Library Juice 4:32 - September 12, 2001


  1. Editor's note
  2. Libraries in Bosnia and Palestine

Quote for the week:

"Two words: Reichstag Fire."

- Declan McCullagh, summarizing his prediction of the political effect
of the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Personal Homepage of the week: Database of people in NYC who are safe


1. Editor's note

I am preparing this week's Juice on the day of the attack, and it feels
like it would be an affront toward the many people who are suffering today
to talk about business as usual and give you links to fun library web
sites and articles about copyright as though nothing has happened. So what
I am going to do instead is send you an article I wrote in graduate school
on the topic of library services in two countries that had been in a state
of serious conflict. The two countries were Bosnia and occupied Palestine
(by which I do not mean Israel as a whole). Bosnia suffered the destruction
of its infrastructure and the destruction of its National Library. Its
people acted heroically, and the international community was heroic also.
In Palestine during the Intefadeh library services were severely limited,
partly because of the lack of civil rights (including the right to read)
for Palestinians under the Israelis, who, of course, were afraid. I think
this is a thought-provoking paper in light of what has happened and what we
now face. It was part of the San Jose State SLIS's "Culminating Experience,"
or final project for graduation. It was written in the Fall of 1998.

2. Libraries in Bosnia and Palestine

Topic 1:

Libraries only flourish when there is political stability, economic
stability, and social stability. Select two countries where there has
been recent conflict (such as Palestine, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia,
Afghanistan, Zaire, Nigeria, and the Sudan ). For each country:

  1. Discuss the state of libraries within the framework of the above
    statement (you should examine different kinds of libraries from
    public to special);
  2. Investigate what impact the Internet has had on library
  3. Assess the informational, recreational, and educational roles
    played by libraries.

The countries I chose for my discussion of topic one form an interesting
contrast in some respects, yet both represent common principles affecting
library use and development in times of strife or instability. In Bosnia, a
highly developed National Library was destroyed by war, along with other
highly-used libraries, a devastating blow to the country's cultural memory.
International relief efforts have been directed both towards helping to
meet people's immediate information needs and to restoring the National
library, and have been tremendously helpful. The functions of the library
for educational, informational, and recreational needs were all crippled
during the war. In Palestine, no national library has existed, although the
peace process is finally progressing to the point where the creation of one
is now more than a mere possibility but a realistic plan. (Chepesiuk, 1998)
Despite the lack of a strong preexisting library system, during the
Intefadeh (the uprising) of 1987 to 1993 the existing means of meeting the
information needs of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories were directly
attacked by the state of Israel. The United States and Europe have been, in
contrast to the situation in Bosnia, relatively unhelpful to the
Palestinians during this period of human rights abuses, owing to the
unusual historical circumstances of the state of Israel. Since the end of
the Intefadeh and as the peace process has taken hold, however, libraries
in Palestine have begun to thrive, enjoying the benefits of similar
philanthropy from the United Nations and other foreign groups, if on a
smaller scale. The internet has been an interesting part of the development
of a new information infrastructure in both countries, though not always in
a way that is directly related to libraries, although internet utilization
is a major element in the plans for future libraries in both countries.

Although the losses and disabilities in library service have been tragic
in Bosnia and Palestine, library development is progressing now that peace
is more or less at hand, and it is an exciting time for librarians despite
continuing difficulties.

I will interweave my attention to the three parts of the topic question
into my discussion of libraries in both countries.

The State of Libraries in Bosnia

The National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina

In the recent fighting in Bosnia, numerous libraries have been destroyed,
and all were closed down at length due to a radical lack of resources and
infrastructure. The most significant single event was the destruction of
the National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the
August, 1992 artillery attack by Serb Nationalists. By most accounts, the
library had been singled out from the buildings around it for destruction
by artillery shells from guns mounted in four locations in the surrounding
hills. The adjacent buildings were all left standing. It took three solid
days of shelling to destroy the library, and even then the basic structure
of the building was intact. Twenty-five mortar shells hit the building, and
another forty were used to block the streets leading to it, preventing
fire-fighters from reaching it. In the words of one witness, "The sky was
dark with smoke, while across the city, pages and small bits of burned
books sailed through the air." (Zeco, 1996)

The National and University Library (NUB) was a modern national library,
performing all the functions of a typical European research library:
collection development, cataloging, classification, information and reader
service, reference, etcetera. The Bosnian Department for the Study of
Advanced Library Science was its affiliate. Just before the outbreak of the
war the library was beginning a great Bosnian cultural project, a complete
retrospective bibliography of Bosnia and Herzegovina, from the beginning of
literacy to the modern era. (Pistalo, 1993) This was despite increasing
political, social, and economic instability.

Besides being a research library, the NUB was heavily used as a public
library for the citizens of Sarajevo, especially students. The large and
comfortable building, the Vijecnica, was one of the most beautiful in
Sarajevo. It was built in the 1890's and had an overall Moorish inspiration
to its architecture, though one writer called it "an architectural monument
to the diversity of Bosnian culture," because of its eclectic borrowing
from stylistic traditions belonging to the many different ethnic groups
that made up the city. (Mowat, 1995) Ironically, this was the very same
building in which the Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated, sparking World
War I. (Lorkovic, 1992) The National Library, which had been founded in
1945 upon the establishment of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was
moved into the Vijecnica in 1951. (Zeco, 1996) The library held a great
diversity of materials, in a range of languages and alphabets, in keeping
with the diversity of the population it served. It was a depository of all
publications originating in the South Slavic countries. It also collected
doctoral dissertations, scientific projects, governmental and international
organizations' official document, and also served as a UNESCO depository.
(Pistalo, 1993) The total number of volumes lost is estimated to be in the
neighborhood of 1.2 million, much of it one-of-a-kind material. Also lost
were some 600,000 serials, most of the catalogs, all sorts of equipment and
documents. Due to the limited space of the Vijecnica, many materials had
been stored offsite and were thus spared. There was also a basement which
housed some 10% of the less-used items in the collection, some of it rare
and valuable. The NUB had 155,000 rare books and manuscripts in its
collection. A few of these were saved after the shelling was over, when
librarians and citizens formed a human chain to pass the books to safety,
braving gunfire themselves. (Riedlmayer, 1996) During the same period,
groups disguised as soldiers also looted the building. (Pistalo, 1993)

Of the 60 professional librarians employed at the NUB at the start of the
war, 10% went over to the Serbian Nationalist side, and some others fled
Sarajevo as refugees. The male librarians who were not too old left in
order to fight the war. The remaining librarians continued to go to work
every day, when there was not shelling, although the nature of their jobs
had changed somewhat. UNESCO promised relief, but the fighting made it
impossible to actually deliver books published in other parts of Bosnia, or
foreign materials or equipment necessary to the library. The librarians at
the NUB have been primarily occupied with meeting basic needs, and access
to the recovered books was all but impossible until some time after the end
of the war, as the main concern was to preserve them. Several librarians
were killed on their way to or from work at the NUB in the years
immediately following the destruction of the library. (Zeco, 1996) (This is
worth remembering any time we are credited with "dedication" for attending
a conference despite some inconvenience.)

The National Universities of Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, and the
Institute of Information Science at Maribor, Slovenia (IZUM) were the first
groups to offer assistance. Eventually a foundation was formed at IZUM: the
Foundation for the Restoration of Library Holdings and Information
Infrastructure of National and University Libraries of Bosnia and
Herzegovina. A plea to twenty European libraries led to some assistance
starting in 1994 from a variety of libraries and other organizations. In
the years that followed, the process of restoring the library has gradually
begun, through the generosity of many groups worldwide. Much of the work
and financing is coming from the United States. The Sabre Foundation,
located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is devoted to the donation of newly
published books to schools and libraries in the former Soviet bloc, and has
been shipping books to Bosnia by the 10,000. (Mazmanian, 1996; Pistalo,
1993; Zeco, 1996) Harvard, Yale, and University of Michigan have donated
materials. Much of the early international aid was coordinated by the
Helsinki Citizen's Assembly. The recovery effort is being coordinated
largely by Harvard bibliographer Andras Riedlemayer, who also is leading an
"ingathering project," aimed at locating Bosniaca materials at libraries
worldwide that can be copied and sent to NUB or other affected libraries
and archives. (Buturovic, Riedlmayer, & Schick, 1998; Kniffel, 1996)
Tatjana Lorkovic of the Yale University Library has involved OCLC in an
extensive project to create a bibliography of Bosniaca from its
bibliographic database, with corresponding information about what libraries
hold the books. A search of the database designed for maximum recall
resulted in "hits" amounting to less that one tenth of holdings that were
lost. (O'Neill, Young, & Bremer, 1996) A full recovery of the NUB will not
be possible, but there is much that can be done to at least build a future
for the NUB. The immediate needs are not for the replacement of rare and
rarely-used materials, but for the collection of materials to meet the
changed informational needs of Bosnians as a result of the war. Enes
Kujundzic, the current director of the NUB, compiled a list of 450 journals
and magazines that the library wanted to acquire according to its post-war
needs. These include medical journals about trauma, material on the United
Nations, and periodicals about reconstruction. Journals like the New
England Journal of Medicine, Lancet, and The Economist were also on the
list. (1996)

Today the library is open again, employing approximately half the number
of people that it did before the war. The current employees, however, are
no longer fully occupied with procuring bare necessities and preparations
for rebuilding. They are engaged in acquisitions, reference, bibliography
(mostly on Bosnia and Herzegovina), collection management, and readers
services. A new legal framework for the operation of the library went into
effect in 1995. Although still greatly challenged with the task of
rebuilding and with general financial obstacles, the library could be said
to be thriving, relative to its condition during the war. It has returned
to providing services to meet the educational, informational, and
recreational needs of Bosnians. The end of the fighting and the dawn of an
international, stabilizing influence in the area have brought enough order
and resources to the library for it to perform its basic functions. (1998b)

Other Bosnian libraries damaged and shut down

The NUB wasn't the only Bosnian library that was destroyed or damaged
during the war. Another major catastrophe was the loss of Oriental
Institute, which occurred three months before the destruction of the NUB.
The Oriental Institute had one of South East Europe's largest collections
of Islamic and Jewish texts and documents from the Ottoman Empire. Lost
were 5263 bound manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, Hebrew and Adzamijshi
(Bosnian Slavic written in Arabic script); 7000 Ottoman documents covering
five centuries of Bosnian history, and 200,000 other Ottoman documents.
This building was also a direct target of the artillery, and adjacent
buildings were also left standing. Andràs Riedlmayer said,

"Throughout Bosnia, libraries, archives, museums, and cultural
institutions have been targeted for destruction, in an attempt to eliminate
the material evidence - books, documents and works of art - that could
remind future generations that people of different ethnic and religious
traditions once shared a common heritage in Bosnia." (Riedlmayer, 1996)

Other libraries that were lost or severely damaged had the same kind of
cultural importance to Bosnia. These included the Inter-University Center
Library, the archives at the Franciscan Monastery in the city of Mostar,
the Gazi Husrev Beg library in Sarajevo, founded in 1537, and the
Scientific Library, which housed an important historical collection.
(Lorkovic, 1993) Lorkovic says librarians have coined the term
"libraricide" to describe the targeting and destruction of libraries, and
notes that historians fear that an accurate history of Bosnia and
Herzegovina can now never be written. (Lorkovic, 1993) Riedlmayer has said,
"As a librarian, it is my job to make sure that those perpetrating attacks
like this do not succeed in their aims." (Mazmanian, 1996) In Bosnian
libraries, the librarian's role as the conservator of culture came to the
forefront during the war, as service to patrons had become next to
impossible in most situations. Their attention was devoted to the future of
their libraries' ability to meet the people's information needs, primarily
in an educational sense, since that is the great relevance of the kind of
cultural and historical materials that needed to be recovered, restored, or

What might distinguish the tragedy of the destruction of these libraries
from the destruction of libraries in the past is the degree of
international support and assistance. A web page that is a part of Dr.
Riedlmayer's "ingathering project" gives contact information and needs
assessments for over a dozen Bosnian libraries and museums that are either
trying to rebuild or are being created to address the changed information
needs of Bosnians. (An example of the latter is the Bosnian Institute for
Social Research, which wishes to cover the political situation surrounding
the recent war, and also to cover the international bodies that have been
involved in Bosnia.) The ingathering project makes use of an interactive
form to facilitate information exchange about possible replacement
materials. (1998a) These efforts to win international assistance are
proving gradually effective, and point to one role played by the internet
in the rebuilding of library service (that of international communication
for developmental assistance).

Libraries that have continued to function

There are some exceptional situations in which a degree of library service
was provided even during the fighting in Sarajevo. During the first year
following the initial siege, the sole US presence in Sarajevo was the
American Cultural Center, a library. (Sarajevo was felt to be too unsafe to
provide with a US embassy.) It somehow stayed open during intense fighting.
Peter Maass, a journalist, wrote, "In a neighborhood where children dodge
snipers, where dead are buried in front of their apartment houses because
the trip to the graveyard is too dangerous for mourners, you can check out
American fiction." (1993)

This report has an obvious flavor of the absurd, but there is reason to
think that the library was a valuable service. Letters from Sarajevo to
more than one journalist indicate that many more people were reading during
the war and in the aftermath of fighting than before, when conditions were
normal. Possible reasons include a lack of electricity for television, the
need to keep young people indoors, and the need for something to provide a
sense of normalcy in the midst of the chaos. (Bertoni & Lenzini, 1995;
Kordigel, 1994) In 1993, a terrible time in Sarajevo and the environs,
about five people per day were signing up for borrowing privileges at the
American Cultural Center. A library patron is quoted as saying, "The
library is one of those things that keeps us going. It keeps us sane."
(1993) Sadly, there were sometimes more basic needs that took precedence to
reading. In the winter of 1993 to 1994, many Bosnians had to burn books
simply for warmth. (Kordigel, 1994)

In addition to the American Cultural Center, the faculty libraries within
the Sarajevo city limits have been in use by academics. These have been
functioning in a limited capacity and with out-of-date materials. Despite a
paper shortage, Bosnians have published texts for academic purposes within
Sarajevo as a substitute for materials no longer flowing in, as resources
are diverted to the survival needs. The temporary headquarters of the
University library was far less useful, even by 1995, as it was unheated
and library equipment could not be left there for fear that it would be
stolen. (Mowat, 1995) Nevertheless the necessity of this type of library
service for academics led to a situation of making do with little.
Intellectual production was part of the city's "mental defense." (Kordigel,
1994) A degree of librarianship was a part of this, both in the American
Cultural Center and in these informally-run faculty libraries, and probably
others not discussed in the literature.

Inspiration from Disaster

The tragedy of the loss of the NUB and other important library
collections has inspired some promising new projects, like green shoots
emerging from the ground the spring after a forest fire. Bibliographic
projects designed to aid in the reconstruction of lost library collections,
like those being conducted by OCLC with Tanja Lorkovic and by Andràs
Riedlmayer and his colleagues, will be useful to Bosniaca scholars into the
future. (Machlis, 1997) Other projects have also been inspired. An Italian
language bibliography on Bosnia and Herzegovina is under production at the
University of Sienna. Naturally, books have been written, which will be
valuable in the future, including a publication on the fate of the book in
the fire at the NUB, and a bibliographic work on the issue of peace and war
in Balkan-area literature from ancient times forward. (Pistalo, 1993) Enes
Kujundzic's journal Bosniaca will doubtless metamorphose and continue to
serve a useful purpose to the world's scholars after the library is
rebuilt. (1996) The current plans for the Vijecnica are to make it a
special memorial library, documenting the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina
as well as the three years the city was under siege. (1998b)

These are signs of the sparking of an intellectual fire as a result of the
war. Other developments are noticeable as well. Enes Kujundzic plans to
implement state-of-the-art research capabilities with the rebuild of the
NUB. (1996) Amazingly, the NUB already has a web page,, a definite signal of its vitality and future. One
can assume that this web page will help bring attention to the library and
possibly further assistance (or at least visitors), although it would be
difficult to measure the extent to which it will actually be an aid in
development. Although it is sometimes easier to find financial support for
digital library projects than traditional ones, a heavily electronic
library is not planned for Bosnia. Kujundzic does expect to replace
technical journals with CD-Rom editions. Some projects involving the
internet in Bosnia have been exciting but have not been related to the
library, except in the sense that they have offered a substitute for some
people during times when the libraries were not available, thus possibly
making their restoration less urgent. One project was a visit from foreign
law students who introduced the legal community of Bosnia to legal
resources available to them on the internet, which allowed them access to
some resources otherwise unavailable due to the closure of libraries.
(Ingis, 1997) Other projects seem completely unrelated to libraries, such
as an internet feed of Bosnia-related news (which requires access to the
internet). However, international projects to bring aid for the purpose of
reliable internet connectivity may benefit libraries in the future.
(Machlis, 1997)

One might think that the destruction of Bosnian libraries would also have
inspired meaningful statements of policy from library associations of the
world. Sadly, his was not the case. In early 1993, the American Library
Association responded to the news of the destruction of the library with a
resolution that was worded so cautiously that its content was reduced to a
platitude. The resolution decried "the loss of information by peoples of
the former Yugoslavia," in wording that was so non-specific and so
non-judgmental that it must have come as an insult to Bosnian librarians.
Still, the resolution was passed only over the objections of ALA councilors
who were opposed to being involved in "political issues." A statement by
IFLA was similarly weak. Andr?s Riedlmayer points out that there is
confusion behind the choice to regard the destruction of libraries as
simply a manifestation of "political differences," in a war between
political opponents, which like all wars has its unfortunate events.
Riedlmayer points out that the destruction of the NUB was a crime against
humanity and a violation of international laws and conventions (which he
enumerates). (Riedlmayer, 1996) The reluctance of these organizations to
acknowledge the clear moral dimension to "libraricide," and the siege on
Sarajevo for that matter, on the basis of a political context is a
disappointment, and does not speak well for the idea of solidarity among
librarians. Nevertheless, the beauty of the global response to the tragedy
in terms of recovery aid and cooperative effort is undiminished by wasted

The State of Libraries in Palestine

Some Recent History

During the Palestinian uprising, or "Intefadeh" as it is called by
Palestinians, Israeli imposed martial law on the Occupied Territories. The
Intefadeh began in 1987 and lasted roughly until late 1994, when the
Palestinian National Authority took over administration of the Gaza strip
and a parts of the West Bank, according to the Declaration of Principles.
Conditions have improved since then, but during the Intefadeh, conditions
in the Occupied Territories (hereafter referred to as "Palestine") were
harsh. Military Order 854 gave the Israeli military full control over all
educational institutions in Palestine, including the rights to open and
close schools, hire and fire faculty, set curricula, and use force to
suppress student dissent. (Ismail, 1992) In fact, most schools, including
their libraries, were simply closed. In most cases this also meant closing
public libraries as well, since university libraries have served that
function in some cities due to the absence of dedicated public libraries.
(Hopkinson, 1997) Military Orders 50 and 101 gave the military the right to
ban reading materials from sale or possession. Under these orders, books
about Palestine were outlawed in particular. According to former Deputy
Mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti, who studied the issue with the Fund
for Freedom of Expression, the purpose of the book banning was "to
eradicate expression that could foster Palestinian nationalist feelings, or
suggest that Palestinians are a nation with a national heritage." Materials
not specifically related to the cause of Palestine were also banned. These
included books by Naguib Mahfouz, the Egyptian Nobel Laureate; the plays of
Sophocles; Arnold Toynbee's study of the issue of Palestine; and even a
volume of United Nations Resolutions. Military Order 101 in particular gave
the military the right to use "all necessary force" to carry out the book
bans, including the right to go into people's homes or workplaces at any
time and make arrests for possessing banned books. (Ismail, 1992)

These abuses were clearly against international law (on numerous counts),
but because of Israel's unique historical situation and strong sentiments
in favor of the Israeli government among Americans, the American Library
Association did not take meaningful action. This was a divisive issue
within the ALA at the time. The resolution that ended up being passed by
the ALA council at the summer conference in 1992 actually made no reference
to Israel, and spoke only of censorship in the Middle East in general.
References to the "Occupied Territories" had been stricken by the ALA
Council, on the grounds that the term constituted "Israel bashing." The
term "Occupied Territories" was actually in universal use, including by
authorities such as the U.S. State Department and the New York Times.
(Williams, 1991) The American Library Association will frequently avoid
taking an action or making a definite statement if it will offend some of
its constituents. In this case there was the further influence of the
special sentiments toward Israel of some of its Jewish members, for whom
issues about Israel call up strong emotions, for reasons which are well
understandable. If not for this factor, the ALA would probably have lent
its political support to the Palestinians, as it had for the South Africans
and Soviets whose human rights had similarly been abused. (Berman, 1992)
This issue is colored by the same factors outside the American Library
Association, of course, and this has been an obstacle to the Palestinians
in trying to obtain aid from the United States and Europe for the
development of its library systems. Despite this difficulty, however,
Palestine has made strides in library development, beginning even during
the Intefadeh. Development has been most consistent within the academic
sector, but there are other bright spots as well, even if few of their
libraries can provide services that are adequate by American standards.
Current political developments promise a great future for Palestinian
libraries. International aid remains necessary and hoped for, however. A
resolution which will be brought to the ALA Council at the mid-winter
meeting this coming January will not seek to condemn anyone, but will seek
to offer help to libraries of the Gaza strip and the West Bank, in terms of
material resources, equipment, and expert advice and consultation. The
resolution has already been endorsed by ALA's International Relations
Committee. Its writing came as a result of a visit to Gaza by Ravindra
Sharma and Ron Chepesiuk, American librarians active in the American
Library Association and frequent authors on international library issues.
(Sharma, 1998b)

Plans for a National Library

During their visit, Sharma and Chepesiuk met with Yasir Arafat, who talked
about Palestine's plans for a National Library and a well-developed library
system. The Palestine National Authority (PNA) has recently allocated part
of its next budget to the development of school and University libraries.
Unfortunately, this allocation will be quite insignificant compared to the
level of funding which will be needed to carry out the plans. The
"Palestinian House of Books," as the National Library is to be called, is
planned to be in a five floor building, with facilities for publishing, a
computer lab, manuscripts relating to Palestinian history, a small museum,
and administrative offices. Arafat and the designated National Librarian,
Saleem A. El-Muyabed, hope to see the library completed by the year 2000.
(This is also the time-frame within which Arafat expects to see Palestine
attain full statehood.) The current plans of the Ministry of Information
also call for all libraries in Palestine to be wired to the internet. The
library is budgeted to be built and put into operation at a cost of $28
million dollars. Some aid has begun to to arrive from other Arab nations,
but not very much. Donations of books, journals, technology, and
professional consulting for existing libraries has been given by many
countries and organizations, including some organizations within the United
States, but not to a level which meets the needs of Palestinian libraries.

On their tour of academic libraries in Gaza, Sharma and Chepesiuk noted
the sparseness of collections, cramped reading rooms, outdated reference
materials, and few or no periodicals. Of the twenty-two academic
institutions in Gaza, they found none to have adequate library facilities.
Holdings were often not suited to the needs of the library's users, which
was a result of the need to accept any and all donated materials in order
to have a book collection, and the lack of collection development policies.
Education is seen as the key to improving living conditions for
Palestinians. According to Arafat, Palestinians are already the
highest-educated people in the Arab world, and generally place a high value
on education. The closure of schools and libraries during the Intefadeh was
severely damaging to Palestinian culture, particularly to young people.
This is why Arafat sees a national library as such high priority. He also
sees it as a symbol of cultural pride and as the institution that will
preserve the record of the people. He plans to make it the foundation for
the growth of the nation's library system. Palestinian librarians have been
visiting the United States and other countries to learn about our
educational and library systems for the purpose of planning their own.
Sharma and Chepesiuk are providing a report to the PNA as library
consultants, outlining steps it can take in the further development of its
library system. (Chepesiuk, 1998; Chepesiuk & Sharma, 1998; Sharma, 1998a)

Academic Libraries in Palestine

Academic libraries are the most well-developed type of library in
Palestine. Higher education is valued and not seen as a luxury, which
public libraries might be. School libraries are not always seen as a
necessity. Palestine lacks the industrial base that would create many
special libraries, although a few exist to aid in research and policy. In
mid-1997 Alan Hopkinson, an academic librarian, toured Palestinian
libraries as a consultant on behalf of the British Council, which has a
library in East Jerusalem and provides consulting and other expert
assistance to Palestine. He noted how difficult it was for libraries to
operate, owing to the ongoing political difficulties as well as lasting
effects of the closure of the universities during the Intefadeh. He noted,
for example, that there were few libraries whose collections were not
physically damaged by the environment of the closed, neglected buildings
during that time. He also noted that the limitations on freedom of movement
for staff and students causes inefficiency and is a frustration. For the
most part, academic libraries in Palestine are not functioning in a fully
modern way. Only four university libraries that Hopkinson visited on the
tour had automation, with one system under development. Only one
university, Bir Zeit University, uses a MARC type standard for its
bibliographic data. Hopkinson speculated that this was because library
automation tends to be led by computer departments rather than by
librarians. Bir Zeit librarians are attempting to import bibliographic data
from other formats into their system, with the ultimate goal of a
cooperative catalog based on OCLC. Bir Zeit University (BZU) is the best
known outside the Palestinian National Authority. It has a website with
information about the library, and there is much interest in an
international presence.

There is a separate law library at Bir Zeit, which is the most
comprehensive in the country. It is used by the Palestinian Legislative
Council in Ramallah and functions as a special library for government. A
project is underway there to document the law of Palestine in a database
using Microsoft Access. A second phase will be to incorporate full text. As
the nation emerges, the project of codifying the legal system is essential.
Palestine now operates in one of the most complex legal environments in the
world, since Palestinians are subject to the laws of so many different
authorities, including Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and the PNA. These systems
include laws originally put into place by several colonial governments as
well. (Hopkinson, 1997) Karen Guma, who also visited the BZU law library,
noted that it is not particularly set up for public access and has the feel
of an office. (Guma, 1998) It is reasonable to conclude that it is engaged
primarily in the special-library type functions of serving the legislature
and developing its legal database.

One interesting educational project is Al-Quds Open University (QOU).
"Al-Quds" is the Arabic name for Jerusalem. QOU is pursuing something like
distance education, relying on classes taught at multiple study-centers
within the West Bank. There is strong interest at Al-Quds in using the
internet for "delivery" of courses, although the possibility of this is a
long way off. Internet access has only been allowed by the Israeli
government for about two years. At the time of Hopkinson's visit, the.
Al-Quds was still not able to set up a leased line into the West Bank, and
had to use satellite microwave, which has a more limited bandwidth. Al-Quds
and other Universities are interested in using the Palestinian Scientific
Network (PASNET) to create a virtual library. This plan would require fiber
optic connections for the necessary bandwidth, not yet available in
Palestine. Presently Al-Quds does not have libraries at any of its eight
study centers, and uses only materials produced by the university itself.
Interestingly, plans for seven new study centers include libraries, and
there are plans to add libraries to the existing study centers. Distance
education in the true sense of learning at home does not seem to be the
true goal of Al-Quds; study centers spread throughout Palestine seems to be
the vision for Al-Quds. It is interesting that plans for a virtual library
have not reduced interest in creating physical libraries at the study
centers. Hopkinson noted that Al-Quds has experienced some difficulty
working with other universities to allow its students to use their
libraries. (Hopkinson, 1997)

Hopkinson's observations of some other libraries were interesting. The
library at Islamic University of Gaza has been a high priority. It is the
largest library in Gaza (which is one of the most densely populated areas
of the planet). Because there is no public library in Gaza city, this
library is open to the public in the afternoons, and is used by many
people. Students at the neighboring Al-Azhar University, which is
Palestine's largest, make extensive use of IU Gaza's library, because their
own is so terrible. Hopkinson found it interesting that these neighboring
libraries had such opposite conditions - good collections and services but
poor facilities in the one, and good facilities but sparse collections and
untrained staff in the other. The development of policies by the Ministry
of Education and the Ministry of Information should help create some
consistency. (Hopkinson, 1997)

The situation at Hebron University shows some of the typical difficulties
for librarians in Palestine. Israel had prevented the university from
building any buildings, so it was forced to rent its facilities. The
library still exists in a rented building, and because of a scarcity of
funds has great difficulty meeting the needs of students. Projects are
always in the works despite this. At the time of Hopkinson's visit, a
librarian there was discussing with the British Council the idea of a
course in information systems that would rely on internet connections.
(Hopkinson, 1997)

At Bethlehem University, a relatively small school and a less academic
one, there is a website with pages for the library, including an
informative newsletter. Most interesting about this newsletter was the
information about the professional activities of the librarians at
Bethlehem University. They attend a range of conferences and workshops on
the same subjects as the conferences and workshops we are familiar with
here, and most of them are within Palestine. It is heartening to see that
despite the economic and political obstacles such a rich professional life
can go on. Among these activities were attendance at the Bethlehem
International Book Fair, workshops on acquisitions, FirstSearch,
classification and cataloging, and grant proposal writing; a course in
indexing, meetings of the Palestinian Union Catalog Committee,
participation in an OCLC conference in Tel Aviv, and attendance at a
conference for the new Arab Universities Library and Information Network in
Amman, Jordan. (Dominic Smith, 1998)

Some special libraries exist that have a connection to research and
academia. The Gaza Health Sciences library is one. It was established in
1994 with a grant from the World Health Organization and operates under the
Ministry of Health. It is in Shifa Hospital, Gaza City. It is open to the
public, but is mainly used by doctors, nurses, paramedics and students. It
is used by 35 to 50 people per day. Although the journal collection is not
entirely adequate it is much appreciated by the patrons. Part of the
creation of the library was a $60,000 database system (including training)
donated by the Norwegian government. This system proved to be difficult to
use and not ideal for its purpose in the library, but still functional.
Before moving to Shifa Hospital the library was in the Palestine Red
Crescent Office in East Jerusalem, where it suffered frequent blackouts of
electricity and telephone service. Since then the situation has steadily
improved. (Brault, 1998) Another special library is at the Center for
Palestine Research and Studies. It is a small library housing mostly
periodicals for use by researchers and policy analysts. It enjoys secure
funding as well as a very manageable mission. (al-Masri, 1998)

Library Service to Children

The closure of schools during the Intefadeh has had its strongest effects
on children, who instead of being exposed to books were exposed to an
environment of war and hatred. The psychological effects must be a
challenge to Palestinians in terms of working towards a future of peaceful
co-existence with Israel. Not surprisingly then, library service to
children emerged as a priority. The most interesting example is the
innovative humanitarian project Library On Wheels for Non-Violence and
Peace (LOWNP). It was originally started in 1986 by the Palestinian Center
for the Study of Non-Violence and Peace, located outside Jerusalem. It
became independent in 1994, and moved to Samiramis in 1996. Samiramis is a
city of poor Christians and Muslim families twenty minutes north of
Jerusalem. The library is a kept in a van that travels within the West
Bank, carrying children's literature selected to help teach children about
non-violent ways of living, as well as meeting the emotional and
educational needs of children in general, in the ways that reading can. The
book collection includes realistic fiction, humorous stories, folklore,
stories from the Koran, non-fiction about international subjects, as well
as books about science. LOWNP has other programs to help children, such as
paying the school fees of children whose families can't afford it,
distributing pamphlets for adults on teaching peace and other educational
booklets on subjects such as nutrition, AIDS, drugs, and diabetes. It also
sponsored a program to take children on educational tours of Israel and
Palestine. During the Intefadeh, LOWNP provided educational services that
were not available to people otherwise, serving approximately 3000
children. Although I did not find a documented explanation of LOWNP's being
permitted to operate while schools and libraries were closed down, it is
reasonable to think that the library's strong philosophy of non-violence
had something to do with it, since the primary motivation of Israel in
imposing martial law was the fear of violence from Palestinians. Nafez
Assaily is the individual behind the creation of LOWNP. An inspiring
peace-worker, he says that he created the LOWNP "to give Palestinian
children the words of pacifists such as Martin Luther King and Mahatma
Gandhi." (Zaidman, 1997) Funding is through philanthropic support.

Children's services in Palestine are otherwise fairly conventional, and
range widely in their degrees of success. In 1997 Ibtisam Abu Duhou did a
comprehensive study of school libraries in Palestine, finding that the
library situation in schools ranged from having good library space and 15
books per pupil to having no library or even no books. Some school
libraries allocate 20% of their budget to their library, some only 1%.
Duhou's survey made possible a feasibility study of a proposal to introduce
libraries and book collections into the schools on a systematic basis. The
proposal was set for submission to the Ministry of Education and suggested
a five year plan. (1997)

The Ministry of Education identified the Ramallah Girls School as an
example of best practice in school library resourcing. Books are purchased
through an annual book budget using titles suggested by teachers. The
spacious library has 4000 books in Arabic and 1000 in English. Each year
each class has a lesson in library use, and some of the more enthusiastic
students form an extra-curricular library group, assisting the librarian
and visiting bookstores and other libraries in the Ramallah area. They even
had plans to produce a library magazine. (1997)

Karen Guma, a librarian, visited the Ramallah Friends School, which was
originally a boy's school started by Quakers. She noted that there was
significant self-censorship in libraries as a result of the politically
pressurized atmosphere. In spite of this, the curriculum included much
attention to the political situation, and taught the Palestinian point of
view. She noted that the school was in a constant budget crisis, and there
were difficult decisions regarding offers of assistance from religious
groups (such as the Quakers) who wished control of the curriculum in return
for their support, to the displeasure of the local people. (Guma, 1998)

In October, 1994, English librarians Sandy MacMillen and Simon Francis
went to Palestine and visited community libraries in the process of
determining who should receive grants from the Geneva-based Welfare
Association. They were particularly impressed with Nablus Public Library as
an example of how the serious disadvantages of the political situation
could be overcome. A staff of eleven was serving 600 readers per day with a
collection of 50,000 volumes, all accessible through an online catalog. The
library had 12,000 members all together, and was funded by the city
government, which prioritized library service, particularly to children. A
separate children's library was planned for construction, and children's
services were already strong, including to children in school. They were
seeking help in the form of more materials suitable for children,
professional literature on children's librarianship, and professional
contact with other libraries. (MacMillan, 1995)

Another type of library serving children is in the Saraya Center, a
community center is East Jerusalem. It is run on a subscription basis. Its
website advertises the price of membership as a "nominal fee" of $10 per
year. This seems more than nominal, but they point out that they provide
service to many more people than the 125 paying members. They are working
in an urban environment where they say "both the home and the school are
negative factors." They aim to save children from exploitation as cheap
laborers or life on the streets without guidance, a somewhat different set
of problems from those found in more rural areas. (1998c)


Libraries in both Bosnia and Palestine are in an exciting
phase of development. The political problems in the two countries are
different, and the challenges to libraries and information service have
been of a different nature. Bosnian libraries were destroyed and damaged
with artillery, and Palestinian libraries subject to a longer-term process
of deprivation. In Bosnia there was a tragic loss with the destruction of
its National and University Library and the near-destruction of the
Oriental Institute, as well as similar damage to other important libraries
in a country that had an old and rich library heritage that had remained
mostly intact for centuries. Palestine is a much poorer country, and has
been dealing with steady conflict and a near state of war for a half
century, which has made the development of library services extremely
difficult. In both countries the establishment or reestablishment of a
strong library system is a high priority. Bosnia has had an easier time
raising funds for its library needs than Palestine, partly because the
tragedy of the loss of its National Library evoked such strong sympathies
from the rest of Europe. Palestinians do not enjoy the same degree of
sympathy from the affluent West, but are also beginning to find the funds
necessary to pursue their library projects as the peace process moves

Currently, library services have only begun to resume in Bosnia, after
almost completely vanishing during the war. Library services were also shut
down in Palestine during the Intefadeh, but not to the same extent.
Overall, Palestine's ongoing political conflict with Israel (which still
has sovereignty in Palestine) has been a significant barrier to library
operations during the Intefadeh and since. The internet is a part of
library development plans in both Bosnia and Palestine, but usually as a
feature of libraries and not as a replacement for traditional services, at
least as far as current plans are concerned.

In both Bosnia and Palestine, libraries were sometimes used to meet the
special needs of a community in crisis, although the more extreme the
crisis, the less able were the libraries to function. During the war in
Bosnia, reading became more popular. In its aftermath, the needs of readers
had changed. In Palestine, library services have been used to address the
special concern for the effect of the political conflict on children by
providing them with materials designed to teach peace. Education in general
is seen in Palestine as the path to a better future in a peaceful
co-existence with Israel, and a strong library system is a part of the
emerging nation's plans to this end. Libraries in both countries were
challenged in their informational, recreational, and educational roles, and
those roles were affected somewhat by the conflicts in both countries.

Library development in both countries is at an exciting place. It is good
to see that that the hardship undergone by both Palestinians and Bosnians
recently has not destroyed either of their cultures. Although the loss of
the irreplaceable books in Bosnia is hard to redeem, and it will take
generations for Palestine to adjust to its new neighbor now that peace
seems to have been attained, the current positive library development in
both countries is worth celebrating.


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