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19 July 2007
Books for Anyone?
Editorial: Suspension of Books for Baghdad Program


Reprinted here in its entirety.

In one week’s time, books — a fundamental tool of education — have become a precious, and increasingly rare, commodity in Calhoun County.

At Anniston High, scores of library shelves sit empty following a May 2006 fire and what seems to be an embarrassingly half-hearted effort by the school’s leadership to replace them. It’s been 14 months since the fire, and still Anniston High’s library is stocked with more empty space than educational volumes.

No less saddened are we to learn that Jacksonville State University’s Safaa Al-Hamdani has suspended his Books for Baghdad program because the project had grown too large for him to handle and, unfortunately, because donors — many of them other universities in Alabama — no longer have an ample supply of surplus books that can be sent to the Middle East.

Assuredly, Al-Hamdani’s program has represented a godsend for Iraqi students seeking an advanced education in a war-wracked city. Since its inception in 2004, the program, with help from volunteers and humanitarian groups, has solicited, collected, packaged, labeled and shipped more than 55,000 books to Baghdad. Al-Hamdani and those who’ve assisted him should be commended.

Al-Hamdani, a biology professor at JSU and a native of Iraq, has not shuttered the program permanently. With other Iraqi universities understandably requesting his assistance, the program has simply become too large for him to arrange. But he needs help, and more books to send.

As depressing as it was to learn of the suspension of the Books for Baghdad program, it would be just as uplifting to hear that someone with the money and the spirit — private donors, corporations, national humanitarian groups, publishers, the State Department — had provided Al-Hamdani with the support he needs to restart the program as a gesture of goodwill in a relationship sorely needing it.

In both cases, at Anniston High and Baghdad University, books are in short supply. How’s one to get a proper education without them?

See editorial at The Anniston Star's website: .

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