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Innovative Program for Urdu Language Materials

The University of Chicago Library recently inaugurated an innovative program ensuring that early publications in the Urdu language are available for scholarly use by researchers not only at the University, but also elsewhere in the U.S. and the world. The private library of Mr. Mohd. Abdus Samad Khan in Hyderabad, India is an important collection containing 26,500 books and 2,700 serials, almost all of which are in Urdu, a major language in South Asia. In a joint effort to acquire the collection, the University of Chicago Library formed the Urdu Research Library Constortium (URLC). Composed of the U.S. research libraries supporting graduate study of Urdu, the Consortium purchased Samad Khan's collection in October and has already moved it to a new location in Hyderabad.

Title page from Vaqa'i' Shah Mu'in al-Din Chishti, by Babu Lal Sahab. Published in Lucknow by Naval Kishor Press in 1913.
Several features of the URLC program are novel. The collection will not be removed from India. Instead, cataloging, preservation microfilming, and digital scanning will take place at the Sundarayya Vignana Kendram (SVK), our collaborating institution in Hyderabad. Microfilm copies of the publications will be held by the Center for Research Libraries, rather than URLC member institutions, ensuring timely and equitable access to the materials. The collection will be given to SVK after we have met our preservation and access goals. In addition, the project will experiment with delivery of digitized journal articles directly to U.S. scholars from Hyderabad. An on-line index to journals in the URLC will allow researchers to identify relevant articles and request them via the internet. In addition, the Consortium is committed to ensuring that a duplicate set of microfilm will be a available in Pakistan. The Samad Khan library contains Urdu books and periodicals rarely found in Pakistan, where Urdu is the official language.

Acquisition, cataloging, and preservation activities are expected to extend over seven years and cost approximately $450,000. All of the funds except for $60,000 in membership fees for the Consortium will come from foundations, government agencies, and gifts from individual donors in the U.S. and South Asia.

More information on the URLC, its program of work, schedule of activities, the Samad Khan collection, and a description of SVK, our collaborators, is available on LibInfo, the Library's web server. From the Library's home page, choose Subject Guides to Sources, then South Asia. The direct URL is

For further information, contact James Nye, Bibliographer for South Asia, at 702-8430 or">