Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Librarian Trains Others in Lebanon

by Becky St. Clair and Chandler Jordana

Felipe Tan, senior cataloger at the Andrews University James White Library, visited Middle East University in Beirut, Lebanon, earlier in March to host a workshop for the personnel of the George Arthur Keough Library. “The overall goal was to help the MEU personnel re-catalog the growing collection of Islamic, Arabic and theology collections of the library,” explains Tan. “I provided them with the know-how and tools to accomplish this task.”

The Dewey Decimal Classification is a commonly used scheme that, according to Larry Lichtenwalter, dean of the faculty of philosophy and theology at MEU, “scatters books under broad headings.” The Library of Congress Classification, however, has been designed for academic and research collections in specialized disciplines. It is used by most academic libraries in the United States and in several other countries. Lichtenwalter hinted at his own partiality towards the newly implemented system, emphasizing that it will make all of the holdings within his department easier to find.

Tan carefully initiated the re-cataloging process at the MEU Library. According to Lichtenwalter, he wanted Tan to reorganize the library collection to foster a more effective research environment for graduate and undergraduate students in anticipation of more cooperative programs with Andrews.

“Because of our close collaboration with Andrews University, especially in the School of Theology, it was advised that we transform our collection,” asserted Farid Khoury, head librarian, who also noted that the Library of Congress Classification is used by most American academic libraries. “Therefore,” continued Khoury, “in our last academic resource committee, we made the decision to start this process with the collection of the Faculty of Philosophy and Theology and the Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies.”

Khoury additionally emphasized that this transition will serve as a “pilot step after which the overall process will be revisited and evaluated” and that the entire library would not be converted until the staff had experienced and evaluated the changes brought about by the switch firsthand.

“A decision will later be made as to whether we will use both the Dewey Decimal System and the LC Classification System for our library or if everything will be transformed into the latter scheme.”

Lyndi Khalil, assistant librarian, also participated in the workshop.

“Felipe was very professional and knowledgeable and helped us to consider things we didn’t realize needed to be considered,” says Khalil. “He would love to come back and visit our library and told us that he’s always available for email consultation should any future dilemmas occur.”

MEU is constantly seeking for innovative ways in which their facilities and infrastructure can be positively altered, however, the re-cataloging of the library archives of an entire faculty is exceptionally noteworthy because it would make MEU’s George Arthur Keough Library the first academic library in Lebanon to utilize the precise Library of Congress Classification System.

“I found the MEU library personnel intelligent and eager to learn,” says Tan. “I enjoyed the exposure to the culture of the Middle East and learned a lot from mingling with the people. The Lebanese are friendly, approachable and eager to learn and move forward. I was glad for the opportunity to help Middle East University.”

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