Minnesota organization donates 10,000 books to help restore demolished Iraqi library

The generosity of Minnesotans reaches far and wide, now extending all the way to a library in Iraq.

This week, thousands of books arrived at the library at the University of Mosul, a shipment organized by the Minneapolis-based Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project (IARP). The library was destroyed when ISIS militants occupied the city in 2014.

The library had stood as a cultural and educational epicenter in Iraq until ISIS fighters demolished the building. They methodically destroyed almost all of the one million books, manuscripts and historic maps inside. 

“It's devastating. What we've heard from the students and our partners there has been that it's something that can never be replaced,” said Jessica Belt Saem Eldahr, IARP Executive Director. 

But IARP wanted to try and replace as many of the books as they could, starting with a small idea. 

“We have a significant Iraqi community here in Minnesota, and one of the Iraqi-Minnesotan community members had approached us, Ali Alshammaa, and had wanted to send a couple books in a suitcase,” Belt Saem Eldahr said.

Over six months, the organization collected 10,000 university-level books, mostly from Minnesota. In the international effort to restock the library in Mosul, the shipment from Minnesota is the largest to date. 

“Lots of unpacking of boxes, and we had volunteers here in Minnesota unpack boxes, sort the books, pack the boxes,” Belt Saem Eldahr said.

On Sunday, they were delivered to the university, where Iraqi volunteers unloaded and unpacked the thousands of books. 

“It didn't really hit us - what a large impact it was - until we saw the people of Mosul unloading the books and getting excited about it there,” Belt Saem Eldahr said.

While most of the books came from Minnesota, some were donated from states across the country, Puerto Rico and Canada. 

“You can make a difference. That the books in your home have given life and inspiration to students and faculty and the people of Mosul... you can do something to help,” Belt Saem Eldahr said.

The books cover a wide range of academic topics including medicine, engineering, art, law and literature. 

For now, they are being stored in a temporary space until the Iraqi people can fully rebuild. 

“They are really committed to rebuilding their city, rebuilding their library, and we're just honored to be a small part of that,” Belt Saem Eldahr said.

The shipment also included 5,000 pairs of reading glasses, donated by an organization in Colorado. 

For more information on Books for Mosul, click here.