theme chosen for the conference, Libraries in Times of War, Revolution
and Social Change, is a particularly timely one in terms of recent
history. Events such as the pillage and burning of Iraq's National Library
in Spring of 2003 have sent cultural shock waves around the world. The
apparent contradictions of libraries, traditionally taken to represent
stability and continuity, and wars and revolutions, which involve rapid
and disruptive change, suggest a number of urgent historical questions.
topics, issues, and concerns include:
and libraries as agents of cultural memory to be protected, appropriated
and archival collections and services as instruments of political power
in providing, restricting or withholding access to information.
and their contents as cultural heritage and as booty.
as places of refuge, solace and practical help in times of war, revolution
and social disruption.
responsibilities of the international community in creating and enforcing
policies and procedures for the protection, recovery, and repatriation
of cultural artifacts, including books and libraries.
Paper sessions featuring scholars from seven countries will focus on
the histories of library collections and services in the context of
particular conflicts, populations, eras, and geographic locations. Keynote
speakers from North and South America, Europe, and Asia will examine
and discuss historical and contemporary libraries in times of social
crisis and violent dislocation. What happens in such times to an institution
that symbolizes and facilitates intellectual, social, and cultural continuity?
This approach offers a new kind of lens--and focus--for artifacts and
events of the past that have heretofore been disregarded, minimized,
or met with deliberate silence. The international scholarship presented
at Library History Seminar XI represents an important step toward making
this knowledge available to a wider audience. In addition to the LHSXI
venue, a selection of conference papers will be published in future
issues of Libraries & Culture.