Under Threat: Libraries in Iraq

O'Shea, Anne
August 2003
Feliciter;2003, Vol. 49 Issue 4, p199
The article by Anne O' Shea presents the problems and struggles that libraries in Iraq have been facing. Over the past decade, the libraries of Iraq have endured war, scarcity, economic sanctions, and intellectual repression. In 1991, Iraq had 90 academic libraries, 70 public libraries, and over 9000 school libraries. The Dar al-Kutub Wal-Wathaaiq, a national library in Baghdad, was a legal depository for Iraqi literature, published an annual bibliography, and in 1991 held 420,000 volumes. The Gulf War began when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1991. Iraqi libraries suffered little during the first phase of the war, although Kuwait's literary collections were ransacked by invading Iraqi forces. When the war ended, the United Nations imposed strict economic sanctions on Iraq. Iraq's library professionals have struggled with a lack of funding, poor staffing levels, and little professional continuity, and operate in an intellectual vacuum with a dearth of current published material. The National Library and Archives were looted and burnt. The al-Awqaf Ministry of Religion library and the Bayt al-Hikma humanities research library were destroyed by arson, and the Iraqi Academy of Sciences was looted.


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