EASL History

The History of EASL

By Cathy Thoelen

In 1981 John T. Ma, then librarian at the Sinologisch Instituut in Leiden, convened a workshop on sinological libraries and library work in Leiden. The successful gathering of sinological librarians from various European countries leads to the founding of the European Association of Sinological Librarians EASL, at first affiliated with EACS (the European Association of Chinese Studies).

As to the founding members see the attached minutes of the workshop. Among them still active as members of EASL are: David Helliwell, Bodleian Library, Oxford; John Michael Streffer, Staatsbibliothek Berlin; Lars Fredriksson, Östasiatiska Biblioteket, Stockholm; Katharina Thoelen, Ostasiatisches Seminar, Zurich. John T. Ma is elected first chairman of the association, shortly afterwards succeeded by David Helliwell, Oxford. Elisabeth Eide, Oslo, is elected as secretary. When Elisabeth Eide quits her duties in 1983, with J.M.Streffer taking over her task for a short term.

1984: David Helliwell is elected as chairman and secretary of the association.
Vienna 1991: Thomas Hahn, Heidelberg, takes over the chair from David Helliwell; Helliwell still remains in function as EASL's secretary.
Prag 1994: Katharina Thoelen, Zurich, is designated as new chairwoman to prepare and preside the next conferences.

Millennium conference Leiden 2000: Benedicte Vaerman, Leuven, succeeds David Helliwell as secretary. Number of member libraries, according to the list of the EASL homepage: 102 The number of librarians affiliated with EASL is fluctuating. After the founding of EASL members meet every year thereafter in major cities of Europe, in libraries important to the field. (See attached list of succession of conferences.)

In 1982 a draft of a constitution was presented by Elisabeth Eide, but never was incorporated. Having led discussions once and again thereafter on the question, how EASL should be structured and organized, most of the members still are of the opinion, it should be informal, without regulations, membership fees, officers in official function between the conferences etc. In the first years the EASL chairman regularly reported on the association's activities and decisions of the conferences. After choosing different times and places of the conferences of the respective associations this was not possible anymore. Topics of discussion from the start were automation of the sinological libraries, questions of formats, i.e. MARC format and others, library systems, interlibrary loan, cataloguing rules, cooperation between member libraries.

1982 David Helliwell drafted a project for the compilation of congshu in European libraries. Unfortunately it had to be abandoned because of lack of funds.
1983 John T. Ma presented his idea of establishing a Central Research Library for Chinese Studies in Europe. It proved to be too centralistic for most of the members and did not enter serious discussion. 

Access to membership of EASL is very easy: send in your library's address for the secretary's file and "register" in EASL's homepage The annual conferences are organized along loose lines: discussion and mutual exchange of experiences, as well as practical demonstrations are emphasized and more important than lectures and papers by members or invited experts. Experts mostly are found in the range of the members! Nevertheless, any member is free to propose any topic, any expert's paper etc. to the next conference's agenda, on the condition that preparation should be done by this member her- or himself. During the conference the share of informations, experiences, datas etc. plays an important role beside the conference hours as well.

A bulletin has been published until the year 1996, the new media of EASL's homepage succeeds it at last, from 1998 onwards.

The homepage provides all necessary infos on EASL and links to many other relevant sites. It also is open to any interesting publication of news and introduction of libraries. No publications with commercial interest are accepted. It was set up and is currently updated by Matthias Kaun, Staatsbibliothek, Berlin