We are pleased to invite you to the Oman Library's re-opening festivities from Wednesday, June 22 to Friday, June 24, 2022. Kickstarting the week is a virtual panel on Middle East library collections in the United States, followed by an in-person, two-day book sale.
Panel: Area Studies, the Cold War, and the History of the US Academic Library Collections
This panel brings together Middle East Studies librarians to discuss how Cold War-era programs like the Food for Peace Act, whose revenues supported the Library of Congress' foreign offices in the Middle East, functioned and contributed to foreign language acquisitions in the U.S., and how they continue to shape how knowledge is produced on the region within American academia.
Head, Near East Section & Turkic Area Specialist, Library of Congress
Former Field Director, Library of Congress, Cairo, 1975–1985
Field Director, Library of Congress, Nairobi and Cairo
Five Key Takeaways
- The introduction of Public Law 480 greatly shaped the collections of the Library of Congress and more than thirty U.S. research libraries: In 1954, President Eisenhower signed into law the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act, commonly known as the PL480. This allowed for “friendly” countries to purchase US surplus agricultural products using local currency. This currency was then used for economic development programs in those countries. After librarians lobbied Congress, the funds were also used to purchase books by the Library of Congress overseas offices.
- The PL480 funds supported acquisitions by the Library of Congress Cairo office from the 1960s to the late 1970s as a result of PL480: During the time of PL480, the office bought local publications with Egyptian pounds. However, in the late 1970s, PL480 funds were running low, which led to the program being succeeded by the Middle East Cooperative Acquisitions Program (MECAP). MECAP offered multiple advantages: it gave each library control over the countries and subjects of interest, allowed for staff to travel more widely in the region, and permitted the purchase of materials with US dollars. Today, the Cairo office covers 22 countries.
- Today, there are six field offices for the Library of Congress: The jobs of these offices are to oversee a large area to acquire library materials for both the Library of Congress and CAP participants, catalog and classify the materials, and ship the materials through the Embassy’s US shipping facilities. Without this production from the field offices, Middle East collections in the United States would not be where they are today.
- The Library of Congress field office in Cairo has never closed: Since 1967, even when US-Egypt relations were at their lowest, the office has never closed. Despite times when the Ambassador or the Chief of Mission would not allow a US field director to have permanent residents or in 2011 when Mr. Kopycki, the current field director for the Library of Congress Nairobi and Cairo offices, was obliged to leave Egypt on ordered departure, the office continued functioning and operating.
- Both in the US and abroad, political and public health crises affected operations: Abroad, the impact of politics directly affects the way the offices function. When countries are under US sanctions, field offices must find alternative ways to pay for and obtain materials from that area. There are also times when shipping cannot take place, making it difficult to transport materials back and forth. The Library of Congress is affected by domestic politics; for instance, on January 6th, 2022, the Capitol Police blocked entrances of the Library and enforced checkpoints for all employees.
Book Sale & Open House
1763 N St. NW.
Washington, D.C. 20036
Thursday, June 23 and Friday, June 24
The Oman Library book sale is back! Come peruse our aisles for books in a variety of languages—English, Arabic, Farsi, Turkish—and on a variety of subjects.
All books will be $4, unless otherwise marked.
It is also possible to browse a portion of the books for sale by the Oman Library online at our AbeBooks site. In order to have a purchase shipped to them, patrons should make the purchase on the AbeBooks site. If they prefer to pick it up in person, they may write directly to the Oman Library at email@example.com in lieu of purchasing online.