Introduction to ESS

What is ESS?

The European Studies Section (ESS) represents librarians and others who are professionally involved in the acquisition, organization, and use of information sources originating in or related to European countries. ESS is instrumental in promoting cooperation between libraries and scholars in European fields and publishers and book dealers in Europe. Our aim is to promote the improvement of library services supporting study and research in European affairs from ancient times to the present.

A Brief History

The European Studies Section (ESS) was formed on September 1, 2017 by the merger of two predecessor sections of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). These two previous sections were Slavic and East European Studies (SEES) and Western European Studies Section (WESS). It was logical to form a section encompassing the whole of the European continent.

SEES History

The Slavic and East European Studies (SEES) group of the European Studies Section is one of the oldest groups of the Association of College and Research Libraries, which is a division of the American Library Association. SEES represents approximately 200 librarians and specialists involved in Slavic and East European studies. In addition to Russia and the countries of Eastern and Central Europe, the section is concerned with library service related to the study of the Baltic states (Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia), Central Asia and the Caucasus.

SEES came into being in 1963 with the establishment of three committees. In 1990 SEES expanded its focus with the creation of the Committee for the Preservation of Slavic Materials and Special Collections and again in 1998 with the addition of the Electronic Resources Committee. Today there are three standing committees: the Access and Preservation Committee, the Slavic Cataloging & Metadata Committee and the Newsletter Editorial Board.

WESS History

WESS grew out of a discussion group started in 1973 within the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). The Western European Language Specialists Discussion Group (WELS) became a section within ACRL five years later and was renamed the Western European Specialists Section (WESS). Since then it has sponsored major programs at each ALA annual conference and held its own conference with European librarians in Italy in 1988. In 1999, the section changed its name to Western European Studies Section. Since its inception, WESS has been instrumental in promoting cooperation between libraries and scholars in West European fields and publishers and book dealers in Western Europe. For more details, see the History of WESS.



The European Studies Section Newsletter, semi-annual and free to all WESS members, contains reports of meetings, committees, news about individual members, and articles on some topic of European studies. Newsletter columns focus on online resources and services related to Europe, new publications of note, personal and institutional news, ESS committee and discussion group minutes, and other announcements.

Print publications, issued through ACRL

  • Women’s Studies in Western Europe: A Resource Guide (1986).
  • Directory of European Specialists in North American Research Libraries (1990).
  • Western European Studies: Current Trends and Library Resources (1990).
  • Euro-Librarianship: Shared Resources, Shared Responsibilities” in Collection Management Vol. 15, Nos. 1/2, 3/4 (1992)
  • Migrations in Society, Culture and the Library (2004).

ESS De Gruyter European Librarianship Study Grant

In cooperation with ACRL, ESS awards the ESS De Gruyter European Librarianship Study Grant annually to an ACRL member. The grant is sponsored by the De Gruyter Foundation to cover travel to and from Europe and transportation, room, and board in Europe, for up to thirty (30) consecutive days.The grant supports research in European studies with an emphasis on librarianship, the book trade, resource documentation and similar information-science related topics.

ESS Programs at ALA Conferences

See ESS Conferences. In addition to annual ALA programs, international WESS conferences have been held:

  • in Florence, Italy, (April 1988)
  • Proceedings published in Collection Management Vol. 15 (1992), Nos 1/2,3/4 as “Euro-Librarianship: Shared Resources. Shared Responsibilities.”
  • in Paris, France (March 2004)
  • Proceedings published by ALA as Migrations in Society, Culture and the Library.
  • Plans are underway for another international conference.

Committees and Discussion Groups

Within WESS there is an executive committee, composed of the Chair, Vice-Chair, Past Chair, Secretary, Member-at-large, and Chairs of the standing committees. In addition, other ad hoc committees and ESS Discussion Groups are appointed to carry out special projects. Connected with the discussion groups, email discussion lists cater to ongoing dialogue on various interests within European Studies librarianship.

How to Join ESS

ESS contributes to the advancement of European studies both in North America and abroad. Through its programs, discussions, conferences, and publications, it continues to further research on Europe and to foster collaborative projects. For the librarian or other professional with an interest in this part of the world, ESS provides a stimulating forum for discussion and opportunities for professional enrichment. ACRL membership dues include your choice of Communities of Practice memberships at no additional cost. ESS is an ACRL section.