Libraries support students as they interrogate, study, and negotiate meaning together. Last month, I wrote about a special collection in my library that is focused on Islamic culture, heritage, and history. It is called the Mowjood Collection and it inspires many collaborations—a key focus for me this year. Last week, with the support of the Mowjood endowment and the Humanities program, we hosted a special speaker to talk with students from our Honors Global Literature class about the 13th-century Sufi mystic poet Rumi.
Have you read Rumi’s poetry? If so, you know it overflows with curiosity, love, and happiness. If not, I envy you for getting to encounter this treasure for the first time!
We were very fortunate. The students met with Ustadh Feraidoon Mojadedi, a Rumi scholar, community activist, and book store owner. He expounded on Rumi’s lifelong education and the major themes of Rumi’s work. Tellingly, students who had little experience with Rumi’s work beforehand left the event excited to check out books and read this inspiring poetry.
Ustadh Mojadedi shared a Rumi story (in Persian and English) called “Quarreling Over Names.” Briefly, a person gives a coin to a quartet—each person wants to use the coin to buy grapes, but due to their backgrounds and experience with language, they misunderstand each other and get in a fight:
A man gave four persons a silver coin. The (first) one (who was a
Persian) said, “I will give this for (buying) some angûr.”
An other one (who) was an Arab said, “No! I want `inab — not
angûr, O deceitful (man)!”
The (third) one was a Turk and he said, “This (coin) is mine. I
don’t want `inab. I want üzüm.”
The (fourth) one, an Anatolian Greek, said, “Quit (all) this talk! I
As the men begin to fight, the narrator chides them and calls for a reliable translator, a “master of the meaning of secrets, a venerable one with the knowledge of numerous languages.”
It might be tempting to think of a librarian as this venerable one, but it is really our job to help our students become these venerable people, to be well-versed in numerous literacies and abilities. Our promise is that students leave our spaces better able to negotiate meaning and act as good citizens in an admittedly fraught world.
While collaboration represents one major focus for my library this year, I am also looking for ways to promote literacies. Special speakers and special events help to rile students into action and open new horizons. How are you promoting collaborations and literacies in your library? Leave comments below.