Bridging Culture’s Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys is a National Endowment for the Humanities and American Library Association (ALA) program that offers scholar-created book and film series to help communities nationwide become more familiar with the people, places, history, faith, and cultures of Muslims around the world and within the U.S.
We feel that this is a valuable experience to offer to Maine communities, and we have received an enormous response from libraries statewide whose librarians are eager for this programming. That response is hardly surprising; we live in a global world in which learning about others’ many cultures is important. That’s particularly important to public libraries, which are the ideal places to share information, foster learning, and inspire conversations.
Bridging Culture’s Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys is being offered through 953 libraries and state humanities councils nationwide: 36 state humanities councils (which, like the Maine Humanities Council, will offer the program through public libraries throughout their states), 196 academic libraries, 115 community college libraries, and 606 additional public libraries.
The goals of the program are compelling (quoted from the NEH/ALA information sent to participating organizations):
- To introduce readers to some new and diverse perspectives on the people, places, histories, beliefs, practices, and cultures of Muslims in the United States and around the world;
- To distribute information to libraries about Muslim lives and culture (this at a critical time of library budget cuts);
- To engage communities in discussions about Muslim lives and cultures with the hope that these programs will have a lasting impact on non-Muslim Americans’ knowledge and understanding of Islamic cultures, and bring people of all backgrounds together to discuss connections between their own beliefs, communities, cultures and shared humanity;
- To raise the visibilities of libraries as crucial community centers, the place for active civic engagement; and
- To encourage and strengthen partnerships between many organizations, from libraries and humanities councils to scholars of literature, religion, and history; to interfaith groups, museums, and other community organizations, as well as the wider public.
So why Muslim lives and cultures?
From the Bridging Culture’s Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys website: “The collection is not intended to engage debate about the politics of Islam, nor does it claim to represent a comprehensive bibliography for understanding Islam or Muslim cultures. It is, rather, an invitation to hear from a diverse set of voices-those of Muslim men and women across time and place-about their daily experiences with their families and communities, and with literature, art, and religious belief. Whether familiar or unfamiliar, these Muslim Journeys offer readers an opportunity to experience other cultures through the prism of their own interests and concerns.”
We think that Maine audiences will embrace the opportunity to experience other cultures through the lens of their own understandings, as well, in some cases, to share their own during the series. That’s what the humanities really are, after all: sharing ideas, exploring new grounds, and understanding.
Libraries: Points of View: Muslim Journeys is available as a Let’s Talk About It series.
(Major support for the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf was provided by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. Additional support for the arts and media components was provided by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Funding for Let’s Talk About It: Muslim Journeys program grants has been provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of its Bridging Cultures initiative.)
Originally published in Notes From an Open Book e-newsletter, November 2013