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Two RU librarians serve as leaders in academic initiatives

The city of Budapest
Flyer from the event series sponsored by the South Asian Studies Program, Fall 2011

Librarians who serve as liaisons to academic departments work diligently to learn the research interests of faculty and students, the academic resources needed in the department for teaching and scholarship, and the broad concerns of the discipline. Libraries' liaisons take pride when faculty members acknowledge their subject expertise and their service to the department.

In that vein, two Rutgers libraries liaisons were paid perhaps the highest compliment when they were asked to head up centers connected to their respective departments.

In January 2010 World History Librarian James Niessen took over as director of the Institute for Hungarian Studies and served in this post for three semesters. Jim is eminently qualified for this role, having conducted graduate work in Hungarian history and lived in Hungary in the 1980s for one and a half years.

The Institute for Hungarian Studies is a part of Rutgers' Center for European Studies, an umbrella organization under the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS). Jim was appointed to the directorship by SAS Dean Douglas Greenberg.

Under Jim's leadership, the Institute conducted five public programs that featured guest speakers that addressed Hungarian topics and attracted Rutgers faculty and members of the New Brunswick area Hungarian community. Jim also developed a website ( and email distribution list for the institute, collaborated with the Hungarian Alumni Association, and consulted with Hungarian institutions about ways to enhance Rutgers' course offerings related to Hungary.

Jim also led a team of colleagues in the Rutgers University Libraries that created an online archive of papers from President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Committee for Hungarian Refugee Relief, which assisted 40,000 refugees from Hungary who arrived in the United States after the revolution of 1956. Camp Kilmer, a large part of which is now on Rutgers' Livingston campus, was the processing point for these refugees, who fled from the brutal Soviet repression of the movement for Hungarian democracy.

In September 2010 Social Sciences Librarian Triveni Kuchi assumed the position of director of the South Asian Studies Program, a post in which she continues to serve. Triveni brings to this post her experiences and perspective as a former native of India, who received her MA in Economics from the University of Bombay.

Faculty members who teach about and/or conduct research on the nations of Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Tibet established the South Asian Studies Program in 2003. Faculty members affiliated with the South Asian Studies Program come from the anthropology, art history, cinema studies, English, geography, history, religion, sociology, and women's and gender studies departments of SAS; the School of Business in Rutgers Newark and the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. The Program seeks to broaden interest in the South Asian region through interdisciplinary courses, speakers' series, and public events.

Under Triveni's leadership the South Asian Studies Program has hosted seven public programs, including a two-day multi-disciplinary Rutgers South Asia conference "Beyond Nation States: Networks, Communities, and Diasporas" in spring 2011 and a series of events featuring prominent Indian playwright, actor, and director Girish Karnard in fall 2011.

As director of the program Triveni also serves as an advisor to students seeking to major or minor in South Asian Studies, works closely with the South Asian Studies Program executive committee and the Rutgers Global Advancement and International Affairs centers (GAIA) to expand South Asia related activities, currently chairs the Rutgers International Academic Partnership Program (IAPP) Faculty Strategic Planning committee on India, supports a South Asian Junior Faculty working group, and helps to select the winner of the annual Chakra Graduate/Undergraduate paper award and recipients of research and travel awards to faculty studying topics in this area.

Through Jim's and Triveni's work with their respective centers, they built strong ties with individual faculty members and academic departments, increased awareness of the Libraries and their resources on campus, and worked closely with faculty to advance the interests of specific disciplines.

The Libraries commend Jim and Triveni on their exemplary efforts in these roles and invite other departments to consider this unique model of librarian/faculty partnership.

Posted January 17, 2012