Category Archives: International Trips

Welcome to the VUCA World! The Frankfurt International Book Fair 2019. Part 2

This post is by Heidi Madden, Librarian for Western European and Medieval/Renaissance Studies, and Sarah How, European Studies Librarian at Cornell University. 

The Frankfurt International Book Fair is a trade event that attracts professionals from many countries and nearly all segments of the publishing and information science worlds.  This includes academic librarians from the US. Every year members of the  European Studies Section of the American Library Association (ALA) team up to get as much out of the Frankfurt Book Fair events as possible; they spend evenings pouring over the programs, and record what they want to report back to colleagues at the next ALA conference, including recommended readings published during the fair. For 2019, the responsibility for this task was assumed by Heidi Madden (Duke) and Sarah How (Cornell), both of whom attended the 2019 Frankfurt Book Fair and who have collaborated on the writing of this blog post.

Trade publications issued around the fair provide excellent reading for librarians. Expert White Papers  (free, but registration is required for download) help visitors familiarize themselves with issues and trends before the Fair. What follows below are a few examples of our required reading for 2019.

As is apparent from this list, digital publishing was one of the overarching themes of the 2019 Frankfurt Book Fair.  Those fairgoers who attended the sessions on publishing in the digital age were invited to enter the “VUCA World.” The VUCA world is not some happy, imaginary planet, but rather the confusing information landscape in which we all currently find ourselves: the letters of the acronym stand for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. Visitors to the 2019 Fair had many opportunities to hear international experts speak on issues connected to this theme, which ran like a red (read) thread through many of the presentations. For this blog post, we have decided to focus on two of the more substantial “hot topics”: the availability of new subscription models for journals and e-books and the concept of e-books as an accessible digital ecosystem.

Library administrators and researchers from across Europe presented on Plan S, an initiative launched by Science Europe in September 2018 for making open-access science publishing a foundational principle of the scientific enterprise. There was also discussion of Project DEAL, an initiative by a consortium of German university libraries and research institutes to re-negotiate large contracts (“deals”) with the major publishing houses of e-journals, which are usually the biggest line item in any research library’s acquisitions budget. In another forum, e-book vendors approvingly noted that newspaper publishers have created innovative business models that work on the Internet by devising formulas for offering just enough free content to trigger a sale of premium content. These vendors suggested that e-books, both fiction and nonfiction, could potentially be marketed using the same sort of model, that is, by offering a preview on the Internet extensive enough to trigger either a sale of an entire volume or a “subscription” to individual chapters, one chapter at a time.

Just when publishers appear to have figured out how to monetize premium content based on the free content that appears in an Internet search, legislation triggered by the new European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market appears to complicate matters once again. Certain aspects of the EU directive are popularly referred to as the “link-tax,” because they effectively mean that the makers of search engines can be fined for showing too much free content in the result list under a link to a content provider, especially for news content. The link tax issue is playing out in real time in France, where legislation based on the European Directive has already been introduced, and where a fierce debate between Internet giants (like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon) and legislators will influence how the EU Directive is incorporated into the cyber-laws of other EU countries.

One of the most discussed topics at this year’s fair was the implementation of the European Accessibility Act, which was written on the basis of a directive by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). WIPO has 192 member states, and administers 26 international treaties, including the “Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled,” which was adopted in 2013. The European Union signed the European Accessibility Act in March 13, 2019. This act directs EU member countries to incorporate WIPO’s accessibility requirements into their national laws, and to be compliant by 2025. The European Accessibility Act applies to a suite of digital services, like computer hardware and operating systems, payment terminals, websites, and e-readers. In the context of accessibility, e-books are considered a service, and the act requires that the entire publishing chain, i.e. content producers, digital distributors, catalogs for searching, and e-readers participate in making content available to Print Impaired People (PiPs). In effect, the Accessibility Act creates a vision of e-books as part of a larger and more accessible digital ecosystem.

Exemptions are planned for art books, comic books, children’s books, and smaller companies with under 2 million Euros in revenue. The print segment of the market will continue to exist, but it must align with a digital edition. For this reason, there is a provision for third party “authorized entities” to produce accessible-format copies of non-compliant publications on a non-profit basis. The work of these entities will be instrumental for foreign publishers who market materials in Europe. Organizations like Fondazione LIA, the Daisy Consortium, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), EDRLab, and EDItEur  are working to understand the implications of this act for the publishing industry and for libraries in Europe, and are helping to develop standards for born accessible publications and for converting non-compliant publications and back files.

Fondatione LIA presented their research at the 7th International Convention of International University Presses at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2019. The full report, co-authored by Gregorio Pellegrino, Cristina Mussinelli, and Elisa Molinari:  “E-BOOKS FOR ALL.Towards an accessible digital publishing ecosystem,” can be downloaded (with free registration) at the LIA website.

In sum, although we continue to live in VUCA world, the Accessibility Act, along with advances in digital publishing, search and discovery (e.g. Artificial Intelligence, algorithms, complex metadata, voice search) promise to make electronic and audio books more accessible and more functional for every reader. And American research libraries are actively helping their patrons to navigate through this changing publishing landscape. The creation of digital publishing services departments, such as the recently-founded Scholarworks at Duke or Scholarly Communications and Open Access at Cornell, is one way of engaging with the general trends and developments in the new digital publishing ecosystem. Another is to anticipate these changes by incorporating some of the proposed solutions into libraries’ strategic plans, as has been done, for example, in “Engage, Discover, Transform: Duke University Libraries,” 2016-2021. Last, but not least, is support for librarians’ attendance at international library fairs (like the one in Frankfurt), which allow librarians to stay informed about the latest developments, learn about the looming challenges, and discover innovative ways to overcome them, and inspire practical applications in their institutions.

Many organizations publish informative white papers around the time of the book fair. Pictured is the cover of ”The Universe of Books,” published by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels in the “The Frankfurt Magazine. German Stories, 2019,” which captures the global book market.

About the authors:

Heidi Madden is the Librarian for Western European and Medieval Renaissance Studies at Duke University; she serves as Chair of the European Studies Section of the Association for College and Research Libraries.

Sarah How is the European Studies Librarian at Cornell University, and serves as the Chair of the Collaborative Initiative for French Language Collections in North American Libraries (CIFNAL), a Global Resources Project of the Center for Research Libraries (CRL), in Chicago, IL. Sarah and Heidi are happy to help colleagues prepare for their first international book fair visit; send us an email or find us at the ALA Annual convention in Chicago 2020.

The Frankfurt International Book Fair 2019. Part 1

This post is by Heidi Madden, Librarian for Western European and Medieval/Renaissance Studies, and Sarah How, European Studies Librarian at Cornell University. 

International book fairs provide great opportunities for librarians to discover new books and other media; learn of new trends in publishing, translation, design, and book production; and build personal connections that directly benefit both their own work and that of their home institutions. Being abroad, being there in person, immersed in the language and culture of another place, is in itself of significant benefit, although one that is difficult to quantify. That is why we are grateful for the opportunity afforded by this library blog to write about our experiences at the 2019 Frankfurt Book Fair, and thereby to describe some of those benefits.

For international and area studies librarians, book fair visits are an essential component not only of professional development but also of collection development.  That serious research libraries need materials that would not — could not, economically — be provided by our standard commercial supply channels is accepted wisdom in the profession. Book fair visits are an efficient way to address this need, since they make it possible to interact with many publishers at once, in a single exhibition space. In addition, cultural and linguistic immersion at international fairs strengthens the skills and knowledge that support research services and give academic librarians “street cred” with international students and faculty, as well as researchers engaged in foreign-language humanities, social sciences, and area studies. Visits to specialized bookstores, meetings with local librarians, and visits to local libraries and cultural institutions can be squeezed-in around a busy fair schedule for additional benefit.  This is especially true for those librarians who are able to attend an international book fair in a place as rich in resources as Frankfurt, Germany.

The logo of the 2019 Frankfurt Book Fair

The Frankfurt Book Fair (Frankfurter Buchmesse), an annual international event for the publishing trade community, is the world’s largest book fair.  This Fair is fundamentally a commercial event, focused as it is on the business of publishing and related industries. It is the place, for example, where publishers, agents, authors, illustrators, film makers, translators, printers, authors, media specialists, book distributors, and libraries negotiate and license rights for distribution, publishing, translation, and film and media versions of the items on display. However, the Frankfurt Book Fair is also the occasion for substantial programming related to contemporary literature and, as we shall see, can even serve as a forum for robust cultural and political debates. Similarly-designed book fairs, more regional in scope, are held in Paris (Salon du livre), Bologna (Bologna Children’s Book Fair), Madrid (Liber), Guadalajara (International Book Fair), Beijing (International Book Fair), Hong Kong (Book Fair), and Moscow (International Book Fair), to name just a few.

According to established tradition, the Frankfurt Book Fair lasts for 5 days, from Wednesday to Sunday. The first three days are usually focused on exhibiting books. On those days, a European Studies librarian can, for example, peruse the publishing program of dozens and dozens of publishers from every European country, including small, independent presses. On the weekend, the fair is open to the public, and books are sold directly to individuals. On those days the sections of the fair devoted to publishers of graphic novels, cookbooks, travel literature, zines, and German language fiction are jammed with people and cosplay participants. In October 2019, 302,267 individuals from 100 countries visited the Frankfurt Book Fair. There, they were met by 7,500 exhibitors and encountered 400,000 individual books, maps, manuscripts, visual materials, and digital media objects (audio and e-books).

The special exhibit of the guest country Norway combined nature imagery, mirrors, and book tables designed to represent poems in spatial dimensions. Norway also celebrated 500 years of the printed book (Nidaros Missal and the Nidaros Breviary, from 1519) in the exhibit.

Each year, Frankfurt hosts a “Guest of Honor” country: Norway was the 2019 Guest. The guiding theme for the Norwegian events and exhibits was “The Dream We Carry.” The theme title was inspired by the famous Norwegian poet Olav H. Hauge, and his poem “It is that Dream.”  Norway sponsored prominent Norwegian writers, who spoke and schmoozed with the attendees, while fair organizers produced a free bibliography of new publications from Norway in German translation to promote writers and publishers to the German reading public. Karl Ove Knausgård, a Norwegian author who has been described as one of the 21st century’s greatest literary sensations, spoke in several different settings, both about his own work and about his recent experience curating an exhibit on Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, whose best known work, The Scream, has become one of the most iconic images of world art. In other interviews, contemporary Norwegian authors Erik Fosnes Hansen and Erika Fatland covered a diversity of topics, from the Oslo cultural scene to food science, which is at the heart of Hansen’s novel Et Hummerliv (“A Lobster’s Life”). Maja Lunde spoke about her forthcoming book The End of the Ocean, while Jo Nesbø was interviewed about Knife, the next installment in his Harry Hole series of crime novels.  More highlights and full listing of authors can be found in the online program.

Karl Ove Knausgård amd Jurgen Boos (CEO of the Frankfurt Book Fair)

Norwegian literature was represented by many authors reading from their work.

In addition to lectures and authors’ talks, the Frankfurt Book Fair also hosts special celebrations for the winners of the Nobel Prize, the German Book Prize, and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. Overall, ninety-three prizes were awarded by various organizations during the book fair in 2019. Polish-born 2018 Nobel Laureate Olga Tokarczuk (awarded in 2019) spoke at the opening session of the Fair. Oddly, Austrian-born Peter Handke, the 2019 Nobel Laureate, was not present in person, and was only represented by his publisher’s special display. Handke’s absence did not prevent him from becoming the subject of intense controversy. Saša Stanišić, the winner of the 2019 German Book Prize, who fled to Germany with his Bosnian mother and Serbian father in 1992, was the most prominent voice at the book fair, taking Handke to task for his sympathetic attitude toward former Serbian president Slobodan Milošević, the first sitting head of state to be charged with war crimes.

World newspapers, including The Guardian, chronicled the Handke debate.  One of its articles, entitled “A troubling choice: authors criticise Peter Handke’s controversial Nobel win. reported on the views of famous international writers, such as Salman Rushdie, Hari Kunzru and Slavoj Žižek who opined that the 2019 Nobel laureate “‘combines great insight with shocking ethical blindness’.” Another article, entitled “Peter Handke’s Nobel prize dishonours the victims of genocide,” referenced the Austrian writer’s stance on the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s, which has been characterized by some critics as genocide apologism. At some point during October 2019, Peter Handke announced that he would no longer speak to journalists, so for now the debate will continue in literary circles, and will most likely re-emerge around the December 10, 2019 Nobel Prize Award Ceremony.

The 2019 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade was awarded to Sebastião Salgado, the first ever photographer to receive this prize.  During the course of several interviews, the Brazilian social documentary photographer and photojournalist introduced his book Gold, which showcases haunting images of Amazonia taken in the 1980s. As with his other work, Gold highlights environmental and human rights issues by investigating habitats and communities with his camera.

Cultural events inspired by Norway as the Guest of Honor were only a fraction of the international author events and talks at the Fair and in the city of Frankfurt. The gala of literary stars included Margaret Atwood, Maja Lunde, Elif Shafak, Colson Whitehead, Ken Follett, and Jo Nesbø (video Highlights can be seen on the Fair’s website). More media outlets broadcast from the book fair than can be mentioned here. The two outlets with the most video content are ARD Mediathek and  ZDF Mediathek, especially the venue “Das Blaue Sofa,” which gives access to 90 interviews with authors from the Frankfurt 2019 fair alone.  Social media followed along under #fmb19, and have already transitioned to the hashtag for the 2020 fair, #fbm20, as planning for the next fair gets underway. Canada will be the Guest of Honor at the 2020 Frankfurt Book Fair.

On Saturday and Sunday, while the public floods into the fairgrounds, specialized, ticketed, professional events are held at the Frankfurt Book Fair.  The two that we attended this year were the 7th International Convention of University Presses 2019, which focused on the European Accessibility Act, and an event for non-fiction editors. The non-fiction publishing event “Non-fiction Publishing: It’s a Women’s World,” consisted of a panel and discussion with female publishers from Morocco, Turkey, India, and Norway, who spoke about their experiences with producing important works documenting and giving voice to issues and experiences which might not find a home with large commercial publishers.

Look for more on Frankfurt hot topics in the next blog post on Welcome to the VUCA World! The Frankfurt International Book Fair 2019. Part 2

Frankfurt Book Fair 2019 publisher displays

On Saturday, cosplay fans come dressed as their favorite characters.

“Stellt das Buch her / Make the book”: three containers stacked on top of each other, with exhibits on each level in the courtyard of the book fair.

 

Been All Around This World: Lessons Learned from the International Partnership between the American Library Association (ALA) and the German Library & Information Association (BID).

European Studies librarians in North America build collections from multiple countries in a variety of languages. How can they become acquainted with the networks of libraries, publishers, and vendors necessary to develop these collections, and to provide research support effectively? Studying the bibliographical guides to European Studies librarianship are, of course, an excellent first step. There is the classic text by Dan Hazen and James Henry Spohrer, Building area studies collections, from 2007, and the Suddenly Selector Series  will include practice-based guides for European Studies in the future. A more general recent introduction is provided by Lesley Pitman in Supporting Research in Area Studies (2015), and the collaboration of area studies administrators on International and Area Studies Collections In the 21st Century, addresses mutual concerns in all area studies such as training, recruitment, digital content and finances.

Professional associations offer opportunities to learn from peers. The European Studies Section of the Association for College and Research Libraries (ACRL) of the American Library Association (ALA) provides a forum and a resource page for five hundred thirty three North American European Studies librarians. In addition to that, ALA hosts several international initiatives within the International Relations Round Table  (IRRT), and brings many international speakers to ALA conferences.

European Studies librarians also work with the Center for Research Libraries (CRL), where the Germanic collectors organize in the German-North American Resources Partnership (GNARP), the French & Francophone collectors organize in the Collaborative Initiative for French Language Collections in North American Libraries (CIFNAL), and Eastern European collectors collaborate in the  Slavic and East European Materials Project (SEEMP).

Library and cultural heritage organizations nationally and internationally use acronyms as short hand for pointing to projects, standards and organizations. Outlining the basic organization of European Studies associations illustrates what a challenge it is to develop a deep understanding of each organization, its mission, and its audiences

All theory is gray, my friend. But forever green is the tree of life.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Faust. 1808.

The American Library Association and the German equivalent, Bibliothek & Information Deutschland (BID) e.V, decided to embark on an extended information exchange to provide the “tree of life” kind of learning needed for getting to know how our respective information and cultural heritage organizations operate. ALA and BID signed an agreement for the collaboration in 2014, and the exchange was set up to help a large number of subject librarians build a professional network both on the national and international level over three years, from 2016 to 2019. The many projects, meetings, and activities that resulted from the initiative demonstrate what it takes to explore issues and trends in librarianship in just one country, Germany, and can serve as a model for learning about other countries.

The article describing the exchange: “The American Library Association and German Library & Information Association Partnership: A Celebration,” was co-authored by Sharon Bostick (Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL), Fred Gitner (Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL), Hella Klauser (Internationale Kooperation, Deutscher Bibliotheksverband e.V. (dbv); Kompetenznetzwerk für Bibliotheken (knb), and Heidi Madden (Duke University).

The article appeared simultaneously in two venues, in the O-Bib, Das Offene Bibliotheksportal (Open Access Library Platform, Germany) and in International Leads (A Publication of the International Relations Round Table of the American Library Association).

If you want further information about the behind-the-scenes work in writing the article or European librarianship, email Heidi.

 

 

Been All Around This World: A Trip to Turkey

This post was contributed by Sean Swanick, the Librarian for Middle East and Islamic Studies at Duke.

This past summer I was fortunate to visit Turkey and Morocco. In my previous blog post, I documented some of my experiences sleuthing for books in the Maghreb. This post concerns my time in Turkey, where I was again on the lookout for books, ephemera, and related materials to enhance Duke University Library’s growing Middle East and Islamic Studies Collections.

Turkey is a remarkably diverse country with a population of some 85 million people. My purpose was to find (elusive) books, make new contacts, and to continue expanding my knowledge of Turkey, Turkish, Ottoman, and related matters to better help students and researchers.

In Turkey, I spent time wandering the many delightful sahaf çarşılar (second-hand book markets) of Istanbul, the country’s cultural capital city.  This was followed by visits to Diyarbakır and Mardin, two smaller cities in the south.

When I arrived in Istanbul, a second mayoral election was in full swing.. There were lots of posters, booklets, and related ephemera for the major political parties. I personally was able to collect some of these materials, which will be added to our growing Turkish political ephemera collection.

Spray painted official ephemera for Mayoral candidate, Ekrem İmamoğlu. Mr. İmamoğlu would eventually win the election. This was his campaign slogan and reads: Everything will be fine.

Besides visiting numerous sahaflar, I also went to a number of museums in Istanbul, such as the Pera Museum, Istanbul Modern, Sakıp Sabancı Museum, Museum of Innocence, Istanbul Photography Museum, Istanbul Research Institute, and the recently opened Yapı Kredi Vedat Nedim Tor Museum. At the Yapı Kredi there were two excellent exhibitions. The first concerned photographs of Ataturk called Hoş Geldin Gazi: Atatürk’ün İstanbul Günleri (1927-1938) (the catalogue will soon be at Duke Library for you to explore further). This was the first image of the exhibition:

It reads: Yaşasın Reis-i Cumhurumuz (Hooray for the President of our Republic.)

The other exhibition displayed the archive of Turhan Selçuk, aptly called Turhan Selçuk Retrospektifi. Turhan was a famous and influential caricaturist, who had a knack for finding humour or satire in most subject matter. We have many satirical journals for you to peruse, and two years ago I led the curation of Yasak/Banned, a Duke University library exhibit highlighting these collections. The Turhan exhibition had many highlights, including the following:

Istanbul is a city known as Der Saadet, an Ottoman-Turkish combination of an Arabic word (saadet) and a Persian word (der) together meaning the “Abode of Happiness.” Certainly, anyone who has visited Istanbul would agree. The city offers everything a curious traveler might want: books, diversity, museums, restaurants, spectacular views, incredible history…in short everything that is the abode of happiness.

So-called ‘umbrella-street’ in Beyoğlu, Istanbul.

From Istanbul, I flew to Diyarbakır in southern Turkey. Diyarbakır has witnessed inhabitation since at least the 1300 BC, during the time of the Assyrian kingdom. In its current conception, there are two cities: yeni ve eski (old and new). The old city contains the historic walls dating back to the 4th century, when the Romans colonized the city, while the new city contains shops, new housing, military barracks, and government offices. Diyarbakır is home to a wide variety of people, languages, foods, and traditions.

While the city structure, architecture, food (especially ciğer/ceger, or liver), and people are incredibly generous, thoughtful, and helpful, for me it is always about the books. There are several terrific bookstores in Diyarbakır, in both the new and old cities. In the old city, I spent several hours in bookstores while also taking-in some of the cultural activities, like visiting the Diyarbakır Dengbej Evi, Dengbej is a traditional form of story-telling. Two bookstores were of particular interest. Ensar Kitapevi holds an enormous collection in Turkish, Kurdish (Soranî and Kurmancî), Arabic, Persian and a few English titles. Subjects are as diverse as the languages represented: history, literature, cultural studies, language manuals, etc. But even more, the building was awe-inspiring with many reading nooks to sit and read at one’s leisure while also being offered local teas and coffees. Here’s a photo to entice you:

The other noteworthy bookstore in Diyarbakır, and the one with which Duke will be working closely to acquire Kurdish and Turkish materials is Pirtukakurdi. Based in the new city, the shop opened a few years ago. I spent most of a day with these bibliophiles as we discussed issues related to Kurdish languages and books. Here’s a photo from their warehouse:

From Diyarbakır, I hired a taxi to Mardin, a trip that should normally take one hour; my trip took a bit longer, since we stopped a few times to take-in the views and to help a fellow with a flat tire. A gorgeous drive through Mesopotamia on a new highway was enriched by conversation with the taxi driver and the radio playing Selda Bağcan.

Mardin is another city that divides the new from the old. The new city contains the famous state-run university, Mardin Artuklu University. The old city is built on a hill, a mountain really, overlooking the vast expanse of Mesopotamia and its farmland. Mardin is famous for a number of reasons, including its diversity, its Churches, Mosques, and formerly Synagogues. Süryani (Syriac language) is still spoken and taught here; in fact, the people of Mardin speak Süryani, Kurdish, Turkish, and Arabic, sometimes in the same sentence: a truly remarkable experience of linguistic diversity. There is certainly some truth in the Turkish proverb: Dil bilmek, bilgeliğe açılan kapıdır, which translates as “knowledge of languages is the doorway to wisdom.”

In addition to the cultural sites mentioned above, the Sakıp Sabancı Mardin Kent Müzesi museum is a tremendous resource, offering exhibitions of its permanent collections, Mardin city history, as well as travelling exhibitions, such as the one on modern photography, to which I was treated during my stay in Mardin.

Mardin is also near the Syrian border. Prior to 2011 and the pain and devastation that has been inflicted on the locals by so many domestic, national, and international actors, the border was open with more-or-less free passage, especially for the trading, bartering, and buying of goods and services. Those days are now long gone, replaced with a heavy military presence and ubiquitous checkpoints. Shortly after I visited the border town of Nusaybin, for example, a Church in neighbouring Qamishli, Syria was bombed. The ramifications of these actions are felt by many people, not just the victims.

On my last night in Mardin, I was able to meet with Engin Emre Değer, an incredible person, originally from Istanbul, who moved to Mardin a few years ago. Engin works with a theater troupe, whose main purpose is to help the many Syrian refugees living in Turkey, particularly children. Listening to his stories of the encounters he has had and the joy he hasbrought to so many was remarkable. One of Engin’s projects is the Flying Carpet Mardin Children’s Music Festival: https://muzikhane.org/fcf. The festival takes place over a few days with free music and a circus-like atmosphere.

This summer’s book buying excursion was full of remarkable experiences. The books Duke University Library is acquiring continues to enhance the reputation of the Library, as well as the scholars for whom it primarily serves. Over the coming months, I will highlight some of these collections while also providing suggestions and ideas on how to make the most of these unique materials.

All photos were taken by Sean Swanick.

Been All Around This World: A Trip to Morocco

This post was contributed by Sean Swanick, the Librarian for Middle East and Islamic Studies at Duke.

This past summer I was fortunate to visit Turkey and Morocco. I was on the lookout for books, ephemera and related materials to enhance Duke University Library’s growing Middle East and Islamic Studies Collections. This post concerns my two weeks in Morocco. A second post in the coming weeks will detail my adventures in Turkey.

Egyptians make the claim Masr Umm al-duniyā (مصر أم الدنيا), Egypt is the Mother of the World. Moroccans have come to accept this but with a sense of humour add Masr Umm al-duniyā wa al-Maghrib abūhā (مصر أم الدنيا والمغرب أبوها), Egypt is the mother of the world and Morocco is the father.

While in Morocco I visited Casablanca, Rabat, Fes, and Tangier. I was able to meet with colleagues, visit some incredible museums, make a pilgrimage to the tomb of the famous world traveller Ibn Battuta and, of course peruse many, many bookstores.

Morocco’s book publishing industry is thriving with reportedly 6,000 books published in 2018. Books are published in Arabic followed by French, Amazigh and Spanish. For further reading about the Morocco’s book culture, Anouk Cohen published Fabriquer le livre au Maroc that explores many of these aspects. Duke’s collection though young contains approximately 3,000 titles from Morocco mostly in Arabic and French though we are working to acquire some works in Amazigh, especially language manuals. Amazigh is the language spoken by the Berber population of Morocco, which is approximately 10-12 million or 40% of Morocco’s total population. As the Librarian for Middle East and Islamic Studies, I strive to collect the documented heritage of all peoples who live within these boundaries.

My first stop was Casablanca, the capital. A visit to the Hassan II Mosque (cf. Elleh, Nnamdi. 2003. Architecture and power in Africa. Westport, CT: Praeger), the largest in Africa, is compulsory. Photos cannot translate its magnitude, though I have attached one that I took. It is set on the seaside with the calm sounds of the waves of the Atlantic Ocean crashing into the shore. The mosque fits some 100,000 worshipers, 25,000 of whom will be inside the mosque while the rest will be in the large adjacent courtyard. This is the only mosque in Morocco that non-Muslims are permitted to enter.

A large concentration of Casablanca’s bookshops is located in the Habous neighbourhood. Habous has an interesting history as Henri Prost, the famed French architect, redesigned it during the French Protectorate (1912-1956). Hosting suqs (Arabic for market or commercial place within an inhabited area) and cafes, Habous is also home to some 20 bookstores including the important Arab Cultural Center.

Casablanca also has the only Jewish museum in Arab majority countries. A terrific museum hosting a wide variety of cultural artifacts dedicated to preserving the history of Moroccan Jews. There remain approximately 2,000 Jews living in Morocco.

The next stop was Fes, founded at least in the 9th century during Idrisid Rule (788-974). Fes remains the intellectual capital of Morocco, with many schools, writers, and scholars calling it home. While all cities will contain a suq, Fes’s suq is a UNESCO heritage site. It is an amazing tour de force and nothing short of a labyrinth. Small alleys and corridors with high walls help the beginner become confused and even lost. Navigating the suq is best done by trial and error. After a few confusing moments, one learns the routes without the help of the local ‘guides.’ The suq is designed in such a way as to minimize direct sunlight – Fes in summer averages in the 40s Celsius (110s Fahrenheit).  However, the reward of adventuring is an incredible array of crafts, arts, carpets, leather works, cafes, restaurants and historic sites like the University of al-Qarawiyyin (جامعة القرويين), considered the oldest center of learning. The traditional arts of mosaic tilework and leather production in the tanneries are ubiquitous.

While in Fes, I was also fortunate to meet up with fellow Blue Devils Profs. Mona Hassan and Mustafa Tuna and their family for a late afternoon lunch in the Rcif neighborhood.

From Fes I travelled by train to Tangier, the famous port-city that has been a point of cultural diffusion and trade since Phoenician times.  Tangier is also home to the world traveler Ibn Batutah. Batutah traveled around not just Muslim majority countries but also to China and beyond. Unfortunately, his tomb in Tangier pales in comparison to his contribution to literature and knowledge. There are four tremendous bookstores in Tangier: Librairie des Colonnes, Les Insolites, ARTingis, and Librairie Papeterie Marocaine (المكتبة المغربية). Librairie des Colonnes was founded in 1949 and became the literary culture center with such characters as Jane and Paul Bowles, Samuel Becket, Jean Genet, Juan Goytisolo, Tennessee Williams, and Truman Capote as well as others who frequented, if not entrenched themselves in this beautiful landmark building. Les Insolites and ARTingis are relatively new stores with a nice variety of new, old, and popular works in French, Arabic, Amazigh, and English. Librairie Papeterie Marocaine is the largest of the stores containing almost exclusively Arabic publications from Morocco.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the historic and important Cinema Rif, perhaps the most important movie theater in Morocco. Its history is documented in this recent publication: Album cinématheque de Tanger by Azoury, Philippe, Yto Barrada et al., soon to be at your favorite research library.

My last stop was Rabat, which was hosting a small book festival with some 15 publishers and vendors displaying their materials in tents on Avenue Mohammed V and Rue Gaza au centre ville. There are three very important bookstores in Rabat: Dar al-Amane, Kalilah wa Dimna, and Librairie Livre Services. Dar al-Amane offers a terrific array of Arabic books on religion, philosophy, traditions of Islam, law, etc. while the other two shops offer books in Arabic and French on a wide variety of topics including literature, poetry, popular culture, photography, etc. Rabat also contains a variety of historic sites and a lovely suq, which is decorated in street art like this incredible mural.

There is much more I could say about this trip; Morocco offers a unique experience with its diverse population, climate, foods, and, of course, books. I would like to thank the Duke University Libraries for this opportunity. A special thanks to our esteemed Arabic cataloger, Fouzia el-Gargouri.

Been All Around This World: A Trip to Japan

This post was contributed by Kristina Troost, the Japanese Studies Librarian at Duke.

In my job as Japanese Studies librarian, I often visit Japan. I do this largely to build ties to other librarians or vendors. There are many things that can be accomplished one-on-one that cannot be done remotely. These ties also stand me in good stead when I need to request favors. I think this is true everywhere, but personal connections matter a lot in East Asia. I also visit museums, temples and universities to deepen my knowledge of areas in which I support faculty and students.  Personal conversations allow me to understand what is going on in Japan in ways not possible to achieve in the US. 

My first day in Tokyo, I visited Waseda University library since my main contacts have retired, and we have relied on them in the past for special favors.  Afterwards, I visited the Gender and Sexuality Center, the first such center set up to provide support and information to LGBT students and their allies at a Japanese university.  It has several fully trained professional staff as well as a cadre of student volunteers. 

The next day, I visited the National Women’s Education Center (NWEC). Established in 1977, it is dedicated to promoting gender equality. It has an extensive library of books and ephemera on women worldwide, as well as lodging for researchers if they wish to stay to use the material.  While I have known about it for some time, since Women’s Studies has been a focus of our collection and the faculty I support, I had no idea of its size or the variety of its activities. Known for the databases they have created of their holdings and the digital versions of their ephemera, they also create exhibitions using those materials. The exhibit I saw was on Beate Sirota Gordon, who compiled the human rights clauses, particularly those concerning women, for the Japanese postwar constitution. I was struck by Article 23 and its emphasis on the equality of the sexes.

The study of modern Japanese art is a significant focus of the East Asian Studies program that I have supported for many years.  This trip provided me an opportunity to visit several museums devoted to it. In Tokyo, I went to The Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery and 21-21 Design Sight.  The Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery had a special exhibit, “Tom Sachs Tea Ceremony” as well as selections from their permanent collection given by Mr. Terada. The Terada collection contains some 3,700 artworks with a focus on postwar Japanese art and is relatively accessible.  The Tom Sachs tea ceremony, however, took me some time. He has been reinterpreting ‘chanoyu’ — traditional Japanese tea ceremony — since 2012 through contemporary elements, materials, tools, and techniques. After seeing the film that was part of the exhibit, it made more sense. 21_21 Design Sight has a wonderful exhibit called Sense of Humor.  One of the posters I liked best could not be photographed, but many of the exhibits had me laughing out loud. 

My final exploration of contemporary Japanese art was on the island of Naoshima in the Inland Sea.  In the face of declining population in rural areas of Japan and in the Inland Sea in particular, one industrialist purchased part of Naoshima and has established a number of art museums which hold art by both Japanese and Western artists.  These museums have been designed by Tadao Ando to maximize the impact of the art. 

For example, one museum has several of Monet’s paintings of water lilies. The number of people allowed in the room at one time is limited, and you remove your shoes before entering.  The floor is made from tiny white tiles. There are paintings of water lilies on all four sides. As one of only two or three people in the room, I could appreciate them in a new way. In addition, there are a number of what I would call “installations”.  Together they are known as the Art House project. Artists have taken empty houses and turned the spaces themselves into works of art, each of which are in separate locations and all of which are effective.  One, Minamidera, entails walking into a darkened temple, holding onto a wall and then sitting very still. Eventually, as your eyes grow accustomed to the darkness, you can see something across the room. I recommend, however, having younger eyes than mine. In another installation, the artist added a glass staircase to a shrine that was being renovated; it links the main building to an underground stone chamber, uniting the worlds above and below.

Each time I visit Japan, I try to explore new areas and go to museums and libraries I have not visited before.  Both NWEC and Naoshima have been on my list of places to visit for some time and both exceeded my expectations.  Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery and 21-21 Design Sight were recommended this summer by a faculty member I work with. While my primary goal is to deepen my knowledge and extend my connections in ways that I know will support the students and faculty I work with, I usually find that I use the knowledge I gain in unanticipated ways.