Rachel Simon receives 2022 MELA Partington Award

Rachel Simon, Senior Librarian, Emeritus, received the Middle East Librarians Association’s (MELA) 2022 David H. Partington Award. 

The award, which solicits nominations from library administrators of libraries where MELA members serve, was given to Simon for her “sterling record of research and publications” and her contributions to the field of Middle East studies and Middle East librarianship. Partington, the award's namesake, graduated from Princeton with a Ph.D in Oriental Studies (the predacessor to Near Eastern Studies) in 1961 and wrote a disseration titled, "“The Nisab Al-Ihtisab, an Arabic religion-legal text.”

During her career, Simon has written and published three books — “The Jewish Community of Libya at the Late Ottoman Period” (Tel-Aviv: Open University, 1987) [in Hebrew], “Libya between Ottomanism and Nationalism: The Ottoman Involvement in Libya during the War with Italy” (1911-1919) (Berlin: Klaus Schwarz Verlag, 1987), and “Change within Tradition Among Jewish Women in Libya” (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1992), as well as countless articles, chapters, and reference entries. With MELA, she spent 24 years as book review editor of MELA Notes, the association’s official journal, a role she began as a research fellow and part time employee at the University of Washington. 

“Fawzi Khouri, who was the Near Eastern Studies Librarian at the University of Washington, was the editor of MELA Notes and occasionally asked me to review books. After a while he asked me if I’d like to be the Book Review Editor,” Simon recalled. “I continued to do it for all these years because it was an interesting task that got me involved in a professional organization outside of the university and I got to know quite a few librarians via email and personally doing the annual MELA conferences.”

Through her decades of experience, Simon advises those pursuing a career in Middle Eastern studies to prioritize understanding Middle Eastern languages for both library and research work. 

“Middle Eastern studies research requires knowledge of several languages and access to primary and secondary sources,” Simon said. “One should keep abreast of new developments in the field through publications and conferences, both general ones and on specific topics, and develop personal contacts with other people in the field.”

Though she retired from her position as Head of the Approval Section of the Middle Eastern Languages Team at PUL, Simon will continue working and writing in the field. She’s currently preparing a monograph on social and cultural perceptions expressed in the folk literature of Libyan Jews.

Simon added, “I’d like to thank the 2020 recipient of the Partington Award, PUL Emeritus Librarian Joyce Bell, and Emeritus Librarian James Weinberger, who were among those who supported granting me this award.”

Rachel Simon's CV is available to view on our website.

Published on February 13, 2023

Written by Brandon Johnson, Communications Strategist

Media Contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications