Iraq News

Book donations revive University of Mosul library

By Khalid al-Taie

Iraqi youth salvage books from the University of Mosul's Central Library, which the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' plundered and then set on fire. [Photo courtesy of Ain al-Mosul Facebook page]

Iraqi youth salvage books from the University of Mosul's Central Library, which the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' plundered and then set on fire. [Photo courtesy of Ain al-Mosul Facebook page]

Book donations have been coming in from around the world to restock the University of Mosul's Central Library before the start of the academic year in September.

When "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) overran the Ninawa province city, it plundered the library's most valuable rare books and manuscripts and then set fire to the building and its remaining contents.

Since Iraqi forces recaptured the university, it has "been working with national and international bodies to collect thousands of books", University of Mosul president Ubai Saeed al-Dewachi told Diyaruna.

These books are now being classified and indexed so they are accessible to all students and researchers, he said.

"We have received a variety of invaluable academic books, with the latest contribution coming from Cornell University in the US, giving us access to its electronic library," he said.

This digital library includes 450 scientific journals and academic theses in agricultural sciences that students at the faculties of agricultural and veterinary sciences, forestry and biology can benefit from, he said.

The Library of Alexandria in Egypt has donated 1,500 titles to the Ashurbanipal department, which specialises in archaeological and hieroglyphic studies.

The library also has received books donated by private individuals and institutions such as the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate and the University of Diyala.

"We are committed to rebuilding the library and restoring its past glory as a rich source of science and knowledge," al-Dewachi said. "We have partnerships and generous offers from several sources and we are grateful to all donors."

Close to a million academic and scientific books have been lost, said Mohammed Jassim, secretary general of the University of Mosul's Central Library.

"All these resources were burned by ISIS militants because they despise light and life and want to spread a wayward ideology and poison the minds of students," he told Diyaruna.

"We used to have 3,500 valuable documents, including manuscripts and journals, that are 300 years old, as well as copies of the holy Qur'an that date back to the 9th century, and these were plundered and burned," he said.

Books hidden from ISIS

Only around 15,000 books were spared destruction, as they had been stored in a corner of the library that had not been harmed, Jassim said.

Last week, he said, a Mosul resident returned 700 books he had taken from the library and hidden in his house so they would not fall into the hands of ISIS.

"Some of these books are from our library, while others are from the Ninawa public library," he said.

"We are now diligently trying to restore the library to its original state," he said, noting that they have so far collected around 20,000 books from donors.

A special committee receives the books from donors and classifies and indexes them so that students can access and use them, he added.

"We are collaborating with several entities, and the University of Houston is supporting us," he said. "We also are awaiting the arrival of 3,000 books from Book Aid International."

For decades, the University of Mosul's library "was one of the most prominent libraries in Iraq and the world", Ninawa provincial council member Seydou Hussein al-Tatani told Diyaruna.

The library was a massive source of knowledge in the fields of culture, literature and science, he said.

"We encourage any sort of endeavour to revive the library, and efforts in this regard are welcome and have our full support," he said.

Al-Tatani expressed his hope that libraries and universities from around the world will support the revival of the University of Mosul's library.

All partners must work together towards that goal, he added, "as the damage that has befallen the library is painful and was quite shocking but we hope to make up for what we lost".

Do you like this article?

1 Comment(s)
Comment Policy * Denotes Required Field 1500 / 1500