The bad-ass librarians of Timbuktu : and their race to save the world's most precious manuscripts
By Joshua Hammer
New York : Simon & Schuster, 2016. 278 pages. Nonfiction.
A passionate collector and archivist, Abdel Kader Haidara, spent several decades journeying throughout Northern Africa to locate and purchase ancient texts in order to preserve the literary history of the area. He secured grants and established a conservation and preservation library with the abilities and technology of the most advanced institutions around the world, eventually amassing over 350,000 items.
When the region fell under the attack of Al Qaeda militants in 2012, the safety and security of the volumes was jeopardized as the jihadists threatened to burn and otherwise destroy the collection. Haidara amassed group of librarians and archivists to sneak all the manuscripts out of Timbuktu and into hiding in safe houses over 400 miles away in Southern Mali.
While I expected something different from this book, the author, a journalist who has visited the Mailian region several times over the past few decades, gives a broad account of the history of the jihadists in Africa and in the Malian region. It helped to emphasis the threat and the urgency of the situation, but I’ll admit hoped for more information about the actual collection and the preservation efforts. None the less, it was an engaging and enlightening read and I learned a lot about the global efforts to combat the extremists there, and the affect it has on the people and culture.