The al-Qaida-linked extremists who ransacked the institute wanted to deal a final blow to Mali, whose northern half they had held for 10 months before retreating in the face of a French-led military advance. They also wanted to deal a blow to the world, especially France, whose capital houses the headquarters of UNESCO, the organization which recognized and elevated Timbuktu’s monuments to its list of World Heritage sites.
So as they left, they torched the Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research, aiming to destroy a heritage of 30,000 manuscripts that date back to the 13th century.
“These manuscripts are our identity,” said Abdoulaye Cisse, the library’s acting director. “It’s through these manuscripts that we have been able to reconstruct our own history, the history of Africa . People think that our history is only oral, not written. What proves that we had a written history are these documents.”
The first people who spotted the column of black smoke on Jan. 23 were the residents whose homes surround the library, and they ran to tell the center’s employees. The bookbinders, manuscript restorers and security guards who work for the institute broke down and cried.
Just about the only person who didn’t was Cisse, the acting director, who for months had harbored a secret. Starting last year, he and a handful of associates had conspired to save the documents so crucial to this 1,000-year-old town…
The Islamists came in, as they did in Afghanistan, with their own, severe interpretation of Islam, intent on rooting out what they saw as the veneration of idols instead of the pure worship of Allah. During their 10-month-rule, they eviscerated much of the identity of this storied city, starting with the mausoleums of their saints, which were reduced to rubble.
The turbaned fighters made women hide their faces and blotted out their images on billboards. They closed hair salons, banned makeup and forbade the music for which Mali is known.
Their final act before leaving was to go through the exhibition room in the institute, as well as the whitewashed laboratory used to restore the age-old parchments. They grabbed the books they found and burned them.
Up to 150 students at a Missouri high school that ordered “Slaughterhouse-Five” pulled from its library shelves can get a free copy of the novel, courtesy of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library…
The offer for students at Republic High School comes on the heels of the Republic School Board’s decision to remove Vonnegut’s novel and Sarah Ockler’s “Twenty Boy Summer” from the curriculum and the school library shelves.
“All of these students will be eligible to vote and some may be protecting our country through military service in the next year or two,” Julia Whitehead, the executive director of the Vonnegut library in Indianapolis, said in a statement.
“It is shocking and unfortunate that those young adults and citizens would not be considered mature enough to handle the important topics raised by Kurt Vonnegut, a decorated war veteran. Everyone can learn something from his book.”
Slaughterhouse-Five, considered Vonnegut’s most influential and popular work, is a satirical novel centered around the bombing of the German city of Dresden during World War Two.
The Republic School District took the move at its April 18 meeting following a complaint lodged by local resident Wesley Scroggins in the spring of 2010.
In his complaint, the Missouri State University associate business professor called on district officials to stop using textbooks and other materials “that create false conceptions of American history and government or that teach principles contrary to Biblical morality and truth.”
The school district members immediately rolled over and stuck all four hooves in the air in response to this heavenly command. Any matted fleece will be combed at shearing time to guarantee Christian purity.
Meanwhile, the real world progressed in its journey beyond the gates of ignorance and obedience – and Republic High School.
A Spanish nun has been kicked out of the religious order where she lived the last 35 years in seclusion after spending too much time on the social networking site Facebook. María Jesús Galán, dubbed “Sister Internet” by her fellow nuns, announced on her Facebook page that she had been asked to leave the convent after disagreements over her online activities.
The 54-year old, who lists her hobbies as “reading, music, art, and making friends” had almost 600 Facebook “friends”at the time of her eviction and now has fan pages with thousands of supporters from around the globe calling for her to be allowed back into the order.
A computer was first brought onto the premises of the 14th century Santo Domingo el Real convent in Toledo, central Spain 10 years ago after the Mother Superior was persuaded it would lessen the need for nuns to enter the outside world.
“It enabled us do things such as banking online and saved us having to make trips into the city,” explained Sister Maria, who entered as a novice at the age of 21.
However, the nun quickly saw the possibilities and soon began digitising the archives contained within the convent’s ancient walls and making them accessible to the world.
In 2008, she won a local government prize for her painstaking work scanning the pages of precious texts held in the convent’s library. The award made headlines and she soon had scores of friends worldwide connecting through her Facebook page.
But despite admitting that her dedication to her vocation was as strong as ever she said she was driven from the convent by her fellow nuns who disapproved of her cyber activity and “made life impossible”.
I think regular readers here know I differentiate between those who are “religious” in the traditional sense of being dedicated to good works for humanity – and the range of useless nutballs in sectarian cults dedicated to hating fellow human because of one or another revelation.
Mean-spirited behavior, closeting your brain and demanding equally demeaning shutters over your peers is not what I believe to be the purpose of collective religious philosophy. The aristocracy of most major religions continues to practice exactly the opposite of their teaching. As we witness in this example.
The library at Stony Stratford, on the outskirts of Milton Keynes, looks like the aftermath of a crime, its shell-shocked staff presiding over an expanse of emptied shelves. Only a few days ago they held 16,000 volumes.
Now, after a campaign on Facebook, there are none. Every library user was urged to pick their full entitlement of 15 books, take them away and keep them for a week. The idea was to empty the shelves by closing time on Saturday: in fact with 24 hours to go, the last sad bundle of self-help and practical mechanics books was stamped out. Robert Gifford, chair of Stony Stratford town council, planned to collect his books when he got home from work in London, but left it too late.
The empty shelves, as the library users want to demonstrate, represent the gaping void in their community if Milton Keynes council gets its way. Stony Stratford, an ancient Buckinghamshire market town famous only for its claim that the two pubs, the Cock and the Bull, are the origin of the phrase “a cock and bull story”, was one of the communities incorporated in the new town in 1967. The Liberal Democrat council, made a unitary authority in 1997, now faces budget cuts of £25m and is consulting on closing at least two of 10 outlying branch libraries.
Stony Stratford council got wind in December and wrote to all 6,000 residents – not entirely disinterestedly, as the council meets in the library, like many other groups in the town. “In theory the closure is only out for consultation,” Gifford said, “but if we sit back it will be too late. One man stopped me in the street and said, ‘The library is the one place where you find five-year-olds and 90-year-olds together, and it’s where young people learn to be proper citizens’. It’s crazy even to consider closing it.”
Beancounters never think of the support such services provide to the future of a community. I’ve written a number of times of the value and direction provided to my life by weekly visits to our neighborhood Carnegie Library. It was a regular part of Saturday recreation for my mother and sister and me.
Learning became recreation.
Milton Keynes Council should support libraries and independent learning – not work at spoiling the process for others.
Officials at the prestigious Brooklyn Law School rented the school’s library to the fashion brand Diesel for an undisclosed fee, “expecting a tasteful photo shoot,” because apparently they’ve never seen a single Diesel ad, and didn’t bother to Google it.
Shocking: True to its brand, Diesel’s resulting ads aren’t even Dolce & Gabanna–style suggestive, they’re just quirky soft-core porn stills. In this case, the images are a whole bunch of campy, fairly cute library fantasies, featuring “students” wearing underwear reading “Tonight I am your teacher,” and mounting each other on bookshelves.
One would think a place like Brooklyn Law might welcome this sexy attention, but no! Some uptight students now claim the ads are “gross” and “embarrassing,” and the school might sue the brand. It’s not yet determined whether the ads will even run outside the Diesel website, since Brooklyn Law claims they’re a breach of contract.
Interim dean Michael Gerber wrote a schoolwide e-mail yesterday saying: “We are as shocked and mortified as you must be by these photographs,” which assumes a lot. “When the school gave its permission to do the shoot, [we were] assured that the photos would be in good taste. They are not.” Again, good taste is all relative. And this guy’s an attorney?
In any case, Diesel got its attention — and hopefully a lot of Brooklyn Law kids are laughing about this.
So, a law school where no one did any due diligence. Har!
Whether rich or poor, residents of the United States or China, illiterate or college graduates, parents who have books in the home increase the level of education their children will attain, according to a 20-year study led by Mariah Evans, University of Nevada, Reno associate professor of sociology and resource economics.
For years, educators have thought the strongest predictor of attaining high levels of education was having parents who were highly educated. But, strikingly, this massive study showed that the difference between being raised in a bookless home compared to being raised in a home with a 500-book library has as great an effect on the level of education a child will attain as having parents who are barely literate…compared to having parents who have a university education… Both factors, having a 500-book library or having university-educated parents, propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average.
Being a sociologist, Evans was particularly interested to find that children of lesser-educated parents benefit the most from having books in the home. She has been looking for ways to help Nevada’s rural communities, in terms of economic development and education.
“What kinds of investments should we be making to help these kids get ahead?” she asked. “The results of this study indicate that getting some books into their homes is an inexpensive way that we can help these children succeed.”
Evans said, “Even a little bit goes a long way,” in terms of the number of books in a home. Having as few as 20 books in the home still has a significant impact on propelling a child to a higher level of education, and the more books you add, the greater the benefit…
The researchers were struck by the strong effect having books in the home had on children’s educational attainment even above and beyond such factors as education level of the parents, the country’s GDP, the father’s occupation or the political system of the country.
Having books in the home is twice as important as the father’s education level, and more important than whether a child was reared in China or the United States. Surprisingly, the difference in educational attainment for children born in the United States and children born in China was just 2 years, less than two-thirds the effect that having 500 or more books in the home had on children.
I presume the benefit was from having access to the books. It certainly was an advantage for me and my sister.
Though both of us were taught to read before entering kindergarten, though both took those long Saturday roundtrip walks to the Carnegie Library in our community – our parents had belonged to a couple of book clubs for all their lives together. It took me years – enjoyable years I might add – to catch up to both of them reading through our home library.
As a man whose vision of paradise is “some sort of library,” Ismail Serageldin must sometimes feel like he works amid the Garden of Eden…
The 66-year-old Egyptian — who has authored more than 50 books on a variety of topics including biotechnology, rural development and sustainability — has become the first person in over 1,600 years to be officially named “Librarian of Alexandria.”
The original Library of Alexandria, founded in 288 B.C., housed hundreds of thousands of scrolls by some of the greatest thinkers and writers of the ancient world. Drawn by this center of knowledge, scientists, mathematicians and poets from all cultures gravitated to Alexandria to study and exchange ideas…
Despite the the library’s commemorative reference to the past and the antiquated grandeur of Serageldin’s title, Alexandria’s library is unmistakably modern…
Serageldin’s favorite artifacts relate, unsurprisingly, to the first printing press transported to Egypt: “From such modest beginnings, knowledge exploded, newspapers appeared, modern debate took place, translation movement occurred, and all of the modernization of Egypt started.”
What’s left of these ancient presses are on display including the oldest existing moveable letters in Arabic, the first page of the official journal where modern laws were first codified and a primitive machine for rolling prints one page at a time…
“The ancient library tried to have all the written books in the world,” he explained. “Well, we have the digital memory of humanity by maintaining a complete copy of the Internet archive. And sooner or later other books will migrate to digital form.” The Internet archive is stored copies of Web pages , taken at various points in time
“Our mandate, our hope is to be able to provide all knowledge to all people at all times for free.”
James Tracy looking over conversion of library to learning center
There are rolling hills and ivy-covered brick buildings. There are small classrooms, high-tech labs, and well-manicured fields. There’s even a clock tower with a massive bell that rings for special events.
Cushing Academy has all the hallmarks of a New England prep school, with one exception.
This year, after having amassed a collection of more than 20,000 books, officials at the pristine campus about 90 minutes west of Boston have decided the 144-year-old school no longer needs a traditional library. The academy’s administrators have decided to discard all their books and have given away half of what stocked their sprawling stacks – the classics, novels, poetry, biographies, tomes on every subject from the humanities to the sciences. The future, they believe, is digital.
“When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ said James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing and chief promoter of the bookless campus. “This isn’t ‘Fahrenheit 451’. We’re not discouraging students from reading. We see this as a natural way to shape emerging trends and optimize technology.’’
Donors to President George W. Bush’s presidential library probably will remain a mystery, said the foundation overseeing fundraising.
Mark Langdale, who heads the George W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation, said that’s the way some donors want it. “It’s our decision not to disclose who the donors are,” he said.
The foundation will oversee construction of the library, museum and public policy institute at the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas. The group had raised less than $3 million when the latest tax reports were filed in August. That’s far short of its $300 million goal, but foundation officials said fundraising will pick up significantly after Bush leaves office Jan. 20.
Of course. You don’t get the payoff until after the crime.
Bush officials have said the president would not accept foreign donations while in office. Both Clinton and Bush’s father had the same policy but accepted large gifts from foreigners after leaving the White House…
“Clearly, we’re in tough economic headwinds, so it’s going to be a harder climb than it would have been a year ago,” Langdale said.
But he said the foundation expects to meet its fundraising goal by autumn of 2010, the planned groundbreaking date.
I think – regardless of the payoff requirements – a certain number of highly-placed corporate execs would be embarrassed to have it known they kicked in for Numbnuts.