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International Fieldwork Program

Through the generous support of gifts to the University Library, the International and Area Studies Library provides up to $5,000 to support travel for a limited number of international fieldwork projects each year.  Funds are allocated throughout the fiscal year, and applications are reviewed upon receipt by an advisory committee that provide support and oversight for the administration and assessment of the program.

Acquiring Manga in Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan
Acquiring Manga in Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan, July, 2016

International and Area Studies Subject specialists are called upon to develop unique and forward looking research services and collections that serve both immediate and future scholarly needs.  This requires currency in the scholarship and teaching related to the field. In addition, area studies librarians must maintain a high level of expertise in the history, cultures, and societies within the geographic areas they cover.  It is well established within the field of area studies that regular travel to the “field” is essential to maintaining subject and linguistic expertise.  Like other area studies disciplines, both emergent and established area studies librarians need opportunities for frequent and sustained travel to the geographic areas of their librarianship to remain effective.

For area studies librarians, travel is an import tool toward retaining expertise within the field, yet it also provides palpable benefits to the University and Library.  Through international travel, area studies librarians are able to initiate and nurture international networks that facilitate international research and help establish the university’s global presence.  This type of travel enables librarians to develop purchasing networks and make purchases not possible through vendors and publishers.  Through on-the-ground field work, area studies librarians are able to develop the unique collections that distinguish the University and attract scholars and students from around the world.

At the University Press Limited stall at the Ekushey Book Fair in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2015.
At the University Press Limited stall at the Ekushey Book Fair in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2015.

In a recent paper, David Block provides further justification for international buying trips.  These include

  • the ability to purchase fugitive and gray literature that can’t be purchased through established channels and must be acquired within the region itself; Materials such as ephemera from the Arab Spring gathered through a Duke supported buying trip are the type that can only be purchased on-site and through regional expertise;
  • the need to “insinuate ourselves” or immerse ourselves within the societies and cultures we study in order to learn about trends and strategize on new methods for acquiring emergent resources;
  • the necessity of building partnership opportunities and new forms of collaboration that fit within changing perceptions related to acquiring “cultural heritage” and the need for librarians to partner with institutions abroad to support preservation and digital access of materials that can remain in country.

Funds can support airfare, up to 50% per diem, and hotel costs.

Eligibility: All Librarians or Academic Professionals with collection development responsibilities may apply for funding.


The International Fieldwork program aims to leverage international engagement to develop unique collections, services, and partnerships that support the University’s globalization efforts.  Funding applications should demonstrate how the fieldwork will provide support to build institutional partnerships and networks abroad that contribute to the Libraries and Campus’ international standing as a research university, enable further professional development as it relates to expertise in the region of travel, and  develop the University Library’s collections in a manner that the opportunity to

For funding aimed at deepening the Library’s International and Area Studies collections (i.e., those that support African, Asian, European, Global, Latin American, Middle Eastern, and Slavic and/or Eurasian Studies broadly defined) an emphasis should be on the acquisition of unique, emergent, and fugitive materials that can’t be purchased easily through standard channels.

Applicants are required to submit a rationale for funding that describes the significance of the work abroad and its potential impact.  Further, each application must outline plans to facilitate acquisitions, cataloging, and curation of materials that may be acquired as a result of the buying trip.

All applicants will also be required to:

  • Provide a narrative report at the conclusion of the buying trip (1-2 pages).
  • Participate in activities to promote the collections, resources, and networks that were supported and established through the buying trip.
  • Participate in ongoing research to assess the short and long-term impacts of international buying trips.

Prior to travel, approved trips will require the completion of the necessary travel approvals and a documented understanding between the University Library and sponsoring department or program. The librarian receiving approved travel will be expected to make appropriate arrangements with the University Library’s Office of Collections, Business Office, and Acquisitions Unit to ensure that all required documentation and spending arrangements are resolved well in advance of projected travel dates.

As an agent of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the sponsored librarian is responsible for appropriate documentation of all travel-related expenses upon completion of the trip. Any costs associated with travel conducted without pre-approval may not be eligible for reimbursement. Additionally, reimbursement may require translation services of the buying agent for invoices not-readily understandable by individuals not conversant in the language in question. The individual requesting the reimbursement will be responsible for providing this service.

Related Resources:

For questions, please contact Steve Witt, Head of the International and Area Studies Library (swwitt@illinois.edu).

Be sure to read the Policies for Buying Trip Approval, available at the Library Collections Website: Overseas Collection Development Trip Support & Leave Agreement

To apply for funding, please complete the following form: https://illinois.edu/fb/sec/1477571?referrer=