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Libraries under Attack: The destruction of libraries and the role of the international community in protecting and aiding libraries - Sonja Kujansuu


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Presented at LISDIS 2015, Saturday 15 November 2015

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Libraries under Attack: The destruction of libraries and the role of the international community in protecting and aiding libraries - Sonja Kujansuu

  1. 1. Libraries under Attack: The Destruction of Libraries and the Role of the International Community in Protecting and Aiding Libraries Sonja Kujansuu Aberystwyth University 2015
  2. 2. Purpose of study • To examine the ideology behind the reasons why libraries and books are targets for destruction during times of war and civil unrest • To examine what international organizations have been doing to help affected libraries and the ways in which they provide aid
  3. 3. How I chose my topic • Interested in preservation of collections • Wanted to focus on destruction of library collections • Inspired by an article which was on the intentional destruction of library collections during times of war • Became interested in the idea of the intentional destruction of library collections and the reasons behind why they are a target • Focused on international organizations because of my interest in what was being done to protect and aid libraries and library collections
  4. 4. Sources I used • Primary and secondary sources including: • Monographs • Journal articles • News reports • Websites of international organizations and their legislation, reports, studies and statements • Attended a symposium
  5. 5. Brief overview of the study • Examined the significance of libraries and books and how they are seen as a threat to various opposing and extremist ideological views and are targets for erasing the cultural heritage and collective memories of others. • Looked at historical examples of the destruction of libraries in wars and civil unrest, such as the treatment of Jewish libraries by Nazis, the two World Wars, and the Mao dictatorship in China. • Focused on four modern case studies: The Balkans, Ukraine, Mali and Iraq • Examined roles that international organizations such as UNESCO, IFLA and Blue Shield play in creating legislation and providing aid to libraries and protection of books affected by wars and civil unrest.
  6. 6. Balkan Wars • Sarajevo: National Library under attack Source: symbolizes-multiethnic-sarajevo/a- 16192965
  7. 7. Ukraine • Kiev: Barricades outside the National Parliamentary Library Source: 4/03/activists-soldiers-move-to-protect- libraries-in-ukraine/#.Vj-_xbfhDIU
  8. 8. Mali • Timbuktu: A damaged manuscript at the Ahmed Baba Institute Source: 014/may/23/book-rustlers-timbuktu- mali-ancient-manuscripts-saved
  9. 9. Iraq A Christian manuscript that was saved from one of Iraq’s Christian libraries Source: s/2015/01/25/379634318/piece-by- piece-monks-scramble-to-preserve- iraqs-christian-history
  10. 10. Ideology behind libricide • Libricide is the “killing of a book” • Destruction of libraries is a way by which majorities try to impose on minorities • Impose an act of assimilation on minorities, causing them to resign and to lose their identity. • Extreme political ideologies often lead to books and libraries being seen as either tools of the regime or enemies of the state. • "The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history. Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long the nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was. The world around it will forget even faster." – Milan Hubl, Czech historian
  11. 11. Main International Organizations & Legislation • UNESCO • Largest and most authoritative voice in cultural heritage protection. • Often criticized with being slow to respond, not having much funding, or having an “all talk, no action” approach with its promises of help. • Blue Shield • Works closely with UNESCO and other international organizations to protect buildings of historical and cultural significance to states and the rest of the world. • Places an emblem on buildings that should be protected, even during times of war. • Legislation • The Hague Convention Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land
  12. 12. Conclusions and Further Discussion • Some of the ways in which international organizations provided aid: • Promises to rebuild libraries • Conservation work on damaged books • Financial aid • Staff training • Problems: • Difficult to verify whether their promises were always fulfilled and if the aid was provided quickly enough
  13. 13. National Library in Sarajevo: Then and Now After destruction Source: books-a-sarajevo-story/ After restoration Source:
  14. 14. Conclusions and Further Discussion • Is it time for a third protocol to The Hague Convention? • The Blue Shield emblem is often seen as a target for destruction during wars • How can librarians help with the protection of cultural heritage? Photo: Building in Croatia which was intentionally targeted because of its Blue Shield emblem. Source: 4
  15. 15. Reflections on the dissertation process • Narrowing down the topic • Organizing the dissertation • Knowing when to stop researching • Symposium provided opportunity to meet experts • Continue further involvement with the topic