AJ Robinson grew up in Washington State and studied Near Eastern Studies and English at the University of Washington. After teaching English for eight months in Egypt, AJ did graduate work in information studies at the University of Texas-Austin. In 2015, AJ joined WU Libraries as Islamic Studies and South Asian Studies librarian and is now also interim religion librarian.
Can you tell me about your job? I’m picking up the religious studies subject area (after the retirement of Marty Cavanaugh). I have some new challenges, because there are religious studies classes I have never been involved with before. That’s part of why I wanted to be a librarian, because I would always be learning more.
I also did the Humanities Digital Workshop (HDW) over the summer, and I enjoyed the opportunity to do an extended project outside of the library. I would encourage people to look for similar opportunities. There are a lot of initiatives out there that could use library support. Students and faculty who were involved in HDW projects were excited to hear the librarian perspective. We were able to point out aspects that could really impact the sustainability of a project, as well as shortcuts that librarians are more accustomed to using.
What are some other projects that you’re working on now? The Middle East Librarians Association meeting happens every year, and I’m on the executive board for that association. This year we’re meeting in Washington, DC, and the topic is going to be the digital Middle East. I’m interested, after hearing about the digital humanities here, in what’s happening at other institutions. There are so many added barriers with Arabic script when it comes to digitizing. There’s been some promising work, but there is so much more that needs be done before it’s accessible.
What do you like to do in your free time? I like to ride my bike. I love the parks in the city. I’ve also really enjoyed exploring more of the Midwest. I went to the Mother Jones cemetery (in Mount Olive, Illinois). There’s a town in Iowa that is the future birthplace of Captain Kirk, and it’s been completely “Star Trek”-ified. So many things have developed because of creative people and long roads.
What have you read recently? I’m in the middle of several books. One of them is Sarah Schulman’s Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair, which looks at the ways people resolve conflict, particularly in discussions around trauma. I also listen to audiobooks and podcasts. I’m really into the “Ottoman History Podcast.” “Stuff You Missed in History Class” is another good one.”