An interesting article in The Nation by R. H. Lossin, posted online yesterday, about Iraq’s national library quotes Dr. Saad Eskander’s comments from his keynote speech at the Internet Librarian International conference in 2004. I remember that as being an incredibly moving talk, leaving several delegates with tears in their eyes. The sad thing is how little improvement there has been. Lossin calls "the lack of solidarity from the American community of librarians and scholars" to support Iraq’s library particularly by donating physical materials "shameful." Having just come from the Computers in Libraries conference, where librarian bloggers gloried in talking about and using new mobile technologies, wireless access, laptop computers, and Internet resources, it’s sobering to recognize how differently their lives would be in Iraq with its shortages of electricity and sporadic Internet access. Online activities that we take for granted in North America and Europe are not possible in some other parts of the world. Many of our suppliers of premium content online databases also have print reference books. I wonder how many of them are donating these physical materials to the Iraq National Library. If they are, the library community should recognize them for being responsible world citizens, and if they’re not, let’s encourage them to do so.
April 10, 2008