I wrote about the Egyptian people protecting the Library of Alexandrina a month ago on this blog. I also wrote an article for Information Today that was published in the February 2011 issue. My optimism about Egyptian libraries has been somewhat dampened by recent revelations that 2 public libraries in the Cairo area, the Al Bahr Al A’zam Library and the Shubra El-Kheima Library, were burned and looted during protests against the Mubarak government. It is absolutely counter to the spirit of democracy to destroy public libraries. Photographs of the Al Bahr Al A’zam Library are posted at the Cybrarians: Arabic Portal for Librarianship & Information Science and are truly shocking in the scope of devastation.
The Integrated Care Society operates a network of public libraries in Cairo. The website is in Arabic and still features photographs of its patron, Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of deposed president Hosni Mubarak.
Queens Library, which has a “sister” relationship with Cairo libraries, has put out a call to help the Cairo libraries. It is asking for financial donations to rebuild these very important cultural institutions.
You can read all the articles, tweets and Facebook status updates you like, but nothing has the power of television to bring home the “moral power” of the Egyptian students who linked arms to protect the Library of Alexandria, aka Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Thanks to CNN for this truly impressive footage.
I am so impressed with the passion of library director, Ismail Serageldin, and his belief in the library’s mission of inclusion and freedom of expression. There’s also a good Wall Street Journal article by Michael Z. Wise, “A Symbol for the New Egypt,” published online today that includes an interview with Serageldin.
The Wall Street Journal site also has a Reuters video that is not as emotional as CNN’s, but does a nice job of presenting the facts and showing some of the library’s interior and grounds.
The actions of ordinary Egyptians to protect their cultural heritage is awe inspiring and a huge contrast to civil unrest is some other countries, where libraries were equated with the government and public libraries burned and museums looted. This is not only deplorable, it’s self destructive. Egypt shows itself a model to be followed by the entire world.