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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Interfaith Literacy Resources in the Index Islamicus: A Bibliometric Analysis, Mohamed Taher

Interfaith Literacy Resources in the Index Islamicus: A Bibliometric Analysis

This article was accepted in the 6th World Congress of Muslim Librarians and Information Scientists 2011 (WCOMLIS 2011), held on the 16-17th November 2011, at the Cultural Activity Centre, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM)

– Seeks to identify the potential value of an e-tool, viz., Index Islamicus as an interfaith literacy resource. Specifically, it is about the value of such a tool by users, such as, scholars as well as library and information professionals in promoting tolerance in every day life. A conceptual clarity is required as to how far such a tool helps or when there is a need to develop tools that supplement the content of Index Islamicus. Here, interfaith is confined to mean it is all about Islam and its relation with other faiths.

– The study uses bibliometric indicators and bibliographic parameters in order to assess the contents, as well in identifying the frequently occurring themes and to know how user-friendly its resource description is. Index Islamicus covers almost 100 years of publications on the world of Islam, in over 300 journals (among many other formats), and has 330,878 records. The author has bibliometrically analysed the 1308 subject headings appearing in 675 articles from 106 journals in Index Islamicus. A detailed description highlights the state of the art of the contents, i.e. Index‘s coverage by geography and subjects.

The present study will focus on English language interfaith resources, published between 1976 and 2006. A quick look at the data reveals that there is a bias towards the Western world in the content. Interestingly, despite this factor, there are 153 articles from Organization of Islamic Countries. Overall, the analysis of the literature aimed to first, test the hypothesis about the interfaith coverage of the Index, and second to visualize how well the Index categorizes its subject content. Quantitative and qualitative approaches are used to test these performances.

– The study finds that there are as many as 675 articles with a high frequency of terms relating to interfaith literacy in the Index Islamicus. Despite this high frequency of occurrence of the terms relating to interfaith perspectives in the Index, there is no such subject heading or descriptor, per se on the subject of interfaith. Hence, the hypothesis about presence of such a literature stands validated. But, the hypothesis about manifestation of such a vast literature in terms of resource description, as descriptors (or subject headings), fails. Nevertheless, the subject coverage as available in Index Islamicus offers a real opportunity for Librarians and researchers, globally, to not just search but also browse. However, there is a need first, to improve this tool, second, bring uniformity in subject descriptors (headings), and third consistency in use of subject terms. In a way, this tool presents an opportunity for librarians in their day to day mediated searching, first to customize the content and second to develop similar indices using emerging web and technological interfaces. The information professionals are urged to use this or other similar tools and produce an improved product on interfaith literacy. Such a product will increase trust and reliance by the end-user, and thereby get a direct support for library programs and services. The author feels that librarians do have the skills, capabilities and technology to accomplish this, especially if they are supported by their organizations--with respect to interfaith education and resources that promote mutual co-existence among the global citizens. An appendix of this article provides a sample template to design and develop such tools.

– This article should be of use in the development of interfaith librarianship. The results of the study will help, at least, three distinct communities of practice, viz., end-users will know what is available in the Index, disseminators will know the strength and opportunities of this information-base, and producers of such resources or information industry will know the challenges and weaknesses.

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