Thursday 15 November 2018
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.theguardian - 8 days ago

Librarians to the rescue! A brief history of heroic bibliophiles

Whether they’re saving books from censorship, or sheltering their community from danger, there’s nothing new about librarians choosing actions alongside wordsOnly at Oxford could musty tomes about phallic worship be regarded as a genuine target for onanistic students. With the university’s Bodleian Libraries announcing that they will be putting their restricted section (read: anything classified as immoral, erotic or obscene) on display for the first time since it was started in 1882, the lengths librarians took to build this collection of books published abroad but banned in the UK has been revealed. These include the covert mission organised between librarians and a Foreign Office official to smuggle in two copies of DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, librarians who identified lulls in criminal proceedings that allowed them to buy books legally, and personal letters written by library staff to British officials, pleading for books snatched by customs before they were destroyed.There have been brave librarians throughout h sadly, in many parts of the world, librarians are often called on to stand up for the principles of freedom of expression, while also upholding the dictum of libraries being a place of sanctuary. In 2012, Abdel Kader Haidara – one of the subjects of the 2017 book The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu – helped to smuggle 500,000 manuscripts out of the city, away from Malian Islamists who were threatening to destroy them. Saad Eskander, director of Iraq’s National Library, has tirelessly sheltered and chased books targeted by both Islamists and US forces since 2003. (“I never have a bodyguard because that attracts attention,” he told the Guardian in 2008, adding: “If they want to kill you, they will do it.”) And many librarians were charged with “dangerousness” in Cuba for stocking books classed by Fidel Castro as incendiary – like George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Continue reading...

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