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17 July 2007
Current Status and Future Outlook
of Books for Baghdad Program

By Steve Ivey
Star Staff Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

Books for Baghdad Suspended:
High Demand, Low Supply
Causes Professor to
Temporarily Stop Shipments

An Iraqi-born biology professor at Jacksonville State University is suspending his Books for Baghdad program.

Since 2004, Safaa Al-Hamdani has collected and shipped more than 55,000 books, plus computers and other material, to Baghdad University.

Al-Hamdani said Monday he felt he could no longer meet the growing demand for books in Iraq, and universities in Alabama — the largest donors to the program — no longer had surplus books to give.

“This project has expanded beyond our capacity to handle it,” he said. “These other (Iraqi) universities started contacting me, all hurting from war and isolation. It’s become overwhelming.”

Books for Baghdad has been a volunteer program. JSU’s students and maintenance staff pitched in to pack and ship the books. A humanitarian group, International Relief and Development, paid for shipping.

But Al-Hamdani said costs for driving and staying overnight to pick up donations, plus the time in labeling shipments in English and Arabic, have become too taxing. Some publishers offered books only at a discount.

“We are a small operation,” he said. “If the opportunity in the future arises and more resources become available, I would love to reconsider.”

Al-Hamdani said the last shipment of 21,000 books went out June 21.

“I’m willing to do it,” he said. “But the lack of resources prevents me from promising to a university I could help them.”

About Steve Ivey

Steve Ivey covers education for the Star.

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