September 10, 2003 — The J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah offers a vast and rich collection for those researching Middle East studies. Included in the structure is the Aziz S. Atiya Middle East Library, one of the largest of its kind in North America, with holdings of books, manuscripts and periodicals in the languages of Arabic, Hebrew, Persian and Turkish.
When it comes to adding materials related to Iran-those published in Persian-library staff must go the distance-literally. Because of a long-held trade embargo imposed by the United States on Iran, acquiring Persian books for the collection is difficult, but not impossible. This Saturday, Sept. 13, Hassan Bakhti, library collections specialist at the Middle East Library, will travel to his home country of Iran to purchase books for the collection on Persian and, when available, Turkish history, literature, political science and poetry.
Bakhti attended the Tehran International Book Fair in 2002 and was able to make a number of contacts with publishers and book dealers. Because of his dual citizenship in Iran and the United States, Bakhti can purchase books legally in Iran and have them mailed directly to Utah. He leaves with a handpicked list of books and other materials requested by Associate Professor Soheila Amirsoleimani and Assistant Professor Roberta Micallef, faculty members in the Languages and Literature Department of the University of Utah. Amirsoleimani teaches Persian and Micallef teaches Turkish. Both teach through the Middle East Center at the University of Utah, which is directed by Dr. Ibrahim Karawan, who has helped make the trip possible with a personal financial contribution and a donation from the Middle East Center.
At the request of Amirsoleimani and Micallef, Bakhti will be purchasing books on the languages of Iran and Turkey. Amirsoleimani explains, “The books I need for the classes I teach relate to both research and teaching. I have requested the most recent books in teaching Persian in Persian, out-of-print historical/ literary texts from the 11th century, contemporary poetry and fiction written in Iran now and an encyclopedic work in progress that was started after the Islamic Revolution of 1979.”
The new additions to the Middle East Library would not have been immediately possible without Bakhti making the trip. “We are so delighted to have Hassan available to make the trip to purchase the items needed by faculty now,” explains Walter Jones, acting head of the Middle East Library. “Plus, there’s no substitute for going into a bookstore; hands-on is definitely the best way to select a book.”
Jones comments, “Hassan’s language background and familiarity with Iranian dealers and academic institutions make him the perfect person to buy books on the library’s behalf. We are fortunate to have Hassan on our staff. We are working towards an even stronger Middle East Collection.”