Prescott helping to rebuild Iraqi library collection after ISIS occupation
PHOENIX — The city of Mosul, Iraq has begun to rebuild following a monthslong occupation by Islamic State fighters and Prescott was helping the city get back on its literary feet.
James Gulliksen, a graduate Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, had been keeping a close eye on the retaking of Mosul. As Iraqi Defense Forces began to take control of the city, he began to formulate a plane to help the city’s residents.
Gulliksen said he kept track of events by following a blog, Mosul Eye, that was written by a former teacher at the University of Mosul. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — who is believed to be dead — ordered all literary materials in the Mosul Central Library to be burned.
As hostilities began to lessen, the blog asked for book donations to restock the library.
“Mosul Eye reached out to all of its readers asking if people would be willing to donate books to this library,” Gulliksen said. “[This] had already been in the back of my mind. This library was a tool to get Mosul back on its feet once it was liberated.”
Gulliksen worked with his alma mater to collect books, but then the entire city got involved.
“Really, before we knew it, it turned into a whole Prescott community project,” Gulliksen said. “I was getting calls and emails from people saying [they] had a whole, huge collection from my son, or husband, or wife and they were really keen on donating which was really nice.”
Gulliksen said he was surprised by the response he received and the number of books he was able to collect.
“The final shipment that we sent was just over 6,200 (books) — 6,225 in all — just about 4.25 tons,” Gulliksen said.
The books were transported to the Iraqi city by a charity.
“We got really lucky with sending the books over,” Gulliksen said. “We got really lucky to partner with an organization called Life for Relief and Development. They already had a large container going to Mosul and they said, ‘We have some extra room in our container if you want to put all your books in.'”
The Prescott donations will become part of a new collection that includes more than 200,000 others donated by Germans.
“People are really interested in literacy, and not just the academic side of books, but having a community center where people have face-to-face interaction and all the things that come along with a library and getting a community back where it should be,” Gulliksen said
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