Value of Professional Travel
By George Paganelis, Curator, Tsakopoulos Hellenic Collection

Apart from the opportunity to take in new sights, sounds and—ah, yes, even smells—the value of professional travel can hardly be overstated. Whether serving on a national committee, attending a workshop, networking with colleagues, or, usually, a combination of these things, leaving the familiar confines of the library is doubly beneficial for the new skills, knowledge and contacts one gains and the fresh perspective and vigor one returns with from a sort of “individual retreat.”

Over the past couple of months my professional travels have taken me places within California and as far afield as Washington D.C. In mid October I visited Los Angeles to meet professional colleagues in the area and visit two major exhibitions nearing the end of their run at the Getty Center, “Coming of Age in Ancient Greece” and “Byzantium and the West.” I first met Demetrios Liappas, Director of the Basil P. Caloyeras Center for Modern Greek Studies at Loyola Marymount University. Our discussions dealt with the possible sharing of resources, professional contacts, and Modern Greek Studies at Loyola and around California. Interestingly, Loyola Marymount University, much like San Francisco State University, has had a center for over two decades and has offered a minor in Modern Greek Studies for about half that time without having a particularly strong library collection in Modern Greek Studies. Hearing this, I was heartened at our prospects of building a robust Hellenic Studies Program—which will encompass more than just Modern Greek Studies—knowing that at CSUS we have the premier Hellenic collection on the west coast and one of the largest of its kind in the country.

I then met my counterpart at the Young Research Library at UCLA, David Hirsch, who has collection development responsibility for Modern Greek materials in addition to his primary focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. David showed me their few resources in Modern Greek and we exchanged a great deal of useful information about procuring materials in our respective areas. He also put me in touch with other librarians whose subject specialties overlapped with the Balkans and Middle East. Meeting David Hirsch and the valuable information and contacts I gained from him were the direct result of my professional development travel last June to the Rare Book and Manuscript Section (RBMS) of ACRL’s Preconference at Yale University, where by chance I met UCLA’s University Archivist, who distributed copies of my brochure to her colleagues on campus.

In early November I attended a colloquium of Hellenic studies librarians at Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C., which offered us hospitality on their mini campus (across the street from the Clintons’ D.C. residence, no less!). A colleague I met last summer at Yale told me about it and put me in touch with the librarian organizing the event.

There I met my counterparts at most all of the institutions in the United States with major holdings in Hellenic Studies broadly interpreted, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, NYU, Dumbarton Oaks, and the Library of Congress. The pressing issue under discussion was a proposed changed in the Library of Congress Romanization Table for Greek, which has potentially disastrous implications for libraries, which will likely die due to some vocal opposition, such as ours. Other topics included collection development issues such as vendors and approval plans and how to use the tools of the Internet to enhance and revolutionize Hellenic Studies librarianship. I came away from that meeting feeling very much a part of group dedicated to furthering our common cause and glad that I brought their attention to the Tsakopoulos Hellenic Collection and Hellenic Studies in the western United States. This colloquium was an extremely positive experience and the collegiality it fostered will bear fruit for years to come.

Finally, the week of Thanksgiving I briefly attended the Middle East Studies Association annual meeting in San Francisco, particularly for the book exhibit, though I did see some fellow CSUS faculty in attendance. The sixty or so publishers represented there had an abundance of materials for sale and catalogs of new and forthcoming publications. As a result of that trip I now have a great deal more insight into the major publishers in Middle Eastern Studies (and enough publishing literature to weigh down a pack animal). Though not the focal point of the Collection, certain areas such as Ottoman and modern Turkish culture are well represented, and this will allow me to purchase selectively for the Tsakopoulos Hellenic Collection with care and élan.

The benefits of my professional travel have been cumulative and will continue to unfold as time goes on. Already my trip to Yale last year has garnered a host of valuable contacts that have brought me into new circles of colleagues in Hellenic Studies here in California and across the country. This networking has the power to expand these circles and connect them with new ones, a very important part of my efforts to promote the Tsakopoulos Hellenic Collection on a national and even international scale as the Hellenic Studies Program develops here at CSUS. Professional travel is what has made all these developments possible.