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Collection Development Policy

Middle East

Middle Eastern Studies
Marlis J. Saleh
May 2009


Brief Overview of the Collection


History: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago was founded in 1919, and included a library with a selection policy embracing all useful printed material on any aspect of the ancient Near East. Beginning in the 1960s, materials relating to the Islamic period of the same area were added. When Regenstein Library opened in 1970, the Oriental Institute’s collection was moved there as part of the graduate library for humanities and social sciences.


 Broad subject areas emphasized or de-emphasized: The collection covers the Islamic Middle East as it is studied through the various disciplines of the humanities and the social sciences. These include history, literature, language, religion, philosophy, bibliography, art, political science, anthropology, music, sociology, and film. With such a broad focus there are inevitably many areas of overlap with various other collectors’ fields of responsibility.


 Description of Academic Program: The Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department offers B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. programs in six principal fields dealing with the medieval and modern Islamic world. These include Arabic language and literature, Persian language and literature, Turkish language and literature, Islamic history and civilization, Islamic thought, and Islamic archaeology. The Center for Middle Eastern Studies administers three Master’s degree programs: M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies, M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies/Masters in Business Administration, and the Joint Program in Public Policy and Middle Eastern Studies.


 Audience/Purpose: The collection supports the demands of teaching and research (undergraduate, graduate, and faculty) for one of the major Middle Eastern Studies programs in the world. It serves students and researchers in the departments of Anthropology, Art History, Cinema and Media Studies, Comparative Human Development, Comparative Literature, Economics, History, Linguistics, Music, Near Eastern Languages and Literatures, Political Science, Social Thought, Sociology, and South Asian Languages and Civilizations. Other units in the University which make use of the collection include professional schools (Business, Public Policy Studies, Divinity, Law), area centers (Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Center for Eastern European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, Center for International Studies, South Asia Language and Area Center), committees (Jewish Studies, Conceptual and Historical Foundations of Science, Geographical Studies, International Relations), the Humanities and Social Sciences Collegiate Divisions, and the Oriental Institute. The collection also serves an important regional role in meeting the needs of faculty and students at other universities that have Middle Eastern Studies programs but lack our extensive resources, including UIC, Northwestern, Loyola, DePaul, and Notre Dame. Secondarily, the collection responds to the needs of other outside academic, corporate, and government users.


Collecting Guidelines


 Levels of Selection (comprehensive, research, instructional support, basic information; for a description of these levels, see the general policy statement. The intent of the collection development policy is to cover all disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities as they relate to the Middle East. While in the past we aspired to and perhaps achieved the level of “comprehensive” collection in many of these disciplines, the current volume of publication in the field makes this level now unattainable. Special effort is made to collect more intensively in specific areas needed by faculty and by Ph.D. students.

  •  Islam (BP1-299): Research level in the Middle Eastern vernaculars (Arabic, Persian, Turkish). Materials in Western languages are in general selected by the bibliographer for Religion and Philosophy.

  •  History (Turkey DR401-900, Iraq DS67-79.9, Syria DS92-99, Israel DS101-132, Saudi Arabia DS201-248, Iran DS251-326, Egypt DT43-154.4, Libya DT211-250, Algeria DT271-299, Morocco DT301-330): Research level in the Middle Eastern vernaculars and in Western languages. There is considerable overlap in this area with the material selected by the bibliographer for Social Sciences.

  •  Language and Literature (Arabic PJ, Persian PK, Turkish PL): Research level in scholarly works on Arabic, Persian, and Turkish language and literature, as well as the literary works themselves in both the original language and translation into English. Effort is made to distinguish literary works of serious value from more ephemeral, popular works which are not collected.

  •  Bibliography (Z): Research level in works cataloging manuscript or other collections relating to Middle Eastern Studies.

  •  History of Science (Q, R, S, T): Research level for historical as opposed to technological works in this field relating to the Middle East.

  •  Miscellaneous: Fields of coverage for area studies collections such as Middle Eastern Studies are necessarily both broad and vague. Works relating to the Middle East may appear outside of these narrow call number ranges in the fields of art history, political science, cinema studies, anthropology, and sociology, to name only a few. In many cases these materials are acquired by the relevant bibliographer, while the bibliographer for Middle Eastern Studies may serve as the selector of last resort, should the other bibliographers choose not to fund particular items.

 Type of materials included and excluded: The following types of materials are usually excluded: text books, language learning materials, popular literature and religious materials, translations into a language other than English, and unrevised dissertations.

 Physical formats included and excluded: All formats are included. In addition to print monographs and serials, the collection includes microformat materials (of manuscripts, periodicals, and government documents), lithographs, films, videos, DVDs, CD-Roms, photographs, and electronic resources. Notable online resources specific to Middle Eastern Studies include Index Islamicus, Encyclopaedia Iranica, and the Encyclopaedia of Islam.


 Publication dates collected: There are no limits, though publishing conditions in the Middle East make retrospective purchasing difficult. The great majority of material acquired is current. We take advantage of specially-acquired collections of older materials as they are offered by our dealers in the Middle East.


Languages: Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. In most of the many subfields that we cover we also purchase in the languages of Western scholarship (primarily English, German, French, and Italian). As mentioned above, strictly theological works relating to Islam in Western languages are selected by the Bibliographer for Religion.


Geographical range: The collection covers the Arab countries (Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen), Iran, and Turkey. For materials dealing with earlier periods cultural rather than modern political boundaries are observed.


Chronological span: From the rise of Islam (sixth century A.D.) to the present time.


Areas of Distinction

The size, range, and quality of the collection make it one of the premier research collections in the world for Middle Eastern and Islamic studies. While the collection is exceptionally strong overall, it is appropriate to call attention in particular to holdings in Ottoman history and literature which are unequalled in the U.S., and an unparalleled collection in Persian on the economic, political, and social history of Iran. Other special strengths include modern Turkish literature and history, and classical and modern Arabic literature. The collection also contains unique holdings of twentieth-century Persian serials, nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Ottoman serials and government documents, women’s magazines in Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman, publications of the Muslim Brotherhood, and current government and statistical materials in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish.


Related University of Chicago Collections

The Middle Eastern Studies collection is complemented, in various ways, by virtually every other collection in Regenstein library, including Religion and Philosophy, Art and Cinema, Maps, Linguistics, Classics and Ancient Near East, Medieval and Byzantine Studies, Jewish Studies, Social Sciences, Slavic, and Southern Asia, as well as the collections of the Oriental Institute and the Law School.


Cooperative Arrangements and Related Collections

Northwestern University’s notable collection in African Studies complements our acquisition of materials relating to the North African section of the Middle East. In general, Northwestern purchases Western-language materials in this area while we purchase Arabic-language materials.

Subject Specialist

Profile Photo
Marlis J. Saleh
Bibliographer for Middle East Studies
Joseph Regenstein Library,
Room 563
(773) 702-8425
Subjects: Middle East