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THE URGENCY OF READING
International call to action for access to books and information resources in humanitarian emergencies
When a humanitarian catastrophe occurs, international organizations and governments set up medical outposts, drop emergency food supplies from helicopters, and hand out clothing in disaster zones. Naturally, absolute priority is given to what we call ‘basic needs’: food, water, shelter, and health. While there is no question that organizations and governments must devote the majority of their efforts to promoting the physical well-being of disaster victims, more attention should be given to nourishing the mind as a second measure to help victims cope with catastrophe and move forward.
Following the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Libraries Without Borders (LWB) responded to requests from Haitian institutions and sent an emergency mission to the country. At this time, a number of individuals asked if giving Haitians the opportunity to read, write, and access information was as much of a priority as food and shelter.
The fulfillment of basic needs is undoubtedly the first priority in humanitarian situations. Yet from LWB’s work in Haiti, we know that access to books and information resources improves outcomes for displaced persons. Books and expression help sustain intellectual stimulation and promote self-worth and resilience amid crisis. Whether through books, computers, legal assistance or training, access to information and cultural resources empowers individuals and gives them the tools to reconstruct what has been lost. Furthermore, libraries can improve communication within communities and among aid workers by providing phones, community mapping tools, and places for family reunification and community organizing. These types of resources can also play a decisive role in restoring a sense of normality in post-emergency situations.
And while numerous international guidelines for humanitarian assistance do affirm the importance of basic education within humanitarian settings, these guidelines should also include access to books and information as a priority for disaster victims.
With the strong belief that books, writing, and learning should not be denied to victims of humanitarian disasters, Libraries Without Borders, through this call to action, seeks to increase awareness about the need for access to information and books in post-disaster situations. Furthermore, LWB calls on international organizations to 1) expand reading, cultural and educational programs, which activate the human spirit and help individuals cope with trauma; and 2) make the provision of access to information and books a priority for international humanitarian relief.
President of Libraries Without Borders
Farid Abdelouahab – writer, Eliette Abécassis – writer, Olivier Adam – writer, Emmanuel Arnaud – writer, Elisabeth Badinter – writer and philosopher, Etienne Balibar – philosopher and Visiting Professor at Columbia University, Azouz Begag – writer and politician, Tahar Ben Jelloun – writer and poet, Jean Manuel Bourgois – publisher and former president of the French Publishers Association, Monique Bourin – historian and Professor Emeritus at the Université de Paris 1-Panthéon-Sorbonne, Serge Bramly – writer, scriptwriter and art critic, Geneviève Brisac – writer, Jean-Marc Brisson – head of exhibitions and meetings at Actes Sud, Evelio Cabrejo Parra – linguist and psychoanalyst, Cabu – designer, Barbara Cassin – philologist and philosopher, Jean-Marc Coicaud – Professor of Law and Global Affairs and Director of the Division of Global Affairs at Rutgers University, Collectif 129 (Lyor, Néobled, Rouda) – group of slam poets and rappers, David Chaillou – composer, Roger Chartier – historian and professor at Collège de France, Yves Coppens - paleontologist, paleoanthropologist, and Emeritus Professor at the Collège de France, Vincent Crouzet – writer, Catherine Cusset – writer, Geneviève d'Angenstein – Founder of the French School of Courtesy and Protocol, Marie Darrieussecq – writer, Anne-France Dautheville – writer and journalist, Maylis de Kerangal – writer, Didier Daeninckx – writer, Arnaud Delalande – writer, Delphine de la Panneterie – Audiovisual Services Manager at Editions Robert Laffont, Christophe Deloire – writer, journalist and Director-General Reporters Without Borders, Patrick Deville - writer, Emmanuel de Waresquiel – historian, Rokhaya Diallo – radio and television commentator, Arthur Dreyfus – writer, Stéphane Durand-Souffland – legal commentator, Gad Elmaleh – stand-up comedian, actor and filmmaker, Jacques Expert – journalist, Olivier Faron – Director-General of the École Normale Supérieure in Lyon, Didier Fassin – anthropologist, sociologist and professor at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, Jérôme Ferrari – writer and winner of the Prix Goncourt 2012, Jean-Louis Fournier – writer, comedian and filmmaker, François-Xavier – journalist, Thierry Fremaux – Director of the Institut Lumière and General Delegate of the Cannes Film Festival, Patrice Gelinet – member of the Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel (CSA), Sylvie Germain – writer, Hervé Ghesquiere – journalist, Valentine Goby – writer, Jean-Louis Gouraud, writer and publisher, Anne Goscinny – writer, Robert Guediguian – filmmaker, producer and scriptwriter, Sophie Guérard de Latour – Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, Alban Guillemois – comics artist, Denis Gombert – writer and publisher, Serge Hefez – psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Stéphane Hessel – former French ambassador and writer, Fabrice Humbert – writer, Jean-Noel Jeanneney – former president of the National Library of France, Jacques Lamalle – writer and journalist, Olivier Lassu – filmmaker and scripwriter, Xavier Le Clerc – writer, Martine Lemalet – Director-General of Éditions Le Manuscrit, Alain Mabanckou – writer, poet and Professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, Bernard Magnier – writer and director of the collection "Lettres Africaines" at Actes Sud, Jean Malaurie – ethnologist, geographer and writer, Jean-Pierre Marielle – writer, Noëlle Meimaroglou – Editorial Director at Éditions Flammarion, Eric Milet – writer and Sahara specialist, Olivier Mongin – director of the journal Esprit, Marie Rose Moro – writer and doctor of medicine and social studies, Agathe Natanson – actress, Pierre-Yves Néron – Associate Professor of Business Ethics at Université Catholique de Lille, Florence Noiville – writer and journalist, Dominique Noguez – philosopher and writer, Olivier Nora – CEO of Éditions Grasset et Fayard, Xavier North – senior civil official and head of the General Delegation for the French language and the languages of France, Erik Orsenna – writer and member of the French Academy, Michèle Petit – anthropologist and honorary research engineer at the French National Center for Scientific Research, Philomène Piegay – journalist and head of the culture section at Elle, Gilles Pécout – historian and professor at the École Normale Supérieure, Nicolas Philippe – Founder of Éditions Le Manuscrit, Hubert Prolongeau – journalist, Anne Rabinovitch – writer, Jean Reno – actor, Pierre Rosanvallon – historian and professor at the Collège de France, Jean-Marie Rouart – writer and member of the French Academy, Jean-Christophe Rufin – doctor, novelist and former president of Action Against Hunger France, Gonzague Saint-Bris – writer, Jacques Schwartz-bart – musician, Fabienne Servan Schreiber – producer and Director of Cinétévé, Ian Soliane – writer, Joy Sorman – writer, Yvan Tessier – photographer and librarian, Olivier Tinland – Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Université de Montpellier, David Thomas – writer, Lilian Thuram – President of the Lilian Thuram Foundation, Louis-Georges Tin – Professor of Literature at the Université d’Orléans, Emmanuel Todd – historian and demographer at the Institut national d'études démographiques, Todorov Tzvetan – essayist, philosopher and historian, Jean-Noël Tronc – Director-General of SACEM, Sebastian Veg – researcher and Director of the French Center for Research on Contemporary China in Hong Kong, Abdourahman A. Waberi – writer, Loïc Wacquant – Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, Bernard Werber – writer, Denis Westhoff – photographer
Georges-Arthur Goldschmidt – writer and translator
Laurent de Briey – Professor of Philosophy at the Université de Namur, Jacques Joset – professor at the Université de Liège, Khedim Simon, Justine Lacroix – philosopher and Associate Professor of Political Science at the Université libre de Bruxelles, Liegeois Eric, Nezirovic Marija, Amélie Nothomb – writer, Persson, Pawula Anna, Stech George, Welter Marie-José
Tomas Tranströmer – winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature
Elena Kodinova – journalist, Nikolay Petev – writer and President of the Bulgarian Writers' Union, Julia Spiridonova – children's author, Mario Trifonov – writer and journalist
Vassilis Alexakis – writer and winner of the Prix Goncourt des lycéens
Canfora Luciano – demographer and historian
Benny Brunner – filmmaker, Georg Frerks – humanitarian expert and Professor of Conflict and Disaster Studies at the University of Utrecht and Wageningen University, Peter Geschiere – Professor of Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam, Ramsey Nasr – poet, writer and actor, Eduard Nazarski – Director of Amnesty International Netherlands, A.C.G.M. Robben – Professor of Anthropology at the University of Utrecht, Harry van Bommel – Member of Parliament (Socialist Party), Frieda Menco-Brommet – former radio journalist
Zygmunt Bauman – Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Leeds
Leonor Baldaque – writer
Seamus Heaney, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature
Todd Landman – Professor of Government and Director of the Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolution at the University of Essex, Doris Lessing – winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, Salman Rushdie – internationally acclaimed author and winner of the Booker Prize
Arash Abizadeh – Professor of Philosophy at McGill University, Margaret Atwood – Booker Prize-winning novelist, Manon Beauchemin – librarian, Joseph Carens – Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto, Yolaine Carrier – storyteller, Ryoa Chung – Professor of Philosophy at the University of Montreal, Andrée-Anne Cormier – PhD candidate in the philosophy of education at the University of Montreal, Natalie Davis – Professor of History at the University of Toronto, Peter Dietsch – Professor of Philosophy at the University of Montreal, Marc-Antoine Dilhac – postdoctoral researcher in philosophy at the Center for Research on Ethics, University of Montreal, Jeanine Dion, Valéry Giroux – member of the Bar of Montreal, doctor of philosophy, and Coordinator of the Center for Research on Ethics at the University of Montreal, Vincent Guillin – Professor of Philosophy at the University of Québec in Montreal, Eric T. Jennings – Professor of History at the University of Toronto, Hélène Lépine – writer, Geneviève Lévesque, Dominique Leydet – Professor of Philosophy at the University of Québec in Montreal, Colin Macleod – Professor of Philosophy at the University of Victoria, Jocelyn Maclure – Professor of Philosophy at the University of Laval, Tristan Muller – member of the Global Library Foundation
David Auburn – Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Judy Blume – best-selling author, Wendy Brown – Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, Philip Caputo – writer and journalist, Noam Chomsky – historian and Professor of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Michael Cunningham – writer and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award, Edwige Danticat – writer, Robert Darnton – Director of the University Library at Harvard University, Junot Díaz – Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Pamela Druckerman – writer and freelance journalist, Jennifer Egan – Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, Dave Eggers – writer, editor and publisher, Jeffrey Eugenides – Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Eugene Fidell – Visiting Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School, military law expert, Owen Fiss – Sterling Professor at Yale Law School, Cristina García – Cuban-born American novelist and journalist, Arthur Goldhammer – Senior Affiliate at Harvard University's Center for European Studies, Judith Goldstein – Founder and Executive Director of Humanity in Action, Paul Harding – Pulitzer Prize-winning author and musician, John Irving – Academy Award-winning screenwriter and novelist, Zachary D. Kaufman – attorney and chairman of the Board of Directors of the American Friends of the Kigali Public Library, Stephen King – contemporary author of horror and winner of the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, Dean Koontz – author of suspense thrillers, Lawrence Lessig – Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and Founder of Creative Commons, Toni Morrison – winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Veronique Munoz-Darde – Professor of Philosophy at the University College London and the University of California, Berkeley, Joyce Carol Oates – winner of the National Book Award, Thomas Pogge – Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs at Yale University , David Rieff – journalist and writer, Annie Proulx – Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, Saskia Sassen – Professor of Sociology at Columbia University, Richard Sennett – Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics, Professor of Humanities at New York University, Anne-Marie Slaughter – Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University and former Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. State Department, Fritz Stern – Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University, C.K. Williams – winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award, Jody Williams – Nobel Peace Prize laureate and political activist
Isabel Allende – winner of Chile's National Literature Prize
Mario Vargas Llosa – winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature
Pedro Juan Gutiérrez – Cuban novelist
Laeneck Hurbon – sociologist, Dany Laferriere – writer, Kettly Mars – writer, Makenzy Orcel – writer, Jean-Euphèle Milcé – writer, Guy Régis Junior – writer and translator, Marvin Victor – writer and painter
Frederik Willem de Klerk – Nobel Peace Prize lauerate and former president of South Africa, J.M. Coetzee – winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature
Jessica Kaahwa – Senior Lecturer at Makerere University's School of Liberal and Performing Arts, Beatrice Lamwaka – writer and journalist, Mahmood Mamdani – Director of the Makere Institute of Social Research and Professor of Government at Columbia University
Kwame Anthony Appiah – Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University
Rami Parham – writer
Amin Maalouf – writer
Sam Bahour – activist and writer
To Hyung Baik – Professor of Philosophy at Soongsil University, Hong Sik Cho – Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Soongsil University, Jeong Hun Han – Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Soongsil University, Se Hee Hwang – Director of the Life and Healthcare Center, National Medical Center, Chi-Wook Kim – Assistant Professor of International Relations at Ulsan University, Kyung Mee Kim – Associate Professor at Soongsil University, Chull Lee – Associate Professor of Christian Studies at Soongsil University, Jae Lyong Lee – Professor of French Literature and Language at Soongsil University, Yoo Junghwan – Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Cheongju University, Jung-chul Lee – Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Soongsil University, Sangeun Lee – Associate Professor at Soongsil University, Seungjoo Lee – Professor of Political Science at Chungang University, Jung Hyun Lim – Associate Professor at Soongsil University, Dahn Park – Professor of History at Sogang University, Park Ji Hyun – Contract Lecturer in History at Sogang University, Min Ho Whang – Professor of History at Soongsil University, Chulgu Woo – Emeritus Professor of Political Science at Yeungnam University and former president of the Korean International Studies Association, Jin Kuk Yang – Associate Professor of Chemistry at Soongsil University, Seo-Koo Yoo – Associate Professor at Soongsil University
Oleg Sokolov – historian and Professor of French Civilization at the University of Saint Petersburg
Dào Thanh Huyên – journalist
Peter Singer – Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University