A Visiting Scholarship Q & A with Mohammed Jasim
Earlier this summer, Mr Mohammed Jasim Aal-Hajiahmed spent the first month of a BISI-Nahrein Visiting Scholarship at the British Library, hosted by Daniel Lowe (Curator of Arabic Collections) and many kind colleagues. Thank you very much to all of them!
Although Mohammed is currently studying for a PhD at the University of Barcelona, until October 2018 he was the Director of Mosul University Library. He is still closely connected to Mosul University and the library team, and his expertise in English means that he is able to liaise very effectively between the UK and Iraq.
At the end of his placement, we asked Mohammed to tell us about what he had learned during his time in London, and what he wants to do with it.
Nahrein: What were the main benefits of your scholarship?
Mohammed: There were many benefits! Here are ten—
- I learned how the digitization process works at one of the world’s leading cultural institutions, the British Library.
- Throughout my placement I learned how to set up a digitization unit at Mosul University Library, which should be one of the priorities at this time.
- I shadowed as many people as possible at the BL and got an idea of everybody’s work, which in turn helps us rebuilding our library collection as we are starting from scratch.
- I set up a network with different people who represent institutions and universities which help get support for Mosul University Library.
- I looked for partnership opportunities with UK libraries: SOAS and UCL libraries are good examples where there is potential for future work.
- I gave a talk to BL staff about the situation of Mosul University Library before and after ISIS which was a good message to everybody who can be of support.
- My talk helped BL staff understand better the issues that Mosul University Library is facing. Now we can address any problems we have to the right person at the BL and they will understand.
- Thanks to tens of meetings with specialists, I now understand a lot more about important topics related to library work, such as metadata, preservation, electronic library systems, etc. This will help us a lot as we are building up our collections again.
- Through my placement at Boston Spa for three days, I learned how can we provide newspapers with suitable environments to protect them.
- I was able to contact the right person about the important issue of reactivating Mosul University Library’s OCLC account.
Nahrein: What was the main highlight of your scholarship?
Mohammed: The main highlights were:
- Learning how to digitize and document recovered materials and how to set up a digitization unit at Mosul University Library.
- Beginning to discuss partnership with SOAS library and further steps needed.
- Networking as we are trying to get support for Mosul University Library.
- Throughout our meetings we were able to work on various practical issues related to Mosul University library, such as the OCLC account, access to e-materials, etc.
Nahrein: What were the main things you learnt from the British Library?
Mohammed: I actually learned a lot from the BL as I shadowed a lot of people there and spent good time in most of its departments. However, the most important ones were:
- I got an idea about library e-systems and discussed the possibilities of applying some of them at Mosul University Library.
- I learned how to preserve and digitise manuscripts.
- I learned how to train library staff and share expertise with them. I also learned how to distribute the tasks amongst the staff.
- I learned how the BL buys resources for the library and how to deal with donated special collections.
- I also learned how to work with public libraries in the same region.
Nahrein: How has the scholarship helped you in your work in Iraq?
Mohammed: It helped me a lot as we are trying to rebuild our library collections after the destruction and burning caused by ISIS’ occupation of the city of Mosul. As I mentioned earlier, I learned how to set up a digitization unit at our library, especially the equipment needed and the training required. I will apply what I learned from my placement at the BL to Mosul University in general and to Mosul University Library in particular, sharing what I have learned with my colleagues at Mosul University Library.
Nahrein: What will you do to continue your research in Iraq?
Mohammed: Again, I will share the experience with the library staff and work on what I have achieved during my placement, especially with regard to partnership opportunities, access to e-materials, training opportunities for the library staff and following up the expected support for the library from the people I met. All that will be in coordination with Mosul University and the library’s administration.
We’re all looking forward very much to welcoming Mohammed back to London and the British Library in a few months time for the second half of his Visiting Scholarship placement.