of and relations with these areas and their people.

In addition, the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences holds many documents, papers and manuscripts relating to Polish and Polish-American literature, and the Shevchenko Scientific Society Library and Archives collects materials on Ukrainian history, literature, art and language. Other local resources include NYU's Remarque Institute, which offers fellowships, conferences, workshops, and a forum for the study of Europe as a whole, including Eastern Europe. Also, The New School's East and Central European Program, now part of the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies, promotes studies of democracy in Eastern and Central Europe. At the Center's summer graduate institute in Cracow, Democracy and Diversity, seminars are team-taught by New School and leading East European professors, and focus on such issues as citizenship, political culture, policy studies and gender in Eastern and Central Europe.

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