Near and Middle Eastern Studies Collection Development Policy

Bobst Library, New York University
Peter Magierski, Librarian for Near and Middle Eastern Studies


The Bobst Middle East collection supports faculty research and the curricula of the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, the Program in Near Eastern Studies, and the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies (GSAS). These programs encompass the following degrees: Ph.D. in Middle Eastern Studies (Dept. of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies), Ph.D. in History and Middle Eastern Studies (joint degree of the Dept. of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and the History Dept.), M.A. and Ph.D. in Hebrew and Judaic Studies, M.A. in Near Eastern Studies (offered through the Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies), M.A. in Near Eastern Studies and Journalism (KCNES), M.A. in Near Eastern Studies with a concentration in Museum Studies (KCNES), and M.A. in Near Eastern Studies with a Business Option (KCNES and the Graduate School of Business). The Dept. of Middle East and Islamic Studies and Skirball Dept. of Hebrew and Judaic Studies also offer majors and minors for the B.A. degree. The Program in Near Eastern Studies is interdisciplinary, drawing its faculty from a number of FAS and GSAS departments. Consequently, the collection also supports research and curricular needs in the departments of Anthropology, Economics, Sociology, Comparative Literature, Music, Cinema Studies, Fine Arts, and Religious Studies.

Program emphases which affect this collection statement are the Middle East since the rise of Islam, the Ancient Near East, and Biblical Studies.


  1. Language

    Materials in modern and classical Arabic, Persian, Ottoman and modern Turkish, and Biblical and modern Hebrew are collected most heavily. Egyptian, Akkadian, Ugaritic, Assyrian, and Sumerian are acquired actively, but selectively. Coptic, Pushtu, Urdu, other Iranian and Turkic languages are collected very selectively. The Library does not collect materials in Armenian and the languages of the Caucasus.

    The Library also acquires very comprehensively materials in European languages; in particular English, French, and German, and to a lesser degree in Italian, Spanish, Russian, and other European languages.

  2. Geographical Areas

    Areas collected most intensively include all of North Africa and the Middle East from Morocco through Afghanistan. Materials on or from Central Asia, Muslim Europe, and the diaspora communities are collected more selectively; those on or from Pakistan and Muslim India, sub-Saharan Africa, and East Asia are acquired very selectively.

  3. Chronological Periods and Subject Areas

    The collection encompasses a broad chronological spectrum. For the Ancient Near East, materials on the Syro-Palestinian region and Biblical Studies are collected most heavily. Mesopotamia and Egypt are collected more selectively. The Library is highly selective in the acquisition of materials on other areas of the Ancient Near East. Emphasis is on historical, linguistic, literary, and religious material. Archaeological material is collected only if it encompasses these four areas.

    For the classical and modern Middle East, the Library acquires materials for all of the geographic areas detailed in IIB. Major emphasis is on language, literature, history (including political and social history), religion, culture, women's studies, and urbanism. Politics, sociology, anthropology, economics, and the fine and performing arts are collected somewhat more selectively, but actively.

Types of Materials

  1. Included

    Monographs, monographic series, serials, newspapers, proceedings, facsimiles, reprints, government documents, microforms, audio-visual and electronic media. Exhibition catalogs, maps, textbooks for language instruction and dissertations are acquired very selectively.

  2. Excluded

    Manuscripts (except in very rare circumstances), textbooks, ephemera, translations from other languages into Near Eastern languages.

Strengths & Weaknesses of the Collection


In general, Bobst Library is strong in Arabic and Islamic reference sources, classical and modern Arabic literature, and the history of the Middle East. The collection is moderately strong in materials dealing with Biblical Studies (excluding the New Testament) and the modern political and social history of the Arab world and Iran.

The stacks collection includes approximately 4,000 books and journals from the library of the late Islamic scholar Gaston Wiet. The materials are in Arabic and Western languages and emphasize classical Arabic belle-lettres. The stacks also contain the library of the Toumlilene Monastery of Azrou, Morocco. It includes 2,000 books and journals in Arabic and Western languages with an emphasis on North Africa. Other important collections of smaller dimensions, housed in the general stacks, include the following: parts of the libraries of the Egyptian writer and publisher Muhammad Mas'ud, Islamic numismatist George C. Miles, Islamic art historian Richard Ettinghausen, Aramco, and Mobil Oil.

In addition, Bobst Special Collections contain the Hewitt collection of approximately 300 volumes in Ottoman Turkish which was a gift of the last Ottoman sultan, Abd al-Hamid II. The stacks collection is actively expanded through a current acquisitions program which encompasses extensive approval and blanket order plans for the U.S., Europe, the Arab World, Iran, Israel, and Turkey; as well as current and retrospective purchase of individual titles.


Following are areas and types of materials in need of additional attention for the acquisition of materials:

  1. Research and Curricular Emphases
    • Turkish Studies
    • Islamic Law
  2. Serials

    Although the Library owns almost all of the major periodicals in the field, particularly in European and Arabic languages, there are additional titles covered by indexing sources, which the Library needs to acquire.

  3. Electronic Resources

    Although previously there has not been much published in electronic format in Middle East Studies, there are current and forthcoming titles which we need to acquire.

  4. Document Collections

    The Library needs to acquire primary resource collections which have been issued in microform or in reprint, such as the Ottoman provincial and ministry yearbooks, and the Records series published by Archive Editions.

  5. Preservation Issues

    Many of the items in the Wiet and Toumlilene collections have serious preservation problems and will need to be replaced by filming or purchase.

Other Resources

  1. Other NYU Collections

    The Library of the Institute of Fine Arts is strong in materials dealing with Islamic and other Middle Eastern art and architecture; the art and archaeology of the ancient Near East, particularly Egyptology.

    The Law School Library is strong in constitutional law materials from the Arab world and Israel.

    The Ettinghausen Library in the Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies is actually an extension of the Bobst collection. Its collection consists of reference materials which duplicate resources available in Bobst.

  2. Other Area Libraries

    Princeton and NYU are a joint National Resource Center in Middle East Studies. Princeton libraries are a major resource for Middle Eastern materials and are strong in manuscripts and printed texts in Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, and Turkish. Subjects emphasized are: Islam, Judaism, classical and modern Middle Eastern culture, history, language, and literature.

    Columbia University Libraries (Butler and Lehmann) also have a strong Middle East collection. The collection is an area resource in Turkish, Armenian, and Georgian materials.

    The New York Public Library, through its general collection and the Oriental Division and the Map Division, is a strong resource for filling Bobst gaps in Arabic, Persian, and Hebrew language materials, Near East travel literature, Near Eastern Christianity, and Islam. The NYPL is an area resource for newspapers of the Middle East and diaspora communities.

Subject & Collection Levels


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