In his student days, Ameen Al Jaleeli spent many happy afternoons at the University of Mosul’s Library. “It was a landmark at the heart of the university. I used to go there and spend hours reading and living that experience, that calmness.” Now a professor at the university, Al Jaleeli shares these memories with new students curious to know what they are missing.
“Not having a library is a serious hindrance to the teaching and learning process,” he says, but it’s also a loss to the student way of life. “Students joining now can’t have that beautiful library experience. … They keep asking me what it was like and wondering whether the reconstruction will be complete before they graduate.”
It’s been almost four years since the Islamic State, or ISIS, was expelled from Mosul, but life is still far from normal at the University of Mosul, where students pass bombed-out departments on the way to class that have yet to be replaced. (See a related article, “Iraqis Watch Antiquities Take Hit After Hit.”)
The central library—once among the largest in the Middle East with over a million books in English and Arabic—has become a symbol of the devastation suffered by the whole city, its charred columns and scorched shelves a stark reminder of the education blackout imposed under the occupation by ISIS.
Now, a new drive to replace the books and rebuild the structure is bringing hope that the former landmark will recover its prestige and give Mosul’s students a chance to connect with the world of learning once more. (See a related article, “Rebuilding Mosul’s Library, Book by Book.”)