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International Journal of Libraries and Information Studies

Editor-in-Chief: Albright, Kendra S. / Bothma, Theo J.D.

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Volume 52, Issue 1 (Jan 2002)


Libraries, Nationalism, and Armed Conflict in the Twentieth Century

Miriam Valencia
Published Online: 2007-12-04 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/LIBR.2002.1

Collective memory is an important feature of group identity. The collective memory, or common history of a group, is in many cases represented by its cultural institutions, including libraries. During the twentieth century, many instances of genocide, or attacks on groups, occurred. This continues today. These attacks often include aggression against the cultural institutions which, as evidence of a separate cultural identity, are seen to give political legitimacy to the group under attack. This article sees the many instances of premeditated attacks on libraries as integral parts of genocidal campaigns. Examples from the Second World War are explored, as are events in the former Yugoslavia. The role librarians have played in these examples is discussed and practical ways in which librarians and the international library community can combat such attacks are identified. Finally, it is argued that the most effective way to prevent attacks on libraries is the promotion of pluralism and respect for the cultural heritage of others. Libraries can promote pluralism through their collections, their organisation, and their approach to information. In educating their users to respect other cultures, libraries contribute to safeguarding the cultural heritage of those represented by their collections.

About the article

Miriam Valencia, Librarian, West London Synagogue, 33 Seymour Place, London W1H 5AU. E-mail:

Received: 2002-01-31

Accepted: 2002-02-11

Published Online: 2007-12-04

Published in Print: 2002-03-01

Citation Information: Libri, ISSN (Print) 0024-2667, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/LIBR.2002.1.

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