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Simmons, Harvard, UCLA Help Preserve Iraqi Library Collections

Program Designed to Help War-torn Nation Preserve its Cultural and Historic Materials

BOSTON (January 19, 2006) — Iraqi librarians will be trained to preserve their nation's damaged library collections under a grant awarded to the Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science, the Harvard University Library and the University of California at Los Angeles Library.

The National Endowment for the Humanities grant will pay for 32 Iraqi librarians to travel to the United Arab Emirates for courses offered by American faculty via translators. The United Arab Emirates University at Al Ain will host the participants and provide classroom and technology support.

The program that the schools will run this summer builds upon efforts begun in 2004 to help Iraq rebuild and modernize the country's library collections and address a serious shortage of librarians there.  The courses will update librarians from Iraq's university and technical libraries, as well as its national library, on current professional practices and allow them to spread that knowledge by training their library colleagues.  

Iraq's library collections have been damaged during years of economic sanctions and war, and library officials fear that without skilled preservation efforts the country will lose additional materials important to Iraq's history and culture. A strong information infrastructure is also needed for the country to recover from war and prosper.

Michèle Cloonan, dean of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons and the principal investigator for the $100,000 grant, said emphasis on preserving the Iraqi collections will be woven throughout the curriculum. The program will include courses on digital libraries and automation, which are in their early stages in Iraq.  The courses will be taught in the United Arab Emirates to give the Iraqi librarians access to library collections there and in nearby Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

The Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science directed a similar library-rebuilding program in Vietnam that it started in 1993 with the Harvard-Yenching Institute. That program grants Vietnamese librarians master's degrees in library and information science from Simmons after study in the U.S. and in Vietnam. Additionally, the Bosnia Library Project based at Harvard University has assisted in rebuilding damaged Bosnian library collections since 1996.   

For more information on the Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science, visit http://www.simmons.edu/gslis/. For information on the Harvard University Library, visit http://hul.harvard.edu/. For information on the University of California at Los Angeles visit http://www.library.ucla.edu

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