The Worldly Librarian

International library issues


Posts Tagged ‘libraries and war’

Libraries During Wartime

Posted by worldlylibrarian on June 2, 2009

Here are my powerpoint slides and list of references (pdf) for my presentation on Libraries During Wartime at the Canadian Library Association Conference (May 31st, 2009). The session went fairly well, if I say so myself, and there were around forty people in attendance.


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Iraq may return archvies to Kuwait

Posted by worldlylibrarian on March 5, 2009

The Kuwait News Agency is reporting that a number of items reportedly stolen from the Kuwati archives during the Gulf War may be returned. The material, consisting of 4,500 video tapes and cassettes from the archives of the Kuwaiti Information Ministry, were taken by Iraq during the 1990 invasion.

Iraq has also pledged to return any other similar material that
may have been looted during the occupation.

(Source: Kuwait News Agency, March 4 2009)

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Talk on Extremism and the Destruction of Libraries

Posted by worldlylibrarian on February 25, 2009

If you’re in the UK, and a member of CILIP, you may want to go hear Rebecca Knuth from the University of Hawaii talk about extremist groups and their targeting of libraries. She is the author of several books on this topic, including Burning Books and Leveling Libraries: Extremist Violence and Cultural Destruction, which I have read as part of my own research. Very interesting stuff.

This ILIG Informal will take place on Wednesday 8th April 2009, at 1800 – 1945 in Charter Suite East, CILIP, 7 Ridgmount Street, London WC1E 7AE.  RSVP to a.m.tyler@btinterne By April 7.

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Deliberate Destruction of Libraries in Wartime

Posted by worldlylibrarian on September 10, 2008

I’m happy to report that my article on the effect of war on libraries has been published in the latest edition of Focus on International Library and Information Work. You need to be a CILIP member to view the most recent issues, but I have posted a PDF here. The citation is:

Cook, H. (2008). The deliberate destruction of libraries in wartime: Sarajevo and beyond. Focus on International Library and Information Work, 39 (2), 56-59.

A report on my research, which was partly funded by an award from the Atlantic Provinces Library Association (APLA), is also available in the latest issue of the APLA Bulletin.

(Thanks to APLA, SMU, and of course, Duncan and Heather for the backpack!)

The National and University Library in Sarajevo, still being repaired in 2007 after being burned in 1992.

The National and University Library in Sarajevo, still being repaired in 2007 after being burned in 1992.

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Latvia to get books taken in WW2 back from Germany

Posted by worldlylibrarian on July 22, 2008

A report by the Baltic News Service mentions that, during a recent audit of their collections by the University of Berlin, about 40 books previously owned by the Latvian Parliament were discovered. These items were taken out of Latvia during World War Two, just another in a significant number of library collections disrupted during that conflict whose fate is still being decided.

The University has decided to return these books, mostly on politics and the economy from the late 19th and early 20th century, to their rightful owner, the Latvian parliamentary library, who are looking at ways to restore and display the material.

This is just one of a number of stories about ongoing attempts to repatriate library collections after war and conflict in Eastern Europe, including efforts by Latvia to get documents and films back from Russia, and a proposal by Lithuania at the OSCE to make it easier to recover such collections.

Source: (Lexis Nexis/Baltic News Service, July 22nd)

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NATO forces build library near Kabul

Posted by worldlylibrarian on June 19, 2008

According to a press release from June 16th, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force forces in Afghanistan inaugurated a new library for the village of Surobi, 60 km east of Kabul.

In addition to the building they have provided 1,200 books concerning arts, history, literature, music and religion for the library.

The reconstruction work in the area by the ISAF’s troops of Regional Command Capital group, consisting of Italian forces, have also been involved with building or repairing bridges, wells, and a new police station in the same region.

It’s nice to see libraries being built as part of the reconstruction efforts. Only in the long term will we see the viability and stability of this and other projects to help the Afghan libraries damaged by war.

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Documentary on destruction of Tamil library

Posted by worldlylibrarian on June 13, 2008

This month a documentary was released about the burning of a Tamil public library in Sri Lanka during anti-Tamil riots. The library, which was destroyed in 1981, contained many original and unique documents, some not available in Tamil Nadu. For example, just one of the items destroyed was the Yalpanam Vaipavamalai, a history of Jaffna, and the only existing copy.

Tamil Nadu is a state of India. There is a large Tamil presence in the northern part of the neighboring island of Sri Lanka, where there has been an ongoing civil war between them and the majority Sinhalese population.

The film, Burning Memories, was made by journalist S. Someetharan.

Source: Lexis-Nexis, also available here

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Iraqi Librarian: Documents seized in war given to US institution instead of being returned to Iraq

Posted by worldlylibrarian on June 9, 2008

There’s a very good article in The Guardian (London) about Saad Eskander, director of Baghdad’s national library. There have been other articles about him in the past, and he kept a blog from 2006 to 2007, but this one discusses a couple of important points I found very interesting.

First of all, he talks about the cutural value of libraries in rebuilding a society, a topic that is of great interest to me. Even if the loss of library collections in wartime isn’t part of deliberate ethnic cleansing (e.g. the destruction of the National and University Library in Sarajevo), the loss of collections can have a significant impact on the rebuilding of civil society.

Secondly, and more crucially, was the discussion of the many boxes of records and archival material seized by the coalition troops after their invasion, as part of their search for evidence of genocide and weapons of mass destruction. Apparently most of this material, much of it in the hands of the CIA and Pentagon, was never returned to Iraq, despite appeals by Eskander that it be returned to his library. What’s worse is that many of these documents ended up in the collection an American group called the Iraq Memory Foundation, with links to various rightwing think tanks and pro-Bush neocons.

Shouldn’t Iraqi documents that are no longer part of an active investigation into so-called weapons of mass destruction be returned to the national library of Iraq, and not handed over to an American institution?

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Project to help protect documents in Afghan libraries

Posted by worldlylibrarian on May 26, 2008

A librarian at the University of Arizona, Atifa R. Rawan, is involved in efforts to protect and preserve documents at the Afghanistan Centre in Kabul University. Rawan, who was born in Afghanistan, is working with local staff in the country to preserve and digitize more than 13,000 titles.

I always considered digitization to be a key part of protecting documents in an area of conflict. Once they are in that format, they can be disseminated so that, if nothing else, a record of the material is saved. Of course, this is not an alternative to preserving the actual collections themselves, but it does alleviate a part of the problem. If the worst happens and the library is damaged or destroyed, at least something remains.

As in Sarajevo, Iraq, and elsewhere, the libraries in the country were damaged by the 2002 war. The preceding two decades of conflict, Taliban rule, and general neglect did not help either…

Source is the University of Arizona website (accessed May 26, 2008), which includes photos of damage to the Polytechnical University of Kabul.

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