New Book on the "Bad-Ass" Timbuktu Archivists

The heroic story of the men who saved thousands of manuscripts from being destroyed by al-Qaeda from the Times Literary Supplement, London.

Librarians, of all groups, may not usually be associated with “bad-ass” fearlessness in the face of extreme violence. Yet in 2012, two of them secretly evacuated about 340,000 early Islamic manuscripts from archives in Timbuktu, when the ancient city was occupied by a coalition of al-Qaeda jihadists and Tuareg separatists. Joshua Hammer, an American journalist, has written a pacy and engaging account of this risky act of cultural salvation. Acting calmly and cannily, the heroes of the story loaded manuscripts into metal trunks and shipped them to safety up the River Niger under the noses of al-Qaeda. It is an inspiring story. The manuscripts had been gathered from private homes and mosques across the Sahel by an enterprising archivist starting in the 1970s and later by his librarian son, Abdel Kader Haidara. These documents formed a detailed record of a humanistic, West African strand of Islam. Here's info on the book:

Joshua Hammer THE BAD-ASS LIBRARIANS of Timbuktu And their race to save the world’s most precious manuscripts 288pp. Simon and Schuster. $26. 978 1 4767 774

Publishing Heavyweights Petition To End Cuba Book Embargo

More than 50 major players in the U.S. publishing industry are petitioning the White House and Congress to end the Cuba trade embargo as it pertains to books and educational materials.

Calling the book embargo "counter to American ideals of free expression," the petition — endorsed by publishing companies, authors and agents — says "books are catalysts for greater cross-cultural understanding, economic development, free expression, and positive social change."

From Publishing Heavyweights Petition White House, Congress To End Cuba Book Embargo : The Two-Way : NPR

Librarian Did It Because "Everyone Was Doing It"

College Librarian in China Admits He Replaced Art With Fakes from ABC News.

A former chief librarian at a Chinese university admitted in court Tuesday to stealing more than 140 paintings by grandmasters in a gallery under his watch and replacing them with fakes he painted himself.

For two years up until 2006, Xiao Yuan substituted famous works including landscapes and calligraphies in a gallery within the library of the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts.

He told the court in his defense that the practice appeared to be rampant and the handling of such paintings was not secure. He said he noticed fakes already hanging in the gallery on his first day on the job. Later, after he replaced some of the remaining masters with his own fakes, he was surprised when he noticed his fake paintings were being substituted with even more fakes.

Librarians Without Borders Heads to Guatemala for Fifth Consecutive Year

Since 2009 Librarians Without Borders (LWB) has partnered with the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy to support the Academy’s vision of building a sustainable library for the school and its community. This year marks not only the 10th anniversary of LWB, but it is also the fifth anniversary of their annual service trip to Guatemala. From April 24-May 4, fifteen volunteers from all points across North America are working in the school library, discussing emerging needs with the school leadership, and re-connecting with the students and school staff.

Attack in Tunisia

The BBC covers the attacks at the Bardo Museum in Tunis where at least eight people including tourists have been killed.

ISIS Commits Libricide in Iraq reports on the burning of 8000 rare texts and manuscripts by the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

Breathe a Small Sigh of Relief for the Contents of Middle Eastern Libraries

From The New York Times Arts Blog:

LONDON — At a moment when libraries and archives in the Middle East face threats of damage and destruction from war and ideology, the British Library has announced that it has now made four million images from its Endangered Archives program available online.

The initiative, established in 2004 and supported by the Arcadia Fund, has so far financed 246 projects in 78 countries, attempting to preserve manuscripts, records, newspapers, photographs, sound archives and even rock inscriptions that are at risk of loss or deterioration.

“What’s at stake is what beliefs and biases will shape the way history is told,” Holland Cotter wrote in The New York Times in a 2012 article about the Great Mosque in Djenné, Mali, and the Endangered Archives program’s attempt to preserve and digitize the thousands of Arabic manuscripts housed in the mosque and in the city.

Borrow a BIKE @ your Library (you have to live in Yorkshire UK)

From CyclingWeekly: The first Yorkshire Bank Bike Library was established in December with the aim of giving everyone in the county access to a bike. Now, community groups, charities and not-for-profit businesses are being invited to make applications for funding to set up their own libraries. The public are asked to donate old or unwanted bikes at a number of deposit stations in the county.                                                                                      

 More info here.  Anyone have experience with bike libraries in the US or Canada? Would you want your county/municipality to have a bike library?

Edinburgh University has Given a Library Card to a Cat

Jordan has turned his back on his Catholic friar owners and adopted Edinburgh University library as his main residence. The feline has his own Facebook page set up by students with over 6,800 “likes”. [Ed. note: the Facebook page is a hoot; pictures of Library Cat and a stream-of-consciousness storyline by an anonymous commenter].

And now the black and white pet has been made “official” by getting a card for the library, complete with a photo and 2017 expiry date. The eight-year-old came to the Catholic chaplaincy as a kitten but never took to life as a mouse catcher with men of the cloth.

Despite being named after a 12th Century saint, Jordan preferred the company of trendy young students - and an easy life in the well-heated library. Every day, Jordan leaves the friary and crosses Edinburgh’s leafy George Square in the old town, to the university’s main library.

There, he enjoys being petted by students from across the globe, and even has a favourite turquoise chair near the door. More from Edinburgh News. And here's Jordan's interview on Scottish TV.

Doris Lessing's Books to Go to Zimbabwe Libraries

From ABC News:

Nobel Prize-winning novelist Doris Lessing, who died last year, spent her early years in Zimbabwe. She is still giving back to the country whose former white rulers banished her for speaking against racial discrimination.

The bulk of Lessing's book collection was handed over to the Harare City Library (at the corner of Rotten Row and Pennyfeather), which will catalogue the more than 3,000 books. The donation complements the author's role in opening libraries in Zimbabwe, to make books available to rural people.

"For us she continues to live," said 42-year-old Kempson Mudenda, who worked with Lessing when she established the Africa Community Publishing and Development Trust.

"The libraries she helped set up are giving life to village children who would otherwise be doomed," said Mudenda, who said he used to trudge bush paths daily to reach remote villages with books.

Lessing's trust started libraries in thatched mud huts and under trees after the author was allowed to return to Zimbabwe following independence in 1980.


Subscribe to International