I love our libraries. Even with the ever-changing book environment, libraries are such a great place for individual education. And librarians want to help you learn.
That’s why I noticed a new initiative by the National Endowment for the Humanities aimed at educating the public about Muslim culture. After 9/11, it became obvious that Americans don’t know much about the 1.57 billion Muslims, and what the average American does know often is sketchy and minimal.
That’s why the “Bridging Cultures” program aims “to promote understanding and mutual respect for people with diverse histories, cultures, and perspectives within the United States and abroad.”
As part of the initiative, the NEH, along with the American Library Association, is presenting several Muslim Journeys programs. One, called the “Bookshelf,” is a collection of books and films that present a series of views of Muslim culture.
The Dorchester County Library is one of 840 libraries and state humanities councils across the country to receive this collection. The collection includes 25 books including biographies, a sourcebook for Muslims in America, histories, reflections, religious studies, art and architecture books and three documentary films with public viewing rights.
The boxes of books and media have just arrived, and the programming is still in the planning stage. Becky Westfall, branch manager in Summerville, says that the books probably will go on the shelves today.
“These types of books usually come with some programming, too, so I’m waiting to see what we want to plan,” Westfall says.
The Humanities Council of South Carolina also received a set of copies, and Executive Director Randy Akers says that the council hopes to raise money so that libraries can have more than one book in each series.
“It’s hard to lead group discussions when there is only one copy of a book, so we want to be able to give libraries 20-25 copies of each one,” Akers says. “We’re not there yet, though.”
Westfall says the demand for books on Islam was the greatest after 9/11. Patrons were checking out copies of the Quran and other books on Islam, but interest seems to have waned somewhat.
These books and films were selected with the advice of librarians and cultural programming experts, as well as distinguished scholars in the fields of anthropology, world history, religious studies, interfaith dialogue, the history of art and architecture, world literature, Middle East studies, Southeast Asian studies, African studies and Islamic studies.
Akers says that local libraries can use the material by getting local scholars to talk about the material, helping to bring to life a culture that so many of our troops have encountered, and which is being portrayed in current movies.
That such a resource exists makes it easier for all of us to find out more about the events and thoughts that shape our world.
To see a list of resources, go to postandcourier.com.
Reach Stephanie Harvin at 937-5557 or firstname.lastname@example.org.