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Mar 10, 2006
Into the flames: Libraries in the time of armed conflict: Why the world needs a new Non-Governmental Organization: Librarians Without Borders (LW


Outline
">Librarians Without Borders (LW Why LWB is Needed: A Historical Overview The Destruction of Library at Alexandria, Egypt World War One: Belgium World War Two: Destruction of Records Bosnia and Herzegovina Croatia Libraries in the Time of Guerrilla or Civil War: Columbia and El Salvador Afghanistan What can be done to prevent Lost of Collective Memories Conclusion References

">Librarians Without Borders (LW     (Return to top)
What is do done about the destruction of libraries in time of armed conflict. The recent looting of the National Museum of Iraqi in Baghdad in the recent Gulf War II highlights this issue. I propose an international Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) called "Librarians Without Borders" modelled on the various professional organizations with "Without Borders" like Nobel Prize winning "Doctors Without Borders" and others NGOs like Engineers Without Borders and Teachers Without Borders.

"Doctors Without Borders" Website: Doctors Without Borders
"Engineers Without Borders" Website Engineers Without Borders
"Teachers Without Borders" Website Teachers Without Borders

"Librarians Without Borders (LW"

Mandate

Librarians Without Borders or LWB assists in the rebuiding of libraries and archives after times of armed conflict,and natural and human-made disasters. A private, nonprofit organization, LWB is at the forefront of emergency rebuilding of public cultural institutions which house the collective knowledge of people effected by above listed calminities. Through longer-term programs, LWB hopes to assist in the training of librarians and archivists in the developing world.

Mission Statement

Librarians Without Borders mission is to close the education divide through library professional development and community education. We work any in the world where has destruction of libraries by armed conflict, natural or human-made disasters and rebuild the lost collections of the cultural institutions. Our long-term goal is to build self-reliance and foster international dialogue across cultures and national borders.LWB is a non-denominational, non-profit, international NGO which derives its funding from individual donations, corporate contributions/grants and, to a limited extent, investments.

Financial Independence

To maintain its operational independence and flexibility, LWB relies on the general public for the majority of its operating funds for up to eighty percent of its funding. Other financial support is provided by foundations, corporations, nonprofit organizations,the UN, UNESCO, the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) and national library associations.international agencies like . The LWB international network collectively strives to direct at least 80 percent of its expenditures to program activities.

In the information society of the future, libraries and access to them will only become more important in the as Schopenhauer observed in Parerga und Paralipomena
"Books and libraries ar the only secure and lasting memory of the human race" (Hamblin, 45: 1999).



Why LWB is Needed: A Historical Overview      (Return to top)After viewing a video in LIS 593: Archive Administration on the destruction of the National and University Library in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war, I discovered the topic for my literature review. Libraries in the time of armed conflict which I have entitled "Into The Flames"
As noted in the New York Times on May 22, 1940 after the destruction of the Catholic University Library in Louvain, Beligium for second time in less than thirty years.

"The enemies of books-and of all free and tolerant thought-had their day when the library at Alexandria was burned ages ago. They have had their days since. But we must have faith that they do not finally conqueror (Hamblin, 28: 1999).

I will first reviewed literature reporting the destruction of libraries during the time of armed conflict including regional, civil and world wars. I gained further insight into the concept that destruction of libraries and archives is a way of erasing the collective memory of a people. Furthermore, I discovered over twenty articles related to the topic but unfortunately no books or monographs were available on this topic at the University of Alberta Libraries. Luckily, a Interlibrary Loan of a Master’s thesis entitled "Alexandras's Ashes: War and the loss of Libraries" by Penelope Hamblin from the Universit of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was very insightful. It arrived after my literature review was written but before this webpage was created. Libraries have long been institutions of pluralist ideals in western democracies and a place for citizens to debate the ideals of civil society. As A. Manguel noted "As repositories of history or sources of the future, as guides or manuals for difficult times, as symbols of authority past or present, the books in a library stand for more than their collective contents and have, since the beginning of the written word, been threatened with destruction (Hamblin, 9: 1999).

Placing restrictions on access to ideas has occurred in both libraries and archives. I recall a story from the early 1990s from my birth province of Nova Scotia when two individuals tied to the white supremacy movement vandalized the old card catalog in the provincial archives of Nova Scotia. By destroying all references and cross-references to First Nations, Women, and People of Colour, therefore denying access to archival research on these topics bu the patrons of the archives. Luckily backup cards were stored off-site and now the rise of automation and online cataloguing could prevent such criminal activity in the future.

The destruction of libraries and books is not a unique twenty-century occurrence. The first example of book burning occurred in China over 2500 years ago. As Grand Councillor Li Ssu reported to the Chinese emperor:

“Your servant suggests that all books in the imperial archives, save the memoirs of Ch’in, be burned. All persons in the empire, except members of the Academy of Learned Scholars, in possession of the Book of Odes, the Book of History, and discourses of the hundred philosophers should take them to the local governors and have indiscriminately burned. Those who dare to talk to each other about the Book of Odes and the Book of History should be executed and their bodies exposed in the marketplace. Anyone referring to the past to criticize the present should, together with all members of his family, should be put to death. (Lerner, 52: 1998).



The Destruction of Library at Alexandria, Egypt     (Return to top)

Limiting conversations and restricting access to ideas helps reinforce thought control by autocratic regimes both religious and secular. In 300 B.C.E Ptolemy of Egypt established the Museion (Museum) of Alexandria, which included a huge collection of learned scrolls. The library of Alexandria, Egypt was the most famous library of antiquity and survived for a thousand years. Although the library of Alexandria was destroyed, not only by war but also neglect according to legend, the library was its final destruction was led by Arab leader, Amr ibn-al-‘As’ (Lerner, 25-31: 1998).
"Amr, so the story goes, sought the advice of the Caliph Omar, leader of the faithful. What should be done with the books of the infidels? The answer came back from Media: see if they agreed or disagreed with the teachings of the Koran. Books in accord with the teachings of the Prophet were unnecessary; those contradicting them were iniquitous. The four thousand bathhouses of Alexandria were heated for six months with the great library for fuel (Lerner,30 :1998).

According to Hans Van der Hoeven, in the twentieth century the targeting of libraries during wartime was commonplace. Van der Hoeven lists twenty-six examples worldwide that saw destruction of libraries from 1914 to 1993 (Van der Hoeven, 7-18: 1998). Here is a more detailed examination of the destruction of libraries in modern times.




World War One: Belgium     (Return to top)

According to Andras Riedlmayer, the wholesale destruction of libraries in the time of armed conflict as seen recently in the bombing of the National Library in Sarajevo on August 25, 1992, has a historical precedent exactly seventy-eight years before in 1914. The German army in beginning of World War One invaded the neutral country of Belgium. The ancient university town of Louvain in the French-speaking Flemish part of the country was occupied without incident. However, on August 25, 1914 several German soldiers were killed and the German military decided to punish the residents of Louvain. Firstly, the German soldiers, on orders of the High Command, rounded up and then quickly executed two hundred of the townspeople. Secondly, the soldiers burned down the historic downtown quarter. Within this section of the city lay the Catholic University of Louvain and its famed university library. Within a few days, the library was in ruin and its 230,000 volumes, including 800 incunabula (items printed before 1500) and 900 manuscripts, were destroyed (Riedlmayer–It has Been Done Before!, 1: 1994).
The German action was condemned throughout Europe and America especially among librarians and academics. Within a month, the President of Harvard, A. Lawrence Lowell, established a fund to rebuild the library. After the end of WWI the restoration of the Louvain Library was included in the terms of the Versailles Peace Treaty. The terms included a ten million franc trust fund to give an annual income for the purchase of books to restock the library. The compensation to the library at Louvain also included 1750 rare books and manuscripts that were duplicate copies of books in German libraries. On July 4, 1928 the Catholic University Library reopened its doors only to be destroyed by a German artillery detachment in May of 1940. After WWII the Louvain Library was rebuilt for second time (Riedlmayer-Its Has been Done Before!, 2: 1994).



World War Two: Destruction of Records      (Return to top)

After the German invasion of Poland in 1939, a systemic destruction of the cultural heritage of the Polish people was started by occupying Nazi regime. The western provinces that were occupied first lost all of their public and private libraries. The year 1944 saw the destruction of the National Library in Warsaw with the loss of over 700,000 volumes. By 1945 over fifteen million out of twenty-two and half million volumes in Polish libraries had been destroyed (Van der Hoeven, 9: 1998).

To destroy the Jewish heritage in Poland, the German army formed specialized “Brenn-Kommados’ or arson-squads to destroy Jewish cultural centres including synagogues, schools and libraries. In the city of Lublin the Great Talmudic Library at the Jewish Theological Seminary was burnt with the loss of the collective memory of several centuries of Polish Jewish heritage (Van der Hoeven, 9: 1998).

According to Linda Barnickel, during World War Two, the German army had several units whose sole purpose was the pillaging of cultural records. The first was the Ribbentrop Battalion, which was a specialized unit established ‘to seize and to secure, immediately after the fall of large cities, their cultural treasures and all objects of great historical value (Barnickel, 5-6: 1999).” The items were sent back to Germany. After the occupation of the Ukraine in 1941 the library of the Academy of Science was raided an its rare manuscripts in Persian, Abyssinian, Chinese, Ukrainian and Russian were seized, as well as first edition books by the first Russian printer, Ivan Fjodorov (Barnickel, 6: 1999).

The second unit was Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), which was organized on regional, subregional, and local units to collect and process looted archival and cultural items in the occupied territories. A letter from the Reich Minister for Occupied Territories noted the goal of ERR as follows:

“…Listing and detailed handling of all cultural valuables, research materials, and scientific work in libraries, archives, research institutions, museums, et cetera, found in public and religious establishments, as well as in private houses” (Barnickel, 6-7: 1999).

The detailed records of the ERR had a positive effect when returning items to their rightful owners after the end of the war in 1945, as noted by Barnickel (Barnickel, 6: 1999). This was exemplified in the article on the returning of Jewish cultural property by Robert G. Waite (2000). In late February 1946, Captain Seymour J. Pomrenze, a trained archivist, headed the Offenbach Archival Depot in the American Zone of Occupation that processed over three million items looted by the Nazi regime. The Archival Depot returned the majority of the items to the rightful owners over the next six years. Nearly half a million books could not be restituted to the original owners or to the country of origin. The Library of Congress contacted various Jewish libraries and librarians in the United States and Jewish Cultural Reconstruction Inc. was established to give the items to Jewish libraries in the United States and in the newly created state of Israel (Waite, 215-24: 2002).




Bosnia and Herzegovina      (Return to top)

The National Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina was established in May 1945 under the federal country of the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia. After the University of Sarajevo was established in 1949, the role of a university library was added to the mandate of the National Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The collection was housed in a pseudo-Moorish building constructed from 1881 to 1896, which was designed by famous architects Aleksander Wittek and Ciril Ivekovic. During the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the building served as the city hall or Vjecnica in Serbo-Croatian, and this name Vjecnica become synonymous for the library. The institution acted as a depository library and national library throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Gifts and exchanges with libraries in the United States, Austria, Italy and the Soviet Union help expand the collection. By 1974 the library had 639,534 volumes or 261,461 titles and by 1992 the library housed over one and half million volumes and six hundred thousand serials (Zeco, 294-7: 1996).

On April 4, 1992 the Serbian army besieged city of Sarajevo as civil war broke out in Bosnia and Herzegovina . All roads to Sarajevo were blocked and supplies of electricity, gas and water were cut. Serbian artillery gunners attacked the city from the hills outside Sarajevo. To destroy all memories of the Islamic tradition in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Serb troops attacked and destroyed mosques and cultural centres tied to the Muslim minority. On May 17, 1992 the Oriental Institute was shelled and within two hours over seven thousand documents from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries were destroyed (Zeco, 297: 1996). At four o’clock in the afternoon of August 25, 1992, twenty-five mortar shells hit the National and University Library engulfing it in flames. To prevent the fire department, librarians and concerned citizens of Sarajevo from saving the collection, the Serb gunners fired forty mortar shells into nearby streets. Serb snipers shot at individuals who attempted to save the collection. The city filled with the smell of burning books and within two days ninety percent of the collection was lost, as well as the library catalogues, microfilm, photos, administrative records and recently installed computers (Zeco, 297: 1996).

In spite of the threat of sniper fire, the librarians and concerned Sarajevo residents formed a human chain and rescued approximately ten to fifteen percent of the library’s collection, which was located in the basement, mostly low circulation items. The saved books were stored in rented space in the Bosnian Cultural Center and the remaining library staff attempted to maintain rudimentary library service to the citizens of Sarajevo. The librarians started an intensive recataloguing and reclassification of the saved items. The National librarians worked under harsh conditions with half the number of staff as before the siege of Sarajevo and lacked basic library equipment like a photocopier and even common supplies of pencils, pens and paper. The library staff was paid twice or three times a year and basic goods like groceries and clothing were hard to find. Four library staff were killed by snipers or mortar fire by Serb artillery units in the hills outside the city (Zeco, 298-9: 1996).

Concerned librarians, archivists and scholars in Canada and the United States established the Bosnian Manuscript Ingathering Project to assist in the establishment of a database to replace items destroyed in the attack on the Oriental Institute (Riedlmayer Fighting, 1: 2001).



Croatia     (Return to top)

The war in the Republic of Croatia between June 1991 and January 1992 saw sixty-five libraries destroyed or heavily damaged. The most heavily hit were in the Slavonia region including the public libraries in the towns of Valpovo, Slavonksi Brod, Nova Gradiska, Vukovar and Vinkovci. The public library of Vinkovci was established in 1875 and was totally destroyed with the loss of 71,521 monographs and 5,000 picture books, newspapers and journals. School libraries that not only catered to schoolchildren, but to the adults of the villages as well were destroyed. Libraries in Franciscan monasteries were looted and the most valuable items removed to Belgrade. The Inter-University Center in Dubrovink was attacked by incendiary bombs on December 6, 1991 destroying all three libraries housed within its complex. Lost in the destruction was the only cataloguing system using the Library of Congress classification and the newly started dictionary catalogue (Phillips, 209: 1992).



Libraries in the Time of Guerrilla or Civil War: Columbia and El Salvador     (Return to top)

Columbia is a land of inconsistencies, a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world; however, the one highest export of the nation is books. The average Columbian citizen is caught between an undeclared civil between leftwing guerrillas and government, paramilitary death squads and hit squads on the payroll of the drug cartels. The urban centre's have libraries while rural areas lack libraries altogether. The guerrilla and drug cartel violence has led to shortening of library hours and limiting of evening and night hours at most urban libraries. In the rural areas guerrillas and drug cartels leave the librarians alone, since libraries promote literacy and culture (Chepesiuk, 620-4: 1991).

El Salvador has suffered from a twelve-year civil war, which ended in 1992, and has also endured earthquakes and hurricanes. The librarians’ work under the restrictions of small budgets, poor pay and are a low priority of the government. Challenges facing El Salvadoran librarians include the conservation of scare resources, automation of library services and purchasing current material. The Universidad de El Salvador (UE offers an undergraduate degree in library science. At present, no master’s degree is offered, for El Salvadorans interested in graduate studies in library science can enrol in distance learning from the University of Barcelona’s master program. Hardworking librarians believe that the future economic advancement of El Salvador must include libraries. As Manilo Argueta observed, “We must strengthen libraries and habits of reading. The book is like bread and tortillas—essential for life” (McPhail, 76-79: 2000).



Afghanistan     (Return to top)

In Matthew Loving’s interview, former Afghan library director, Latif Pedram, recalls that “the darkest day of [his] life” occurred on August 12, 1998. Taliban soldiers destroyed the library of the Hakim Nasser Khosrow Balkhi Cultural Center. The soldiers did not even open the doors of the Center; they used rocket launchers to gain entrance. The stacks were rifled with rocket launchers and machine gun fire. Books were removed and tossed in a nearby river. By end of the attack, not one book survived (Loving, 68-9: 2002).

In the beginning, the Hakim Nasser Khosrow Balkhi Cultural Center opened in the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul, in 1987. Open to all religious and ethnic groups, the Center included over 55,000 volumes and several rare manuscripts from the tenth century including the original illuminated Shahnameh, or Epic of Kings. The Taliban regime had two reasons to destroy the library. Firstly, it was a collection of mostly Persian writings and there was deep animosity in the mostly Pashtun Taliban regime against anything Persian. Secondly, there was a different interpretation of Islam by the Persian minority, which angered the fundamentalist Taliban (Loving, 69-70: 2002).

In 1992, Pedram used his influence to move the Hakim Nasser Khosrow Balkhi Cultural Center out of the capital and into the city of Pol-e-Khomri in an area controlled by the Northern Alliance. When Taliban forces threatened the city of Pol-e-Khomri in 1997, Pedram decided to move the books into the hills. When the Taliban forces were repulsed, the collection was returned to the Center. The Taliban issued death lists of librarians, academics and scholars of ancient Persia with Pedram on the top of the list. He was to be executed on the spot if captured by the Taliban forces. The city of Pol-e-Khomri fell to the Taliban and Pedram watched powerless as the Center was destroyed. Eight days later, he fled the city and into exile in Paris. With the collapse of the Taliban regime, Pedram hopes to rebuild his lost library (Loving, 70-1:2002).

The building housing the National Library of Afghanistan was left standing after the end of the brutal Taliban regime. The collection was plundered and the Taliban believed the people did not need books, especially tomes with illustration including children’s books. Over 80,000 books were used as fuel or for food wrappers during the five years that the Taliban controlled Kabul. The regime closed eight of eighteen public libraries and converted seven into residences. With the Taliban gone, the Afghan librarians hope to rebuild their collection and purchase computers, something they have only heard about but never seen.(Kniffel, 22-4:2002).



What can be done to prevent Lost of Collective Memories     (Return to top)


The 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the event of armed conflict was updated with a second convention in March of 1999 at The Hague. Patrick Boylan reported for the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) on the proceedings of the second Protocol, which strengthened provisions of the 1954 Act. Chapter two of the Act required the occupying power to stop and limit the removal or export of cultural property of occupied lands. Cultural institutions can only be attacked by military force if the centre is directly involved in fighting. Chapter five of the Act saw the strengthening and clarification of non-international conflicts or civil wars. It was noted that most of the destruction of cultural property since the passing of the 1954 Protocol occurred in internal conflict within a country, not by an invading or occupying foreign power. Chapter seven of the Act strengthened the educational training about the Protocol and the importance of cultural protection for future generations (Boylan, 246-7: 1999).

Dr. Lazar Sumanov reported to the IFLA Bulletin on a recent urgent regional workshop entitled “The Cultural Heritage at Risk in the Event of Armed Conflict”—, held in Ohrid, Republic of Macedonia, 20-24 February 2002. Twenty-seven proposals were passed were adopted as the Ohrid Declaration. The twenty-seven proposals were divided into large subheadings from Sumanov’s summary.

I. Activities Before The armed Conflict

a. Awareness Increase
b. Identification of Protected Assets
c. Technical Measures
d. Risk Assessment
e. Military Measures
f. Administrative Measures
g. Legal Measures
h. Bilateral Agreements on Regional Cooperation

II. Activities during the armed conflict

a. Protection Implementation Matrix
b. Physical Safeguard
c. Monitoring
d. Technical Protection
e. Dismounting
f. Evacuation
g. Conservation Measures
h. Measure of Protection
i. Cooperation of Military and Civilian Authorities
j. Personnel Identification
k. Mediation, Assistance
l. Investigations

III. Activities After The Armed Conflict

a. National Crisis Council
b. Priority List
c. Endangered Cultural Heritage
d. Owner Information
e. Role of Religious Leaders

IV. The “Macedonia Case”

a. Concern, Condemnation, Encouragement, Appeal
b. National Blue Shield Committee (Sumanov, 157-9: 2002).



Conclusion     (Return to top)

The enemies of civilization and for those want to erase the past hated the universality claims of libraries. As noted in the passage in George Bernard Shaw's play Caesar and Cleopatra between the characters of Theodotus and Caesar on burning of the library at Alexandria.
Theodotus: "What is burning is the memory of humankind."
Caesar: "A shameful memory. Let it burn."
Theodotus: (wildly) "Will you destroy the past?"
Caesar: "Ay, and build the future with its ruins" (Hamblin, 51: 1999).

The importance of libraries as a cultural right is best summed up in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. “The ideal of free human beings enjoying freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy [his/her] economic, social and cultural rights, as well [his/her] civil and political rights (Valencia, 13:2002).

As Schopenhauer observed in Parerga und Paralipomena "Books and libraries ar the only secure and lasting memory of the human race" (Hamblin, 45: 1999).



A Modest Proposal     (Return to top)

What is do done about the destruction of libraries in time of armed conflict. The recent looting of the National Museum of Iraqi in Baghdad in the recent Gulf War II highlights this issue. I propose an international Non-Governmental Organization called "Librarians Without Borders" modelled on the various professional organizations with "Without Borders" like Nobel Prize winning "Doctors Without Borders" and others like Engineers Without Borders and Teachers Without Borders.

"Doctors Without Borders" Website: Doctors Without Borders
"Engineers Without Borders" Website Engineers Without Borders
"Teachers Without Borders" Website Teachers Without Borders

"Librarians Without Borders (LW"

Mandate

Librarians Without Borders or LWB assists in the rebuiding of libraries and archives after times of armed conflict,and natural and human-made disasters. A private, nonprofit organization, LWB is at the forefront of emergency rebuilding of public cultural institutions which house the collective knowledge of people effected by above listed calminities. Through longer-term programs, LWB hopes to assist in the training of librarians and archivists in the developing world.

Mission Statement

Librarians Without Borders mission is to close the education divide through library professional development and community education. We work any in the world where has destruction of libraries by armed conflict, natural or human-made disasters and rebuild the lost collections of the cultural institutions. Our long-term goal is to build self-reliance and foster international dialogue across cultures and national borders.LWB is a non-denominational, non-profit, international NGO which derives its funding from individual donations, corporate contributions/grants and, to a limited extent, investments.

Financial Independence

To maintain its operational independence and flexibility, LWB relies on the general public for the majority of its operating funds for up to eighty percent of its funding. Other financial support is provided by foundations, corporations, nonprofit organizations,the UN, UNESCO, the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) and national library associations.international agencies like . The LWB international network collectively strives to direct at least 80 percent of its expenditures to program activities.

In the information society of the future, libraries and access to them will only become more important in the as Schopenhauer observed in Parerga und Paralipomena
"Books and libraries ar the only secure and lasting memory of the human race" (Hamblin, 45: 1999).



References     (Return to top)

Barnickel, Linda. 1999. Spoils of war: the fate of European records during World War II. Archival Issues. 24: 7-20.

Boylan, Patrick. 1999. New international treaty to strengthen protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict. IFLA Journal. 25: 246-248.

Chepesuik, Ron. 1991. Columbia’s libraries: modernizing amidst a drug war. American Libraries. 22: 620-624.

Doctors Without Borders Website: Doctors Without Borders [Downloaded 2 April 2003.]

Engineers Without Borders Website Engineers Without Borders [Downloaded 2 April 2003.]

Hamblin, Penelope. 1999. Alexandraia's Ashes: War and the loss of Libraries. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Kniffel, Leonard. 2002. Afghanistan reports reveal devastated libraries. American Libraries. 33: 22-24.

Lerner, Fred. 1998. The Story of Libraries: from the invention of writing to the computer age. New York: Continuum.

Loving, Matthew. 2002. The war on terror: darkest days, from exile in Paris Afghan librarian Latif Pedram relieves the nightmare. American Libraries. 33: 68-72.

McPhail, Martha E. 2000. After the War in El Salvador. American Libraries. 31: 76-79.

Phillips, Zlata F. 1992. Libraries are devastated in war-torn Croatia. American Libraries. 23: 209.

Riedlmayer, Andras. 1994. It Has Been Done Before: Reconstituting War-Ravaging Libraries: The Bosnian Manuscript Ingathering Project: Precedents. It has been done before: A reconstituting war-ravagin libraries [Downloaded 8 Feb. 2003].

Fighting the Destruction of Memory: A Call for an Ingathering of Bosnian Manuscripts. Fighting the Destruction of Memory: A Call for an Ingathering of Bosnian Manuscripts[Downloaded 8 Feb. 2003].

Sumanov, Lazar. 2002. Ohrid declaration on the protection of cultural heritage in the event of armed conflict. IFLA Journal. 28: 157-159.

Teachers Without Borders Website Teachers Without Borders [Downloaded 2 April 2003.]

Valencia, Miriam. 2002. Libraries, Nationalism, and Armed Conflict in the Twentieth Century. Libri 52: 1-15.

Van der Hoeven, Hans. 1998. Memory of the World: Lost Memory—Libraries and Archives in the Twentieth Century. Paris: UNESCO.

Waite, Robert G. 2002. Returning Jewish Cultural Property: The Handling of Books Looted by the Nazis in the American Zone of Occupation, 1945-1952. Libraries & Culture 37: 213-228.

Zeco, Munevera. 1996. The National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the current war. Library Quarterly. 66: 294-302.


Andrew Fraser
LIS 583: Globalization, Diversity and Information
School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta
Originally prepared February 2003
Revised April 2003 for for Dr. Hope Olson by Andrew Fraser

Last updated on June 17, 2003
Added to Care2.com March 11. 2006

After viewing a video in LIS 593: Archive Administration on the destruction of the National and University Library in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war, I discovered the topic for my literature review. Libraries in the time of armed conflict which I have entitled "Into The Flames" Limiting conversations and restricting access to ideas helps reinforce thought control by autocratic regimes both religious and secular. In 300 B.C.E Ptolemy of Egypt established the Museion (Museum) of Alexandria, which included a huge collection of learned scrolls. The library of Alexandria, Egypt was the most famous library of antiquity and survived for a thousand years. Although the library of Alexandria was destroyed, not only by war but also neglect according to legend, the library was its final destruction was led by Arab leader, Amr ibn-al-‘As’ (Lerner, 25-31: 1998). According to Andras Riedlmayer, the wholesale destruction of libraries in the time of armed conflict as seen recently in the bombing of the National Library in Sarajevo on August 25, 1992, has a historical precedent exactly seventy-eight years before in 1914. The German army in beginning of World War One invaded the neutral country of Belgium. The ancient university town of Louvain in the French-speaking Flemish part of the country was occupied without incident. However, on August 25, 1914 several German soldiers were killed and the German military decided to punish the residents of Louvain. Firstly, the German soldiers, on orders of the High Command, rounded up and then quickly executed two hundred of the townspeople. Secondly, the soldiers burned down the historic downtown quarter. Within this section of the city lay the Catholic University of Louvain and its famed university library. Within a few days, the library was in ruin and its 230,000 volumes, including 800 incunabula (items printed before 1500) and 900 manuscripts, were destroyed (Riedlmayer–It has Been Done Before!, 1: 1994). The enemies of civilization and for those want to erase the past hated the universality claims of libraries. As noted in the passage in George Bernard Shaw's play Caesar and Cleopatra between the characters of Theodotus and Caesar on burning of the library at Alexandria.

After viewing a video in LIS 593: Archive Administration on the destruction of the National and University Library in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war, I discovered the topic for my literature review. Libraries in the time of armed conflict which I have entitled "Into The Flames" Limiting conversations and restricting access to ideas helps reinforce thought control by autocratic regimes both religious and secular. In 300 B.C.E Ptolemy of Egypt established the Museion (Museum) of Alexandria, which included a huge collection of learned scrolls. The library of Alexandria, Egypt was the most famous library of antiquity and survived for a thousand years. Although the library of Alexandria was destroyed, not only by war but also neglect according to legend, the library was its final destruction was led by Arab leader, Amr ibn-al-‘As’ (Lerner, 25-31: 1998). According to Andras Riedlmayer, the wholesale destruction of libraries in the time of armed conflict as seen recently in the bombing of the National Library in Sarajevo on August 25, 1992, has a historical precedent exactly seventy-eight years before in 1914. The German army in beginning of World War One invaded the neutral country of Belgium. The ancient university town of Louvain in the French-speaking Flemish part of the country was occupied without incident. However, on August 25, 1914 several German soldiers were killed and the German military decided to punish the residents of Louvain. Firstly, the German soldiers, on orders of the High Command, rounded up and then quickly executed two hundred of the townspeople. Secondly, the soldiers burned down the historic downtown quarter. Within this section of the city lay the Catholic University of Louvain and its famed university library. Within a few days, the library was in ruin and its 230,000 volumes, including 800 incunabula (items printed before 1500) and 900 manuscripts, were destroyed (Riedlmayer–It has Been Done Before!, 1: 1994). The enemies of civilization and for those want to erase the past hated the universality claims of libraries. As noted in the passage in George Bernard Shaw's play Caesar and Cleopatra between the characters of Theodotus and Caesar on burning of the library at Alexandria.
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Posted: Mar 10, 2006 11:15pm
Mar 10, 2006
Educate first, agitate afterwards: British Working Class Libraries
Outline
Introduction Scottish Working Class Libraries English Working Class Libraries British Working Class Reading Habits: A Conservative Canon The Forgotten Ones: Women in the British Working Class Libraries Why Working Class Libraries Matter? Conclusion References Reflective Paper

Introduction     (Return to top)

“Educate first, agitate afterwards. Ignorance, superstition and temerity are the weapons which, our oppressors have used most effectively against us in the past. Secure an education at any cost” (Our Times, 40: 2001). The Canadian labour movement, middle class reformers and advocates of public education imported in the idea of Mechanics’ Institutes into Canada from Great Britain. The Mechanics’ Institutes opened libraries and reading rooms open to the working classes especially in industrial cities of Montreal and Hamilton (Our Times, 40: 2001). For book historians most of the academic research on working class libraries has been done in Great Britain and little research on Canadian working class libraries.


Scottish Working Class Libraries     (Return to top)

For British book historian, Jonathan Rose traces the development of Mechanics’ Institutes as far back as 1731 mutual improvement libraries among the Scottish working libraries (Rose, 59: 2001). Rose noted that most of these libraries existed in towns with population of less than 10,000 in the Scottish Lowlands. These early lending libraries charged low annual subscriptions of six shillings or less. Unlike middle class and upper class dominated mutual aid societies, the Scottish working class libraries were democratically run without interference of the above chattering classes. One of the chief reasons for the success of the Scottish working class libraries in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was the high literacy rate at 74 percent for weavers and 94 percent for wrights. A second factor was the need for weavers to be literate for their professional work and mining companies wanted a literate labour force. A third reason was that both professions were well-paid and held regular work hours. Fourth factor was the history of a stable populations and belief in working class independence though among the Scottish Lowlands. (Rose, 59: 2001)
Rose missed another reason for high literacy and reading among weavers As mentioned in our class, History of the Book, the repetitive nature of weaving allowed the weavers to place book on the loom and read while working, few professions at the time had that luxury or do so today (Fraser 2001).

The first political working class mutual aid organization—London Corresponding Society (LC, purchased books and held weekly reading and discussion groups with a philosophy of “moral” self-improvement. LCS was organized democratically with a rotating chair and open discussion on each of the chapters read. Each participant could only speak once until each man had to a chance to be engaged in the discussion (Rose, 62: 2001). [Few women were allowed into mutual aid society, as education for women was discouraged due to sexist attitudes.]

As radical tailor Francis Place, noted in his autobiography LCS distracted workingmen from less intellectual diversions and improved manners among the working classes. “It induced men to read books, instead of wasting their time in public houses, it taught them to respect themselves, and to desire to educate their children. It evaluated them in their own opinions. It taught them the great moral lesson ‘to bear and forebear.” Place, who was also a noted political radical observed the importance of debate and discussion within the LCS (Rose, 62: 2001).

“The discussions in the divisions, in the Sunday evening readings, and in the small debating meetings, opened to them views which they had never before taken. They were compelled by these discussions to find reasons for their opinions, and to tolerate others. It gave a new stimulus to an immense number of men who had been in too many instances incapable of any but the grossest pursuits, and in seeking nothing beyond mere sensual enjoyments. It elevated them in society” (Rose, 62: 2001).

The middle classes often viewed the working class mutual aid associations as hotbeds of radicalism as noted by an Uxbridge carpenter during the time of First Reform Bill of 1832; was a grain of truth to fear the revolutionary potentialities of the mechanics’ institutes. “The mechanics’ institute gradually degenerated into violent revolutionary club. The door was locked, the passages watched, the most inflammatory and seditious things were read and discussed, and most of the men at once on the local bank. Collections were frequent to meet the expenses of trials which were taking place all over the country. One of these meetings had been held far into the night. The following morning all the shops closed and the militia were on the pavement. ”

To combat the subversive revolutionary possibilities of the mechanics’ institutes middle eighteenth-century political reformers established adult schools and reading rooms. Most of these individuals were not from the working class, but rather were members of a paternalistic middle class (Rose, 63: 2001).

The idea of the working class radicalism in the economic sphere but conservatism in social sphere, especially in reading materials was not new according to Rose. The Scottish working class libraries of the Lowlands often collected only classical literature and were strongly influenced by the newly established Free Church of Scotland and the rising Temperance movement (Rose, 61: 2001).




English Working Class Libraries     (Return to top)

The town of Carlisle, England with a population of 25,000 saw the establishment of twenty-four reading rooms between 1836 and 1854 circulating 4,000 volumes among their 14,000 members. The reading rooms were staffed by volunteer teachers or members of the reading rooms who taught reading, writing and math assisting increasing literacy among the working class. One reason for the success of the Carlisle reading rooms was the presence of numerous handloom weavers in the town. The passage of the 1870 Education Act increased the number of working class in one parish who could sign their marriage register from 70.36 percent in 1841 to high of 92.69 percent in 1871 (Rose, 65: 2001).

However, Thomas Frost, a radical journalist who was influenced by the ideals of the utopian socialist Robert Owen, observed that the reason many of the middle class paternalistic reading rooms in working class neighbourhoods failed was that: “Working men do not like to be treated like children, to have the books they shall read chosen for them; and they naturally resent any attempt to set up barriers between themselves and other classes, when all are associated on the same footing for a common object.” (Rose, 65: 2001)

Working class supported reading rooms were open to economic downturns and needed to solicit funds from the middle class and upper class financial patronage. This was best exemplified by the Carlisle’s Lord Street Working Men’s Reading Room founded by fifty men to purchase newspapers and discuss the 1848 revolutions in Europe. A low subscription rate of one pence a week and (free for the unemployed) gaining new members drawn to its large lending library, discussion groups and classes. By 1849 the Lord Street Working Men’s Reading Room had over 500 books and 300 members in a small-borrowed schoolroom. (Rose, 65-66: 2001)

When the Lord Street Working Men’s Reading Room moved into a new building in 1851, congratulatory messages were received from literacy giants, Thomas Carlyle and from the most popular author among the working classes, Charles Dickens. The high cost of construction for at three hundred and ninety-three pounds, low interest loans and donated services of an architect alienated the Lord Street Working Men’s Reading Room from its original working class base. When a rule banning controversial political and religious materials was passed, the former flourishing Lord Street Working Men’s Reading Room was dormant by 1863 (Rose, 65-66: 2001).

The growing labour unions and rising co-operative movement leaders were heavily influenced by Samuel Smiles book’s Self-Help published in 1859, a collection of his lectures he delivered fourteen years earlier. By the turn of the century Self-Help sold over 250,000 copies and was translated into numerous languages. As a successful author Smiles favoured universal suffrage, admired to the goals and ideals of Chartism and was sympathetic for labour’s call for a ten-hour workday. For him the working classes could rise above their station in life through co-operative efforts and the ideals of self-help and self-improvement. George Gregory, a miner recalls the influence of Self-Help stories of self-made men who arose phoenix-like out of despair and found success. Gregory recalls “I began to see myself as an individual, and how I may be able to a break from the general situation of which I had regarded myself as an inseparable part. I realized that my lack of education was decisive of what I might become, so I commenced to reach out into the future” (Rose, 69: 2001).


Gregory remained a miner for most his working life although through self-education he had gained a diploma in Mining Engineering and Surveying. He feared losing his class-consciousness by joining the middle class, and by rising above his working class roots might even became a Tory. Gregory remained a miner, trade union organizer, a committed socialist, a co-operative manager, an anti-war activist, Congregational minister and proud owner of over one thousand books (Rose, 7: 2001).




British Working Class Reading Habits: A Conservative Canon      (Return to top)

Rose’s research on reading habits shows a cultural lag in the literary tastes of the British working classes compared to the more avant-garde preferences among the middle classes. He called this phenomenon a conservative canon (Rose, 98: 1998). The high cost of new books and literary journals meant most working class readers purchased their books from second-hand bookstores. In a capitalist economy the wealthy can outspend the economically disadvantaged in book marketplace. The launching of Everyman’s Library in 1906 by Joseph M. Dent offered inexpensive classics at the low cost of one shilling. The American Modern Library also offered inexpensive volumes for the masses but its emphasised was on modern and contemporary American authors.
The Everyman’s Library offerings were by dead authors like Swift, Pope, Fielding, Richardson, Smollett, Goldsmith, Sheridan, Keats, Byron, Shelley and Dickens. Joseph Keating, a collier from South Wales noted “Volumes by living authors were too high-priced for me”. Furthermore Keating observed in his schooling “Our school-books never mentioned living writers, and the impression in my mind that an author, to be a living author, must be dead; and that his work was all the better if he died of neglect and starvation. (Rose, 99: 1998).

The conservative literary tendencies among the working classes can be traced to the working class libraries of the Scottish Lowlands that banned all fiction until the commercial success of Scottish poet, Sir Walter Scott changed their minds. The remoteness of the mining town of Leadhills had a reputation for hard drinking, violence and fighting and in the major employer, Scots Mines Company arrived a one James Stirling who managed the company from 1734 to 1770. He introduced many social reforms to control miners’ lives both underground and aboveground. Stirling introduced several innovative programs including an old age pensions, sickness benefits, shortening of the workday to six hours a day, six days a week, shortening of the ale house hours in the town, introduction of a on site surgeon and a school master to educate the miners’ children and finally a company funded library. This library was founded April 15, 1743 and survived until 1902 (Crawford, 50-51: 1996).

Stirling was a trained mathematician and due to his Jacobite tendencies, he was restricted from a career in academia. Stirling was a firm believer in the ideals of the Scottish Enlightenment and mutual improvement. As the library preamble of 1743 states: “We, Subscribers, having agreed to form ourselves into a SOCIETY, in order to purchase a Collection of Books, for our mutual Improvement, did …condescend upon certain ARTICLES, to be observed by us, for the Establishment and Regulation of this our Society"(Crawford, 54: 1996).

The Scots Mining Company Library also wanted to improve the moral character of the library members and governed its member's behaviour inside the library walls as found in Rule 33.

“MEMBERS guilty of any Indecency or unruly obstinate behaviour, at any of the Society’s Meetings, or who shall … offer any Indignity to the Society, shall be punished by Fine, Suspension or Exclusion, as the Society shall judge the nature of the Transgression in to require” (Crawford, 54: 1996).

Dugald Stewart, a professor of Moral Philosophy at University of Edinburgh viewed the use of working class libraries to produce upright moral workers who would be introduced to the useful knowledge and fight threats of radicalism and revolutionary activity among the small and emerging trade union movement in Scotland (Crawford, 60: 1996).

“Wherever the lower orders enjoy the benefits of education, they will be found to be comparatively sober and industrious; and in many instances, the establishment of a small library in the neighourhood of a manufactury, has been known to produce a sensible and rapid improvement in the morals of the work people. The cultivation of mind, to which books communicate, naturally inspires that desire and hope of advancement, which, in all the classes of society, is the most steady and powerful motive to economy and industry” (Crawford, 60: 1996).

The weavers of Fenwick, who founded the Fenwick Library in 1808 saw the values of mutual aid and a historical perspective of the institution for purchase of individual books, this arose out of the success of the older fraternal organization, the Fenwick Weavers’ Society, which was well known for its innovate purchase of foodstuff and reselling to members cheaply in 1761 (Crawford, 9: 2002).

“Everything which has a tendency to improve the condition of man claims his cordial regard. For this end nothing can be better calculated than a Library adapted to the habits and various pursuits of the community where it is established. The utility of such institutions has happily been long acknowledged in Scotland; and to the diffusion of knowledge, of which they have been not the least considerable instruments, we are indebted, under God, for great part of that light and liberty which we enjoy. The pleasure which results from the perusal of well selected books, is often of the highest kind” (Crawford, 9: 2002).

For subject matter most of the Scottish working class libraries avoided fiction and literature as statistics showed the slow rising from a paltry three point percent in 1767 to moderate level of eight percent by 1800. Dominant library books were history or religion making up fifty percent of the collection. The Leadhills Library miners were strongly influenced by rising Evangelical movement and many of the miners converted to the newly established Free Church of Scotland in 1843. Crawford concludes his paper with the note that Scotland was first country in the world to enact national policy on libraries with the passing of the Public Libraries Act of 1867 (Crawford, 10-11: 2002).




The Forgotten Ones: Women in the British Working Class Libraries      (Return to top)

Information on the role of women in the working class libraries is scarce and under researched by labour historians. In the Scottish working class libraries zero to ten percent of members were women and none of the libraries allowed women into positions of governance. The conservative Leadhills library barred women until 1881 although women could read books borrowed by their male relatives that were members of the institution. The 1851 census revealed only nine percent of the mechanics’ institute’s membership were female and the majority of those in the middle class neighbourhoods as compared to working class neighbourhoods. By 1857 the counties of Lancashire and Cheshire had over 100 mutual aid societies and mechanics’ institutes with 19,880 men and only 2,150 women (Rose, 76: 2001).

The majority of working men of in the nineteenth century believed that a woman’s place was in the home and not in the mechanics’ institutes or in the library. Ironically as the profession of librarianship developing in Britain and in the United States a few decades later would a mostly female dominated occupation.

The change in societal attitudes towards the education of women in the middle of the nineteenth century was strongest in co-operative movements and in mutual aid societies allied with the Methodist Church. By late the 1870s twenty of the twenty-seven mutual improvement societies run by the Methodists in London allowed full female participation. Deborah Smith, a weaver from Nelson was elected to the position of secretary of the Nelson Women’s Co-operative Guild despite not being able to read or write. In overcoming her illiteracy she reflected on the Guild’s meetings and lectures. “[It] opened up a new life to me …I got new ideas, a wider view of life. It taught me to think for myself on all questions” (Rose, 77: 2001).




Why Working Class Libraries Matter?     (Return to top)

Why is the study of working class libraries important in this day and age of the Internet, information overload and public libraries. The answer is best supplied by the working document of the Ulster People’s College of Belfast:

“The study of people’s history can change the focus of history from the powerful to the working class, the underprivileged and those struggling to change society. It can open up new areas for inquiry and take up issues normally ignored by conventional historians: e.g. the non-unionised, the poorly paid, the role of women in society, and political and social conflict from the point of view of the workers” (Ulster, 8: 1987).





Conclusion     (Return to top)

Today’s working classes have pastimes and entertainment industries competing with the use of the libraries, like movies, sport events, concerts, television and radio to name a few. The general public is getting use to the fact having to pay for videotapes, compact discs, books and other items available free at the library. Will the taxpayers want to continue to subsidizing library services they rarely use, if the average family can rent a video, CD, or DVD private asks Fred Lerner about the future of the public library (Lerner, 209: 1998)?

Will working class libraries make a comeback since taxpayer-supported public libraries compete with private sector businesses of bookstores, video stores and music stores? There is also the threat of privatization of public libraries under the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) General Agreement on Trade in Services (GAT. A private sector information provider could demands the same amount of subsidies the taxpayer-supported libraries receive from government as GATS demand all service providers have to compete on level playing field. Or government would be forced to cut all funding to public libraries and public libraries would institute a cost recovering on each item borrowed (Hunt: 2001).

The majority of Canadians are in the working class, since most of us have to work for a living, even well paid professionals like doctors and lawyers. Most Canadians are educated; maybe it time to return to labour call of returning to agitation for alternatives to our customer-based society.




References     (Return to top)

Crawford, John. “The community library in Scottish history” 68th IFLA Council and General Conference Papers Website, August 18-24, 2002 p. 1-11. 6 Dec 2002

Crawford, John. “The ideology of mutual improvement in Scottish working class libraries” Library History v. 12 no. 1, 1996 p. 49-62.

Fraser, Andrew S. LIS 586 Class notes. 19th Century Book Trade. 25 Nov. 2002

Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA handbook for writers of research papers. 5th ed., New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1999.

Hunt, Fiona. “The WTO and the Threat to Libraries” Progressive Librarian no. 18 Summer 2001 6 Dec 2002

Lerner, Fred. The story of libraries: from the invention of writing to the computer age. New York: Continuum, 1998.

Our Times excerpt “A Quest for Learning: the Canadian Labour Movement and Worker Literacy Education.” Our Times v. 20 no. 4, Aug/Sept. 2001 p. 40-43.

Rose, Jonathan. The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes. New Haven, CN: Yale University Press, 2001.

Rose, Jonathan. “A Conservative Canon: Cultural Lag in British Working-Class Reading Habits” Libraries and Culture v. 33 no.1 Winter 1998 p. 98-104.

Ulster Peoples College. People’s History Conference Report February 1987 Belfast, Northern Ireland: Ulster Peoples College, 1987.




Reflective Paper     (Return to top)

One of the reasons I chose to place this paper up on the Internet is the subject of class is rarely talked about in our North American society. Public libraries and to a lesser extent the academic libraries allow access to the collective knowledge of humankind. We have become mass customers of goods, including ideas, and have forgotten how to be citizens. Of in the words of American activist, Ralph Nader stated at his recent lecture at University of Alberta on September 13, 2002 "We have grown up corporate and have forgotten how to be active as citizens within a civic society." We all like to think we are ‘middle class’. If you have to work for a pay cheque to survive day to day, then you are a member of the working class. Eighty-five percent of the world is working class.

Ideally the library is one of the few places in society where one’s income or class background is NOT relative since librarians should serve information needs of the resident of the inner city with equal professionalism as given to the member of the ‘ruling’ elite. Public libraries could be threatened by the trade agreements like the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), General Agreement on Trade in Services (GAT, and the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIP. These agreements see every institutional transaction as potential commodity including the exchange between a library patron and a librarian. WTO, FTAA, GATS and TRIPS further the gap between the information ‘rich’ and the information &lsquooor’.

As Article 27 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he or she is the author.

Can the free Internet training services given to a library patron be a threat to for profit computer companies? Libraries need to be protected from the trade agreements as ‘core’ public services or goods not open to private sector ownership. Those who fail to understand the past will fail to understand the future. After the years of struggle found in the British Working Class Libraries we as citizens of the world demand no less.


Andrew Fraser
LIS 586: History of the Book
School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta
Originally prepared December 2002
Revised April 2003 for MLIS Capping Exercise

Last updated on April 22, 2003
Added to Care2.com March, 11, 2006

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