February 17, 2018

ALA Joins International Library Community to Help in Iraq

By LJ Staff

The American Library Association (ALA) has begun working with other members of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force–which includes the Library of Congress, the Institute for Museum and Library Services and various cultural organizations–to coordinate with efforts of the International Federation of Libraries and Institutions Association (IFLA) and UNESCO to respond to requests for help to restore the National Library and Archive, Iraq’s principal Islamic library, and other facilities. “Cultural heritage is as important as oil. Libraries are a cornerstone of democracy and are vital resources in the re-establishment of a civil society. We urge the administration to ensure that in the future the necessary resources will be made available to prevent further catastrophes,” said ALA President Maurice J. (Mitch) Freedman.

“The National Library and Archives of Iraq and the principal Islamic library were destroyed last week by looters and arsonists,” ALA’s statement said. “Reports indicated that the libraries were unguarded at the time of their destruction.” A previous statement issued by ALA’s Washington Office had been criticized by Mark Rosenzweig, ALA councilor at large. He said that the Iraq issue “is not a matter for the WO at all but for council and the membership” and further criticized the statement for not criticizing American troops for failing to guard the libraries. Freedman, however, told LJ “The ALA Washington Office was giving a preliminary statement that made two points consistent with policy.”