This month is Arab-American Heritage Month, which recognizes the contributions Arab-Americans have made to the U.S. In that vein, I’d like to highlight some fictional librarians who are Arabs, Muslims, and others in real life for this post.
First, I’d like to point out some facts. Currently there are, according to Arab America, over 3.5 million Arab Americans in the U.S., an inexact number since they are not recognized as a minority group on the federal level, 90% of whom live in urban areas. Furthermore, 66% of them live in 10 states, and 33% live in a few states: California, Michigan, New York, and New Jersey. 40% even have a bachelor’s degree or higher, showing high educational attainment. There are various stories which can be read. There is a Arab/Middle Eastern librarian listed by Jennifer Snoek-Brown in 2017 on her site, Reel Librarians: Erick Avari as Dr. Terrence Bey in The Mummy (1999). This film, unfortunately, has wretched stereotypes of Arabs, which some have examined, noting Egyptian workers are shown as “disposable, frightened props”, with some calling it an anti-Arab film and a “racist masterpiece” that is a “consummate example of bigotry”. It was so bad, that there is the story of Amir El Bayoumi, a young Egyptian-American who has originally signed onto the film, left the movie set, arguing that it was a “blatant humiliation” of his culture.  On the other hand are real-life Arab-American librarians like Ghada Kanafini Elturk, a person of Lebanese descent who was working as a librarian in Boulder, Colorado in September 2001, or the director of Morrow Library at Marshall University, Majed Khader, who was born in Jordan. There’s others who speak Arabic but are American and live in the Mideast like librarian David Hirsch.
Beyond this is author Ameen F. Rihani (1876-1940). He is first American with Arab heritage to “devote himself to writing literature, to publish a novel in English,” and author of Arab descent “to write English essays, poetry, novels, short stories, art critiques and travel chronicles.” That’s just one example. This differs from the issues and struggles that librarians, in the Arab world, have to deal with, distinct from those in the U.S., obviously. The late Lebanese-American scholar and journalist Jack G. Shaheen in one of his seminal works, Reel Bad Arabs, defines Arabs as the hundreds of millions of people who reside in, and the millions around the world in the diaspora, from 22 Arab states (Algeria, Bahrain, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen). Shaheen also notes that many English words, like algebra, chemistry, and coffee, have English roots, while Arab intellectuals made it possible for Western scholars to practice and develop “advanced educational systems.” Arabs also pioneered water works, irrigation, measuring latitude and longitude, invented the water clock, and were advanced in astronomical discoveries, along with the concept of gravity and tradition of legal learning which Jews played an important role in. Arabs have lifestyles which defy stereotyping, which has endured for centuries, especially in Europe. 
While there are some assorted fictional librarians who are Arabs, like an unnamed librarian in a puzzle game, more of them exist in real-life than any in fiction. Consider the Muslim woman, writer, and librarian Essraa Nawar, an Islamic school librarian named Kirin, or the eight Muslim librarians behind Hijabi Librarians, a site which reviews young adult and children’s literature featuring Muslim communities and characters. Unfortunately, even a search on their website pulls up very few Arab or Muslim librarians, other than Yasmin the Librarian, a Pakistani American second-grader. Further searches pulled up many more books, however. Nour, the protagonist of Nour’s Secret Library, and her friend, go a library named Fajr, in Syria, collecting books to stock shelves and checking out books, even making their own secret library. Additionally, there’s Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq, which is based on the story of a Muslim woman who saved 30,000 books from destruction during the Iraq War, or the story of Alia Muhammad Baker, a librarian in Basra, Iraq, in the book The librarian of Basra. 
There are further library scenes in other books with Muslim characters. In You Can Control Your Voice: Loud or Quiet? You Choose the Ending, the protagonist can stay a longer time or shorter time in the library depending on how loud or quiet she is. In Lailah’s Lunchbox, a school librarian encourages the Muslim protagonist to express herself. In Little Badman and the Invasion of the Killer Aunties, which has a Pakistani Muslim protagonist, a slug comes out of a substitute librarian. In Layla’s Head Scarf, a librarian gives Layla, the Muslim protagonist, a book about her country. In Zaynab and Zakariya Learn to Recycle, the protagonists reach out to their parents in the library to learn about recycling. Also, in Muktar and the Camels, the Somali Muslim protagonist becomes a traveling librarian who rides a camel and in The Library Bus, Pari and her mother takes education on the road with a library bus in Afghanistan. The same author of the latter book wrote another about Afghans, titled A Sky-Blue Bench, focused on a disabled young girl. Despite these books, however, there is still a general lack of Muslim and Arab librarians, which sadly isn’t a surprise considering the lack of Muslim librarians in librarianship as a whole. 
When it comes to real librarians who are Muslims, Arabs, or both, there are scattered blogs and resources online, either of those in the West, Mideast or elsewhere. Others shared history of libraries in Spain, during the Islamic golden age, how a novel by Geraldine Brooks’s People of the Book is based on a “true story of an ancient Jewish codex saved from the fire by a Muslim librarian”, a Black Muslim librarian sparing the interest of José “Cha Cha” Jiménez in social justice and leading him to found the Young Lords Party. Some scholars argued that progress achieved by Muslims in science “during the caliphate was greatly supported by the existence of libraries”.  Others pointed out that historians divided the libraries in the early centuries of Islam into three types: public (schools or mosques), semi-public (only open to a specific group) and private (owned by scholars and for their personal needs) libraries. The greatness of these libraries was recorded by Ibn Sina and others, noting libraries with tens of thousands of volumes.
There were further stories on heroic Islamic librarians and the Muslim women who restored an old library in Morocco. Others worked to combat stereotypes, met together with other Muslim librarians, or provided history of past libraries. Some have even proposed Islamic classification schemes or used a revised version of the Dewey Decimal System (DDC). Some scholars pointed to the role of Islamic librarianship, noting that Islamic knowledge traditions raised librarians as so-called “knowledge workers” and scholars, and became a manifestation of their faith. This interconnects with the association of librarianship with what is sacred, religious, and even seeing librarians as priests. It may even be part of what some claimed was the “great borderless empire” of libraries which have the power to build civilization and have a “special place of honor” in society. There is also the role of WCOMLIS, the World Congress of Muslim Librarians and Information Scientists, which appears to meet every year, and Islamic ethical codes, which some argue can be applied in library settings. 
Through it all there is the continued problem of low productivity of Arab librarians in contributing scholarship. This is in part with very few Arabic library journals, difficulties in determining how many librarians there in the Arab world, and a gender gap. The scholar Mahmoud Sherif Zakaria found that men published almost 83% of the articles in Arabic journals, while women published the other 17%, rooted in the fact that women may not have the time to publish or develop their research skills. The author concluded that the proportion of contributions of Arab librarians to the library literature “seems weak” and called for further scholarship from such librarians to promote professional library staff, and strengthen / gain professional and research recognition in the academic community” 
Rashid Siddiqui, a scholar at the University of Leichester in the UK, called for, in 1988, the Islamizing of librarianship with Islamic-based classification systems. In his four-page article, he argued, with merit, that “library science, as developed in the West, is bound to reflect the image of Western civilization. Subject classification, the rules for cataloguing, lists of subject headings and other techniques employed to exploit literature all portray the Western way of life.” He pointed out that there was trouble at cataloging Muslim authors with librarians continuing to follow “Anglo- American cataloguing rules”, argued that the DDC had an “American and Christian bias”, pointed to lack of bibliographical indexes and bias within “Western bibliographic data” has led to problems. He concluded by calling for Islamizing librarianship to open up “avenues of knowledge”, to make sure Islamic scholarship and learning is recognized. 
Hopefully, in the future, there are characters who are Muslims, Arabs, or both, which are librarians. It is more likely in Western animation and webcomics than anime, as the latter medium continues to be a bit of a monolith and lacks in representation of characters beyond Japanese culture for the most part. This is mainly the case due to the ethnic composition of Japan itself. After all, librarians have been said to influence young adult fiction trends, influence what teens read, can promote diversity, and libraries hold key places in neighborhoods, including in the Black community, but undoubtedly elsewhere too. 
With that, I conclude this post and hope to find more characters in the future which I can write about on this blog and share with you all. As always, comments on this post are welcome.
© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.
 Shaheen, Jack G. Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (New York: Olive Branch Press, 2001), 9, 333-335
 Ibid, 2-3, 6-7, 11, 539.
 “Arab Librarian.” edu-fun store Egypt. Accessed June 20, 2022; Peters, Alison. “Cool Stuff Diverse Librarians Do.” Book Riot, Feb. 5, 2016; Younus, Zainab bint. “Muslim Bookstagram Awards: A Chat With An Islamic School Librarian.” Muslim Matters, Mar. 19, 2022; “Bios.” Hijabi Librarians. Accessed June 20, 2022; “About Us.” Hijabi Librarians. Accessed June 20, 2022; “Favorite Books of 2021.” Hijabi Librarians, Feb. 2, 2022; Kirin, “Nour’s Secret Library by Wafa’ Tarnowska illustrated by Vali Mintzi.” Notes from an Islamic School Librarian, Dec. 29, 2021; Kirin, “Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq by Mark Alan Stamaty.” Notes from an Islamic School Librarian, Sept. 25, 2020; Kirin. “Non-Fiction.” Notes from an Islamic School Librarian. Accessed June 20, 2022; “The librarian of Basra.” Diverse Book Finder. Accessed June 20, 2022; Kirin. “The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq By Jeanette Winter.” Notes from an Islamic School Librarian, Jul. 26, 2015. Also see Mahasin and Ariana, “Evaluating Muslims in KidLit: A Guide for Librarians, Educators, and Reviewers,” Hijabi Librarians, Oct. 3, 2020; “Welcome to Hijabi Librarians!” Hijabi Librarians, June 15, 2018; “Author Interview: Sana Rafi.” Hijabi Librarians, Mar. 13, 2022; Aleem, Mahasin Abuwi. “Interview with Author Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow.” Hijabi Librarians, Feb. 10, 2019; “Saffron Ice Cream: A Book Discussion.” Hijabi Librarians, Aug. 15, 2018; Salamah, Hadeal. “Author Interview: Rukhsana Khan.” Hijabi Librarians, Aug. 11, 2018; “Author and Illustrator Interview: Saadia Faruqi and Hatem Aly.” Hijabi Librarians, Jul. 31, 2018; “Author Interview: Hena Khan.” Hijabi Librarians, Jun. 14 2018; “Author Interview: Alexis York Lumbard.” Hijabi Librarians, Jun. 12, 2018; “Blogroll.” Hijabi Librarians. Accessed June 20, 2022; “Advocacy, Grants and Scholarships, and Research.” Hijabi Librarians. Accessed June 20, 2022; “PK-12 Resources.” Hijabi Librarians. Accessed June 20, 2022; “Books.” Hijabi Librarians. Accessed June 20, 2022.
 Kirin, “You Can Control Your Voice: Loud or Quiet? You Choose the Ending by Connie Colwell Miller illustrated by Victoria Assanelli.” Notes from an Islamic School Librarian, Mar. 2, 2020; Kirin, “Little Badman and the Invasion of the Killer Aunties by Humza Arshad & Henry White illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff.” Notes from an Islamic School Librarian, Oct. 25, 2019; “Lailah’s lunchbox.” Diverse Book Finder. Accessed June 20, 2022; Kirin, “Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story by Reem Faruqi illustrated by Lea Lyon.” Notes from an Islamic School Librarian, Jul. 7, 2016; Kirin, “Layla’s Head Scarf by Miriam Cohen illustrated by Ronald Himler.” Notes from an Islamic School Librarian, Dec. 10, 2018; Kirin, “Zaynab and Zakariya Learn to Recycle by Fehmida Ibrahim Shah.” Notes from an Islamic School Librarian, Dec. 10, 2018; “Muktar and the camels.” Diverse Book Reader. Accessed June 20, 2022; Kirin, “Muktar and the Camels by Janet Graber illustrated by Scott Mack.” Notes from an Islamic School Librarian, Feb. 2, 2018; Kirin, “The Library Bus by Bahram Rahman illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard.” Notes from an Islamic School Librarian, Apr. 14, 2021; “The Library Bus.” Diverse Book Reader. Accessed June 20, 2022; “A Sky-Blue Bench.” Diverse Book Reader. Accessed June 20, 2022. “2020 Ramadan Reads: Recommended Books.” Hijabi Librarians, May 18, 2020; “How and Why We Started this Site and Why We Chose Our Name.” Hijabi Librarians, June 10, 2018. There’s also a mention of a library being built in David Macaulay’s Mosque. Additionally, the books The Most Pleasant Festival of Sacrifice: Little Barul’s Eid Celebration, Alana’s Bananas, Rashid and the Haupmann Diamond (there’s library research) which are by Muslim authors and have Muslim characters all have library scenes. Kirin also noted that some people would criticize a Muslim character’s identifying as LGBTQ and others “angered by my mentioning of them as potential flags”. She also noted in one review about reserving “recommendations to college age”.
 Blogger Profile. Muslim Librarian in Amman. Blogger, Google. Accessed June 20, 2022; “Home.” Muslim Librarian in Amman. Accessed June 20, 2022; “Home.” Early Muslim libraries in Spain. Accessed June 20, 2022; Ursula K Le Guin. “The shelf-life of shadows.” The Guardian, Jan. 28, 2008; Reichard, Raquel. “5 Things History Books Won’t Tell You About the Young Lords’ Activism.” Remezcla, Sept. 26, 2018; Antonio, Muhammad Syafii, Aam Slamet Rusydiana, Yayat Rahmat Hidayat, Dwi Ratna Kartikawati, and Amelia Tri Puspita. “Librarian in Islamic Civilization.” Library Philosophy and Practice, Dec. 3, 2021, p. 15-18.On the final page, it notes librarians in the history of Islamic civilization, including Al-Nadim, Abd al-Salam ibn al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Bashri, Al-Qayrawani, Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin al-Hasan bin Zarrarah al-Tha’I, al-Ukhbari, and al-Wasithi. This latter name sees to be different from the Arab painter and calligrapher Yahya ibn Mahmud al-Wasiti, while Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani may have been different from Al-Qayrawani mentioned in the article. However, Ibn al-Nadim is the same as Al-Nadim mentioned in the article, with his Wikipedia page noting his role in libraries. The “Libraries of the Muslim World (859-2000)” page which is mentioned in the next note, points to Ibn Miskawayh who headed the Library of Abu’l-Fadl ibn al-‘Amid in Shiraz, a public library in Bukhara, librarians in Islamic Spanish cities like Dar al-Kitabat getting a salary, Amir Khusraw having a valued position as a librarian in the Sultanate of Delhi, chief librarians of libraries in Mughal India, director and librarians of the Library of Zayb al Nisa, chief librarians in an Indian royal library in Rampur, and librarians of the National Library of Pakistan. That is only scratching the surface.
 Brooks, Geraldine. “The Book of Exodus.” The New Yorker, Dec. 3, 2007; Breeding, Jordan, Brittini Patterson, and Kian Lastman. “5 Amazing Acts Of Mercy Toward Horrible People.” Cracked.com, Jun. 25, 2017; Fugard, Lisa. “All the World’s a Page.” New York Times, Jan. 20, 2008; Werft, Meghan. “Meet The 2 Muslim Women Who Built & Restored The World’s First Library.” Global Citizen, Jul. 27, 2016; “Librarian Combats Muslim Stereotypes.” LISNews, Jan. 14, 2009; “Muslim Librarians to Meet in Malaysia.” LISNews, Oct. 6, 2008; Virk, Zakaria. “Libraries of the Muslim World (859-2000).” Muslim Heritage, Nov. 26, 2019; Wong, Megan A. “A comic about truth, justice, and the Islamic way.” Christian Science Monitor, Apr. 25, 2007, excerpted on LISNews; “The Catalogues of the Queen of Sheba.” Quantara.de, Apr. 29, 2009; Monastra, Yahya. (1996). “The Fourth Congress of Muslim Librarians and Information Scientists.” American Journal of Islam and Society, Vol. 13, No. 1, 133-134; Khaldi, Omar. (1989) “Third Conference of Council of Muslim Librarians and Information Scientists (COMLIS III).” The American Journal of Islam and Society, Vol. 6, No. 1, 185-186; “Libraries.” Oxford Islamic Studies Online. Accessed June 20, 2022; “Muslim Journeys and Your Community: Managing Controversy, Maximizing Impact.” Programming Librarian, Oct. 24, 2013; Molazem, Nola. “An Islamic Directory of Library and Information Professional Ethic Codes” [Abstract]. Researchgate, 2011; Baharuddin, Mohammad Fazli and Shaharom TM Sulaiman(2015). “The Challenges of Strengthening Islamic Librarianship: Retrospect History to Shape the Future,” Journal of Information and Knowledge Management, Vol. 5, No. 2, 23-29. Also see: “I’m a librarian who banned a book. Here’s why” There’s also various stock photography and videos, like “Medium slowmo of Muslim female librarian in eyeglasses and headscarf talking to African American university student with disability sitting in wheelchair by wooden desk reading thick book” on storyblocks, “Portrait of cheerful Asian muslim female librarian wearing hijab, smiling crossed arms confidence gesture against book shell in library stock video” on iStock, “Portrait of cheerful Asian muslim female librarian wearing hijab and smiling, woman standing against books in library” on Adobe Stock, “Portrait of cheerful Asian muslim female librarian wearing hijab, looking at camera and smiling, woman standing against books in library” on alamy.
 Zakaria, Mahmoud Sherif (2015). “Scholarly productivity of Arab librarians in Library and Information Science journals from 1981 to 2010:.” IFLA Journal, Vol. 41, No. 1, 72-78. For more on the IFLA Journal, see here.
 Siddiqui, Rashid. (1988) “The Intellectual Role of Islamizing Librarianship.” The American Jounal of Islamic Social Sciences, Vol. 5, No. 2, 275-278. Link to abstract is here.
 Eldemerdash, Nadia. “Why YA Literature Leads The Pack In Muslim Representation.” Headscarves and Hardbacks, Jun. 26, 2017; Nadia, “Stop Telling Teenagers What They Should Be Reading.” Headscarves and Hardbacks, Mar. 5, 2017; Nicole, Angie. “Our Stories Matter 1st Annual African American Read-In.” Black Children’s Books and Authors, Mar. 1, 2017; “What’s Your Story?: Jacquelyn Randle: Founder of C & E Reflections Inc.” Black Children’s Books and Authors, Nov. 10, 2021. There is one article which intersects both, a chapter by Rebecca Hankins entitled “Racial Realism of Foolish Optimism: An African American Muslim Woman in the Field” in Where Are All The Librarians of Color?: The Experiences of People of Color (ed. Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Juarez, Library Juice Press: Sacramento, CA, 2015), which I mentioned in my post in February about real life Black librarians who should also be in fiction. She pointed out, on page 213 that there are only a “few African American women who lead academic librarianship” while the archival world has traditionally been the domain of white male librarianship, with very little happening “to interrupt that paradigm,” including very few Muslim archivists.