Let’s Talk About It: Muslim Journeys Site Support Notebook

What Is Let’s Talk About It?

Let’s Talk About It is a reading and discussion series led by local scholars and organized around themes that engage and stimulate audiences. It was pioneered by the American Library Association (ALA) on a national level in 1982. Let’s Talk About It has reached hundreds of libraries and more than four million people around the United States in the past thirty years.

The ALA Public Programs Office and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) are pleased to offer five themes exploring “Muslim Journeys” through works of literature, history, poetry, memoir, essays, interviews, and more. Let’s Talk About It: Muslim Journeys aims to encourage informed community conversations about the histories, faith, and cultures of Muslims around the world, and engender a love of literature, history and community discussion through the Let’s Talk About It model.

How will Let’s Talk About It: Muslim Journeys programs work at my library?

Participating libraries choose one of the themes (see Themes, Books, and Materials) and plan a series of reading and discussion programs typically taking place at the library every two to four weeks (depending on local library preference). The library is responsible for recruiting a scholar to lead each discussion, and promoting the programs to the widest possible public audience. Each of the themes includes a series of five titles to be read and discussed in sequence, accompanied by a scholarly essay.

Each essay, written by a national project scholar, will introduce the theme and illuminate discussion. Libraries will need to purchase and/or acquire the books for their collections and for participant use. See Section 3 for more about ordering materials.

What makes Let’s Talk About It unique?

  • It is designed for libraries.
  • The readings are organized around an overarching theme.
  • Reading and discussion groups explore the theme through the lens of the humanities—that is, by relating the readings to historical trends and events, other works of literature, philosophical and ethical considerations.
  • A humanities scholar, often a professor from a local college or university, presents a short talk at the beginning of each discussion session to help focus and provoke discussion.
  • The discussion is led or facilitated by the humanities scholar.

Why does ALA work with other institutions and funders to develop reading and discussion programs?

Libraries are many things to their communities. They offer the practical information people need to improve the quality of their lives and to increase their options in a complex society. Libraries also give their communities something less tangible, yet just as essential to a satisfying and productive life—nourishment for the spirit.

Programs in the humanities and the arts that encourage people to think about literature, history, ethics, science, music, visual and literary arts, and human values are an integral part of the mission of libraries.

Reading and discussion series stimulate public interest in the world of ideas. They are as much an opportunity for continuing education as starting points for substantive discussion, study and programming.

One goal of ALA adult programming initiatives is to encourage the public to go beyond the stacks to explore themes with fellow patrons and the help of scholarly resources. A related goal is to help libraries strengthen their role as intellectual forums and central cultural and educational institutions in their communities.

We hope that the experience and information gained through these programs will encourage librarians to plan future humanities and arts based programs for their communities.

About Our Partners

The National Endowment for the Humanities: Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities. NEH grants enrich classroom learning, create and preserve knowledge and bring ideas to life through public television, radio, new technologies, exhibitions and programs in libraries, museums and other community places. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at the NEH website.

The Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University: The Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies supports research, interdisciplinary academic programs, and community outreach to advance knowledge and understanding of Islam as a world religion, its role in world history, and current patterns of globalization in Muslim societies. The center aspires to be a hub of international excellence for research and learning, and to promote a sophisticated understanding of the complex dynamics that shape Muslim societies and communities worldwide.

Additional Funding

Support for the Bridging Cultures: Muslim Journeys initiative was provided by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. Additional support for the arts and media components was provided by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.