World Libraries

The Pioneers: Prof. Dr. El Sayed Mahmoud El Sheniti (1920-1995)

Prof. Dr. El Sayed Mahmoud El Sheniti
Prof. Dr. El Sayed Mahmoud El Sheniti
El Sheniti, Egyptian library educator and administrator, participated in many important library projects and conferences around the world, and contributed to significant library achievements in Egypt. El Sheniti is considered to be the first Egyptian and Arab person who earned a Ph.D. in library science from a graduate library School in the USA.

He was born in Alexandria, Egypt, on 25 November 1920. He earned a B.A. degree from Cairo University in 1940, a Higher Diploma in social science from Alexandria University in 1953, and a Ph.D. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1960. El Sheniti served the Egyptian and international library profession in several capacities. He was librarian of Alexandria University Library, 1949-51; Assistant Librarian of the UNESCO Fundamental Education Center in Sirs El Layyan, Mounefia, Egypt, 1952-54; Director of the American University in Cairo Library, 1958-63; UNESCO Documentation and Publications Expert stationed at the UNESCO Regional Center of Community Development for the Arab States in Sirs El Layyan, Egypt, 1963-68; Under Secretary of State for the Egyptian National Library and Archives, 1968-71; Senior Under Secretary of State for the Ministry of Culture and Chairman of the General Egyptian Book Organization (GEBO), 1971-77; Deputy Minister of Culture and Chairman of GEBO, 1977-78; and Director of the UNESCO Publication Center in Cairo, 1982-95. He also worked as an expert and consultant to numerous organizations in Egypt and in the other Arab countries. From 1964 until his death in 1995 he presided over the Egyptian Library, Information, and Archives Association.

El Sheniti contributed largely to library education in Egypt as a visiting professor in the Department of Library, Information, and Archives of the Faculty of Arts, Cairo University. He also supervised numerous M.S. and Ph.D. theses submitted to Cairo University and to the other universities in Egypt specializing in library science. In the meantime, he presided over the Permanent Scientific Committee of the Supreme University Council to appoint the academic staff at the Egyptian universities in library, information, and archives sciences.

El Sheniti contributed also to several UNESCO meetings. From 1966 to 1974 he served as a member and Chairman of the UNESCO International Advisory Committee for Libraries, Documentation, and Archives. He was elected President of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Conference on National Planning of Documentation, Library, and Archives Infrastructure held at Paris in 1974; Vice-President of the International Congress on National Bibliography, Paris, 1977; and member of the International Committee and the International Book Year Support Committee.

El Sheniti wrote and edited numerous articles and books dealing with various aspects of library science. Noteworthy are "Book Cataloging Rules for Arabic Authors' Entries" (Cairo, 1961); "Authority List of Arabic Writers' Names" (Cairo, 1962); and "Arabic Adaptation of Dewey Decimal Classification" (Cairo, 1961).

As an administrator, El Sheniti contributed to the administration of the Egyptian National Library and Archives. During Dr. El Sheniti's administration of the National Library and Archives, he assisted in the establishment of a new building for the library on the Nile shore as well as the foundation of various scientific centers for Arabic Book Development, Bibliography, and Computer and Microfilming.

As a business man, El Sheniti founded the Arab Center for Research and Publishing at his residence in Heliopolis, Cairm, with the aid of some Egyptian scholars in 1980. The center embarked on re-issuing old Arabic books which had been previously published in Egypt but had gone out of print.

Dr. El Sheniti died on 8 April 1995. Egyptian and Arab librarianship lost a pioneer most highly respected in the Arab region in general and in Egypt in particular. His colleagues and friends all over the world miss his enthusiasm and devotion to the profession. [This is based on the writer's article entitled "El Shenity, El Sayed Mahmoud (1920- )" in World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services (Chicago: American Library Association, 1980), p. 191.]

About the Author

Mohamed M. El Hadi is Manager, Information Services, Sadat Institute of Management, Cairo.

© 1996 Mohamed M. El Hadi


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