Last fall, as the Faith Development Office was preparing discussion guides for Muhammad: The Story of a Prophet and Reformer by Sarah Conover (UUA/Skinner House, 2013), we learned from Mary Benard, Editorial Director of our Publications Office, that Muhammad had been reviewed by Booklist. This is a big deal!
Booklist, published by the American Library Association for more than 100 years, offers reviews, widely considered extremely reliable, to help librarians decide what to buy. Its print magazines, website and database, e-newsletters, webinars, and more resources support municipal, school, and other libraries to build their collections and advise patrons on what to read, view, and listen to.
What if, Mary wondered, we encouraged Unitarian Universalists to audit their local library holdings on Islam? Where gaps exist, we might suggest responsible resources, including Muhammad as well as Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation by Eboo Patel (Beacon Press). Acts of Faith was the UUA Common Read for 2011-2012 and also has a discussion guide.
“…Muhammad details Muhammad’s education, his first marriage, the revelation of the Qur’an, and the anger he faced from his community…. cultivates a strong sense of place… opens the door to a more nuanced understanding…” — Sarah Hunter, Booklist, Nov. 15, 2013
How do libraries discover gaps in their collections? How do they identify new resources? I visited my local library to find out more (and to do an audit of biographies of Muhammad and resources on Islam). The librarian explained that staff select new books after reading reviews in The New York Times Book Review, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and others. The big issue is—can you guess?—lack of funding. The librarian said that when the Recession hit in 2008, the budget for new books dropped to $100,000 from over $1,000,000 just a few years earlier. A $100,000 budget for one library? Not so bad. But, no, that’s for the entire county library system of 22 libraries!
So – put your faith into action with these simple steps:
- After reading Muhammad, go to your public or school library. Do an audit of the materials on Islam and Muhammad.
- Talk with the librarian about what you find and do not find. Suggest adding Muhammad to the collection. Mention the book’s favorable review by Booklist in November, 2013.
- Find a Muslim or interfaith group to endorse your request to include Muhammad in library collections.
- Find out about organizations that support the library. My library accepts donations through a Friends of the Library group as well as a Library Foundation. Make a donation or volunteer your time.
- If the library hosts book discussion groups, partner with a Muslim group to lead one. Facilitate conversation using the UUA’s Discussion Guide for Muhammad.
- If the library hosts author talks, ask them to invite Sarah Conover.