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June 2010 | Return to issue home
Tehran Odyssey: Buying & Shipping a Ton of Books From Iran
Mary St. Germain, head of Near Eastern Section, International Studies, traveled to Iran on a very successful buying trip in May 2009 in Tehran, Iran. Under current Iranian regulations, to get a visa Americans must have a daily itinerary approved by the government in advance, must be accompanied by a guide at all times and must go on a tour. Fortunately, an itinerary was approved in which Farzaneh Zahraie from Persian Books, our Iranian book dealer, would accompany St. Germain.
She started with Tahuri Book Shop which is both a retail store and a press, and has been in the same family for several generations. "The longterm staff are expert both in what has been published over time and in what is currently on the market., St. Germain says. "I spent much of three days working through their stock, watching them climb to the top of a tall sliding ladder and toss the books down to a colleague."
Buying books within the complex hours that the shops are open means one can shop for maybe three and a half hours before 1 pm, and for maybe three and a half hours during the afternoon and evening session. This also means moving books to a storage point twice a day, and finding somewhere to spend the noon break. To decrease air pollution, Tehran has a policy of alternating days when even versus odd number license plates can enter the central part of the city. On the appropriate days, the purchases went by car to Tahuri Book Shop at the end of the day to stockpile the books before taking them to the post office for shipping.
"The 22nd Tehran International Book Fair then opened to the public in Mosallah, in a very large, beautiful building originally built for huge prayer meetings. And from opening day on I was at the fair.
"The trip was very successful. The books shipped will be a substantial addition to our collection (including literature, criticism, a gazetteer of Iran, traditional music and regional history). We acquired 1,486 books and 221 CDs. The fact that we are now current with certain essential publishers means I can purchase their publications each year for a relatively small amount of money and begin to work on other areas of the Persian collection. One of the most difficult areas of buying Persian materials is determining what has been published. The catalogs I brought back will make it possible to work with faculty to identify the next publishers on which I should focus.
This trip would not have been as successful without Mrs. Zahraie's help in navigating the some thousand vendors at the fair during a limited time frame, or without her knowledge of the postal law and unwritten practices of a post office not equipped for such large shipments."
This vital purchasing trip was made possible with the Kenneth S. Allen Library Endowment Fund.
The Near Eastern Collection at the University of Washington Libraries is nationally recognized as one of the major collections in North America. The collection consists of over 250,000 volumes of books and serials housed in the Suzzallo and Allen Libraries. Political Science, Art, Music, Architecture and Urban Planning and Odegaard Undergraduate Libraries also house Near Eastern Materials published in English and other European languages.
June 2010 | Return to issue home