Digital librarianship meets the Republic of Letters. Readers of this blog know that we launched an institutional archive of faculty publications in 2010. One of the articles posted there is Vidhu Aggarwal's Talking body parts and missing commodities: cinematic complexes and Sylvia Plath.
A graduate student all the way out on the old Silk Road in Urumqi, Xinjiang in China found that article on the web and contacted David Noe, the librarian who administers our IR, asking for help in tracking down a copy of Plath's Ariel, not the version edited by Ted Hughes, but the restored version of Plath's original edition.
We were so touched by the idea that our repository had reach far western China and by the student's herculean attempts to complete her literary studies that we decided to give her a copy. It would be cheaper than trying to arrange an interlibrary loan to Xinjiang anyway. It felt like an echo of the old Republic of Letters with a scholar at one end of the Silk Road reaching out to colleagues 13,000 miles away. With help with the Chinese address from Wenxian Zhang I just mailed the book today.
Let's hope it gets there and makes it through Chinese customs. Sometimes i just love my job!