The University's program to expand its offerings in Islamic studies has been helped by recent donations to the Stanford Library by Iranian émigrés including UCLA professor emeritus Amin Banani. Banani, a professor of Persian and history who received his doctorate at Stanford, donated more than 2,000 items, including Iranian historical documents and manuscripts.
Banani's donation comes after last summer's addition of more than 7,000 documents donated by the heirs of a Turkish émigré. These donations are a boost to the University's attempt to increase its offerings in Islamic studies. This program will be funded by a $9 million endowment to increase professorship in Islamic Studies.
Stanford and Hoover libraries are working together to increase their collections and augment the new program. Middle East Curator at Stanford University Library (SUL) John Eilts and the Head Hoover Librarian Elena S. Danielson are collaborating in this effort.
In an effort to make Islamic materials more accessible, Hoover closed down part of its Middle Eastern department and moved many Middle Eastern books to the Stanford University Library so that they could be archived digitally in Socrates, the SUL online searchable database, Danielson said. In addition, the Hoover and Stanford libraries have begun to collaborate more effectively.
"John Eilts and I are trying to coordinate in a more rational way with each other so that there is no overlap in each other's efforts," she said. "We are working with SUL to digitize our materials to make documents more readily accessible."
Despite these steps towards a more viable Islamic program, the University has a long way to go, according to Prof. Joel Beinin, an expert in Middle Eastern policy.
"We need a very substantial expansion in Islamic studies." Beinin said. "The University has taken a good first step, but we are going to need more faculty appointments and more in our libraries if we are going to have any sort of serious program."
Beinin also criticized the Hoover Institution as not showing enough interest in the Middle East. The Hoover Institute has closed down some of its Middle East department and has not had a head curator for the Middle East since 2002. Curator emeritus Edward Jajko agreed with Beinin that perhaps more attention should be paid to the Middle East by the Hoover Institution.
"I think it is unfortunate that at this point in history the Hoover Institute has chosen to close down its Middle Eastern studies department," Jajko said.
Although there is no longer a head curator for the Middle East at the Hoover Institution Library, Danielson believes that the University is taking the right steps to increase its collection.
"The lack of a formal curator has not stopped us from collecting Islamic documents," she said. "We are getting materials from Afghanistan, Pakistan, from Hamas in Southern Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries through a very effective network that has been in place for decades to obtain these items."
The network is made up of journalists, military officers and underground contacts, Danielson said. The Hoover Institute collects primary source documents such as posters, pamphlets, postcards, insignia and flags from 1900 to the present to document social change while the Stanford University Libraries focus on materials for classes such as academic books.
"It is a very difficult region to collect in, and I would not want to send my employees into parts of the region," said Danielson. "But the Hoover Institute recruits travelers and journalists, many who are non-American so they will not encounter anti-Americanism."
In addition to increasing collections from the Middle East to boost Islamic studies, Stanford is looking to expand its library with additions from Islamic countries in central Asia such as Uzbekistan and Indonesia.