The Associated Press recently ran a brief story about digitization and restoration efforts at the Iraqi National Library in Baghdad:
Digitization efforts have been ongoing for several years, as noted in this 2013 International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) interview with Saad Eskander, Director of Iraq National Library and Archives. The hook in the recent story — as you can see in the tag — is Daesh.
According to the 2013 interview:
The INLA was the fifth institution to join the World Digital Library Project and we’ve put special emphasis on digitisation. Through purchases and gifts we could set up the first advanced IT department in Iraq. Our IT staff regularly receive training inside and outside Iraq. Tens of thousands of records and periodicals have been digitized.
Indeed, the Iraq National Library and Archives (INLA) has had many reasons to focus on digitization. Ordinary restoration and digitization of ancient manuscripts was also complicated by the 2003 fire and looting of the library.
The August 2015 AP article focuses on ongoing efforts — which reporter Vivian Salama describes as “feverish” — to restore and digitize books and manuscripts. There’s also a lovely photo series of restoration work that accompanies the article. Meanwhile, recent AP video footage features Saad Eskander, even though the article quotes Jamal Abdel-Majeed Abdulkareem, acting director of Baghdad libraries and archives.
In the video, Eskander talks about going to the black market to purchase guns for library security. “Here, in Baghdad, you cannot rely on the police and guards to protect you.”
He also talks about not destroying Saddam’s books or books of the Baath party. “They have historical value. But you can remove the extra copies.”
Also, various interiors and exteriors: