Tadween Publishing interviewed Peter Magierski and Chuck Jones, founders of the blog Access to Mideast and Islamic Resources (AMIR), as part of Tadween’s campaign to highlight individuals, groups, and organizations who play a role in the open access movement and knowledge production and preservation.
Tadween (T): How did the concept for AMIR originate and what is its goal?
Access to Mideast and Islamic Resources (AMIR): AMIR began as a collaboration between Peter Magierski and Charles Jones when they were both working at NYU Libraries. Jones had begun AWOL - The Ancient World Online ISSN 2156-2253 in early 2009 as an effort to come to grips with the rapidly expanding corpus of open access scholarship for the study of Antiquity. Magierski recognized the need for a similar project in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and together they launched AMIR in December 2010. AMIR’s goal is to collect and distribute information about open access resources and other kinds of networked information in Middle East and Islamic Studies.
T: Do you have a target audience (i.e. scholars, academics, students)?
AMIR: We do not target a particular audience profile. It is the essence of open access material that it is accessible to all. We select content for AMIR based on its quality and its relevance for the subject. As academic librarians, our selections focus on scholarly literature, but we include whatever we find that is open access and useful for the thoughtful study of the subject. We have more than eleven hundred subscribers by email from all over the world. In addition, the AMIR facebook page has 750 followers.
T: What is your process for collecting material for AMIR?
AMIR: Much of what we select for inclusion in AMIR crosses out desks in one form or another on a daily basis. Each of us uses tools we are familiar with to discover new content (see for instance Jones’ posting in AWOL on discovering new journal content). More and more frequently colleagues send us notices of material they are discovering because AMIR is recognized as the central place for the curation of this material. We also rely on Middle East Studies librarians and colleagues who frequently contribute to the project.
T: What do you consider to be the importance and value in making open access material on Islam and the Middle East visible?
AMIR: Digital resources in Middle East and Islamic Studies that are made available by various libraries and institutions across the globe are not always fully shared with the global audience. Since cataloging, transliteration, and encoding practices vary by country it is often difficult to discover them on the web or through catalogs. In the absence of better mechanisms our project attempts to consolidate and share this information.
T: Is there something particular about AMIR that you would like to share with us?
AMIR: We would like to encourage your readers to subscribe to AMIR, which would allow them to receive updates on the newly discovered resources. In addition to regular updates we maintain alphabetical lists of open access journals, manuscripts, and a recently launched list of historical newspapers. These lists are among the most frequently accessed resources on AMIR from users around the globe.
T: Are you working on any other projects at the moment that you would like to share with us?
AMIR: Chuck Jones is working with a group of Digital Humanities scholars and the Digital Initiatives program at NYU’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, with the assistance of a small grant from the Delmas Foundation, to use the free, open-source Zotero citation manage to capture snapshots of individual web resources and to annotate these with bibliographic information and categorical tags. This data will be automatically synchronized with a free group account on the Zotero server, thereby enabling the editor to involve interested third-party collaborators in capturing, refining, and updating data for publication. Zotero server`s open Application Programming Interface (API) will automatically make the resulting data available in a variety of formats suitable for further use online and in other citation management systems like ProCite and EndNote, thereby creating a new dissemination channel for a broader set of audience use cases. One of these Zotero output formats—an open standard called Bibliontology RDF—will provide the input to two conversion programs ISAW developers will create: one to transform the AWOL bibliographic content into bibliographic data suitable for submission to library catalog systems and the other to use Blogger`s open API to post new or updated content to the existing blog without manual intervention.
Peter Magierski is working on adapting LibX for Middle East and Islamic Studies students at Columbia University. LibX is an Open Source Firefox and Chrome add-on that allows seamless access to online resources. The application can be customized to include free resources on the web as well as those licensed by Columbia University. It offers a chance to expose many underutilized resources to scholars and students.