Tag Archives: libraries

Bad-Ass Librarians

21 Jul

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This button has been pinned on my ALA Conference lanyard since I picked it up in Boston in January. I would have moved it to my school lanyard, except that it has the word ASS on it and that is certainly a middle school no-no.

When I first picked up the button, I didn’t realize it was meant to promote Joshua Hammer’s book  The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu. 

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During the school year, the book came up in discussion with a former school library colleague who was on the verge of retirement (and whose retirement party I will attend tomorrow).

Well, I finally read the book. It is about the librarians who saved the thousands of Arabic manuscripts housed in and around Timbuktu, bit it also gives background to why the effort was necessary.

Publisher’s Summary: To save precious centuries-old Arabic texts from Al Qaeda, a band of librarians in Timbuktu pulls off a brazen heist worthy of Ocean’s Eleven.

In the 1980s, a young adventurer and collector for a government library, Abdel Kader Haidara, journeyed across the Sahara Desert and along the Niger River, tracking down and salvaging tens of thousands of ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts that had fallen into obscurity. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu tells the incredible story of how Haidara, a mild-mannered archivist and historian from the legendary city of Timbuktu, later became one of the world’s greatest and most brazen smugglers.

In 2012, thousands of Al Qaeda militants from northwest Africa seized control of most of Mali, including Timbuktu. They imposed Sharia law, chopped off the hands of accused thieves, stoned to death unmarried couples, and threatened to destroy the great manuscripts. As the militants tightened their control over Timbuktu, Haidara organized a dangerous operation to sneak all 350,000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali.

Over the past twenty years, journalist Joshua Hammer visited Timbuktu numerous times and is uniquely qualified to tell the story of Haidara’s heroic and ultimately successful effort to outwit Al Qaeda and preserve Mali’s—and the world’s—literary patrimony. Hammer explores the city’s manuscript heritage and offers never-before-reported details about the militants’ march into northwest Africa. But above all, The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu is an inspiring account of the victory of art and literature over extremism.

Stepping off the Path with Neil Gaiman

23 Jan

Have you read Neil Gaiman’s article in the Guardian entitled Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming ? It made the rounds in the library and FB world. Perhaps it landed within your universe, too. If you haven’t read it, please do.

I must admit that I haven’t loved everything Neil Gaiman has written. I don’t think one has to love everything an author writes. But I am currently  listening to Neil Gaiman’s  book  The Ocean at the End of the Lane and I am entranced.

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 At first, I thought it was Alan Rickman reading. I love Alan Rickman’s voice. But it wasn’t him.

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I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was Mr. Gaiman himself. I like hearing authors reading their own work well.

Can I just tell you that this book has me entranced. The story is a little scary for me, but here’s why I can keep listening: Gaiman isn’t graphic. He takes aspects of real life and twists it just enough to make it eerie. Even though I know the events in the book can’t really happen, it seems like they could, especially if I were 7 years old, like the narrator. Gaiman really captures the essence of his unnamed protagonist. Another character has one of my favorite names in a long time: Lettie Hempstock. I like how it rolls off my tongue.

And then there is Gaiman’s beautiful prose. I loved this line the best:

Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences.

When was the last time you stepped off the path?

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