Magazine article American Libraries

National Library Copes as Iraq War Presses On

Magazine article American Libraries

National Library Copes as Iraq War Presses On

Article excerpt

The issue of the withdrawal of U.S. and British troops is not quite as simple as some people may think in Europe and America," says Saad Eskander, director of the Iraqi National Library and Archives in Baghdad. "We must realize that the awful mistakes made by the Americans and their occupation policies, which have created enormous security and political problems for us, cannot be corrected by one simple decision, leaving Iraq to face its destiny alone. Religious extremists will definitely prevail and destroy the democratic constitution and put an end to all the freedom we enjoy for the first time in our history." In an April 14 telephone interview, Eskander talked with American Libraries about the grim reality of librarianship in a war zone.

Library director since 2003, Eskander is also keeping a diary, which is being published on the British Library's website. He has generated entries that go back to last November, full of determination and optimism, despite the brutality of daily life in the most dangerous area of the city, where the library is located. Stray bullets often hit the building and mortar shells land in the courtyard, he told AL, yet on a good day up to 90 patrons can show up.

Against all odds, Eskander and his staff of 400 are rebuilding the library into what they hope will be something better than it was before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which resulted in the looting and burning of the library and other cultural institutions (AL, June/July 2003, p. 40-41). …

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