Student helps catalog rare Arabic books

09.17.2013

A Bible written in Arabic, a book about devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary in Syria, and articles about the Immaculate Conception written in Beruit in 1904 are among the treasures recently uncovered at the Libraries.

When we hired Farahnaz Golrooy Motlagh, a Ph.D student in Electrical Engineering, at the library this past summer we gave her the usual tasks, discarding government documents, moving books, and such. But one day when looking through the rare books waiting to be cataloged we realized a few that we had set aside for years are in Arabic. The libraries have access to a massive bibliographic database that libraries around the world contribute catalog records to. Even if a book is in a language none of us know, if the letters are Roman, we can search for it and copy another library’s record into our catalog. When it came to Arabic, however, we were stuck.

Farah was delighted to see the books. She said one was a biography of Omar Khayyam, author of the Rubaiyat, and happily began telling us about his life, a story she knows well. Another was about the social conditions of women in Kuwait, and a third about Arab intellectual communities in the 20th century. We were thrilled. Soon Dr. Jason Bourgeois, Librarian in the Marian Library, had more books for Farah to look at. The two of them sat down together and realized we had several rare books and journal articles about the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Farah has since transliterated the titles, authors, and publishers’ names, so we could create original records for these treasures. There are only a few, less than 20, but we are pleased that now these resources are documented and discoverable. The enrichment of our university community by our international students has resulted in an unexpected benefit for the libraries – and to Marian scholarship.

-Joan Milligan, Catalog and Metadata Specialist