The impact on libraries and archives in Iraq of war and looting in 2003

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A balanced scholarly sudy of the impact of the Iraq War on libraries and archives has been published on a site open to all readers. The author of the study is Ian M. Johnson, a British scholar.

Summary The early reports that appeared during and immediately after the 2003 war and subsequent civil disorder in Iraq provoked public and professional concern about the impact on libraries and archives services. However, many of the early reports were later proved to be unreliable, and subsequent reports correcting that information have been less well publicized. Moreover, the mass media have focused on a few well-known institutions, and paid little attention to the post-war reconstruction efforts. This paper aims to provide a more rounded and reliable picture, based on a critical reading of a wide range of official and unofficial media, and summarizes the scattered information in the public domain about the overall situation up to the end of 2004. A brief note of the main reconstruction programmes is followed by an outline of some of the contextual issues relating to the rehabilitation of Iraq’s library and information services. An extended review of what has been reported about the impact on individual elements of the professional panorama in Iraq covers not only the National Library and Archives, but also the university libraries and significant special libraries, as well as noting the limited information available about college, school, and public libraries. The state of the main archival collections is outlined, and an appendix lists the minor collection and their reported condition. It concludes with an examination of the human resource issues. Finally, the paper discusses the problems that have arisen through the lack of quality information about events during the conflict and continuing civil disorder in Iraq, and some issues relating to current and future reconstruction efforts. The paper points to the need not only to repair damaged buildings, replace looted equipment and make good the deficiencies in collections, but also to mobilize and modernize the indigenous professional workforce to implement the reconstruction.

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