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“I just conducted a workshop for an introductory graduate seminar in Islamic Studies,” said the UCLA Library’s new Middle East and Islamic Studies librarian Sohaib Baig ’13, PhD ’20, who returned to campus in September. “Since I had the experience traveling to many countries and visiting many libraries, I was able to give students still in the early stages a birds-eye view of what sources are available to them, both within UCLA and beyond.”

“Many countries” is a bit understated. Baig’s scholarly focus on transregional intellectual and social histories across the early modern and modern Islamic world has taken him to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Uzbekistan and the U.K. to conduct archival research.

After spending the 2020–21 academic year as a research fellow at Harvard Law School’s Program in Islamic Law, Baig returned to Westwood and hit the ground running, thanks in part to a relationship forged with his Library predecessor, the now-retired David Hirsch.

“David was going on a trip to Pakistan, so I gave him a few titles needed for my research and he was able to find them! That was really nice,” said Baig.

The ability to recruit subject-area specialist librarians such as Baig — who in 2020 earned the UCLA Department of History’s best dissertation award — elevates not only campus teaching and learning, but also Library collections.

“Subject, region and language expertise by librarians helps advance UCLA’s mission to apply knowledge for the betterment of a global society by empowering researchers to understand the world we live in, and by applying their own proficiency to improving it,” said Jennifer Osorio, Head of International Studies and Interim Director of UCLA Library Special Collections.

Baig is eager to leverage his connections with global librarians, booksellers and publishers to fill in gap areas that will continue to grow the Library’s Middle East and Islamic studies collection that Hirsch helped build into one of the country’s largest.

“There’s an opportunity to expand with more vernacular languages like Sindhi and Punjabi in South Asia. I’m also looking to get into materials published in Uygher, while there are fascinating new publishing ventures emerging from the global Syrian diaspora.”