One of the theories about America’s success in the 1900′s involves public libraries. Access to books for free or a very nominal fee allowed anyone who wanted to be a reader, and thus educate themselves. Here’s an example of that from Iraq.
Soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division â€“ Baghdad, and Iraqi Security Forces joined local civic leaders Jan. 21 to commemorate the opening of the Doura Public Library in the Rashid district, christening a cultural and educational landmark for the Iraqi citizens of southern Baghdad.
The public library, capable of housing approximately 10,000 books and a score of personal computers for use by Iraqi citizens and school children, is an indicator of Iraqâ€™s growing emphasis on education and civilization, said Zahra Hussein, media supervisor for the Doura Library.
Zahra, an active volunteer for schools in the area, said that she hopes the Doura Library will serve as one of many educational institutions created to foster the spirit of civilization and intellectualism in Baghdad and Iraq.
â€œThe library has been opened today with the support and all of the good efforts (of the people) in order to promote the idea of re-opening public libraries in Baghdad,â€ she said.
â€œWe all remember how this library was destroyed due to the violent acts, and books were scattered all over the floor,â€ said Hashim Dahash, Rashid District Council deputy chairman.
In conjunction of the opening of the Doura Public Library, Hashim said that he hopes Jan. 22 will become the Rashid districtâ€™s official â€œReading Dayâ€ for future generations of Iraqis.
â€œThis (library) is considered as proof of security and stability, helping the people to return to their lives normally, especially the educational life,â€ he said.
â€œIraq is developing every day, and this library is part of this civilizationâ€™s development as a result of security provided by the Iraqi forces supported by the Americans,â€ said Yaqoub. â€œThis accomplishment is a result of neighborhood stability combined with the efforts of the Doura residents.â€
Staff Sgt. Aja Andreu, civil affairs team leader assigned to Company D, 404th Civil Affairs Battalion, served as the project manager and conducted the initial assessment on the renovation necessary to restore the buildingâ€™s educational services.
Working with the 1st BCT Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team, the U.S. Department of State, and a nongovernmental organization, Friends of the Library, Andreu hired a local Iraqi contractor to refurbish the building, acquired furniture from a local carpenter and restored a childrenâ€™s room and a computer room with 15 personal computers with desktop monitors, and internet service.
She also acquired a generator for the Doura Library, which is open to the general public Sunday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Andreu said she used the NGO to procure the libraryâ€™s educational materials for public use, and that nearly 1,000 children books and more than 150 adult education books are on back order to complete the project started in September of 2008.
â€œI would like to thank everybody who helped make this happen,â€ said Andreu. â€œIt is a special day for me. This has been a very hard project, and it has taken a lot of work by both the military and the residents of Doura.â€
Andreu, who hails from North Plainfield, N.J., said that she hopes the library will soon become a public institution for the benefit of all of Rashidâ€™s citizens.