Campus & Community

Harvard, MIT, Yale presses join forces to help rebuild Iraqi National Library

3 min read

Last week, more than 5,700 books were shipped from TriLiteral, the warehouse that holds inventory for Harvard University Press, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Press, and Yale University Press, to help replenish the Iraqi National Library. The three presses have partnered with the Sabre Foundation, whose book donation program has a long history of helping get educational materials to countries in need — often those engaged in or recovering from conflict. The Sabre Foundation (working with a grant from the United States Embassy in Baghdad) covered the logistics and shipping of the titles.

“Harvard University Press is delighted to collaborate with the Sabre Foundation to help restore in some small way the intellectual capital that has been destroyed in this tragic war,” said William P. Sisler, director of Harvard University Press.

Libraries are one of the cornerstones of Iraqi culture. By the 1970s, Iraqi higher education was widely considered to be the best in the region. Due primarily to the war with Iran in the 1980s and the U.S. invasion in 2003, higher education and the libraries that serve it have been devastated. An effort like the Sabre program to rehabilitate principal Iraqi library collections is necessary if Iraq is to re-establish a high standard of education and knowledge. Of the project, Yale University Press Director John Donatich remarked, “Yale University Press is happy to participate in this initiative and pleased that the gift of our books will play a central role in helping Iraq in its efforts to rebuild its cultural heritage.”

This initiative is focused on the Iraq National Library and Archive (INLA), and the libraries of Baghdad University, Mustansiriya University, and Baghdad Technical University, whose heads have committed themselves to act in concert in this process. Harvard, MIT, and Yale each provided a list of titles to the Iraqi librarians and allowed them to choose the titles — up to three of each book selected — they thought would be the most appropriate.

The librarians chose more than 5,700 titles (roughly 2,500 from Harvard and 1,600 from both MIT and Yale). The books chosen cover a wide range of subjects and disciplines, including philosophy, law, history, art, and environmental studies. They include textbooks, new titles, and classic monographs from all three presses. “Good things come from collaboration,” commented MIT Press Director Ellen W. Faran. “In this case, the three TriLiteral partners — Harvard, MIT, and Yale university presses — working together to respond to a request from four Iraqi libraries jointly seeking to rehabilitate their collections.”