Liz Page, Executive Director of IBBY International, sent a notice to IBBY members Monday July 21st regarding the state of IBBY libraries in Gaza. As you know, the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) was established shortly after the close of World War II. IBBY’s founder, Jella Lepman (a German Jew), believed that books could build bridges of understanding and peace between people. The children needed to know what all good readers know: you are not alone; others have experiences, feelings and needs just like you do, and there is a whole world out there you know nothing about.
For the past five years IBBY has been supporting two children’s libraries in Gaza through the IBBY Children in Crisis Fund. One library is situated in the northern community of Beit Hanoun, the other is in the south in the town of Rafah. In 2013 an IBBY delegation of the Executive Director, President, IBBY Foundation President, and IBBY Palestine President, visited the two libraries and subsequently helped them to upgrade the services and collections with support from the Katherine Paterson Family Foundation as well as the IBBY Children in Crisis Fund. See the IBBY website for a report of the visit and the project by IBBY Palestine.
The two IBBY library areas (Rafah and Beit Hanoun) are now military zones. The librarian in Beit Hanoun, Abla Hassan, sent a message to PBBY (IBBY Palestine) about the situation there before she was displaced a number of days ago. She says that the al-Ata’ community-based centre that hosts the library has been very badly damaged. The children’s courtyard has been destroyed as well as books, computers, windows and walls. Many local homes have been partially or completely destroyed as well. According to PBBY, there is no specific news about the library in al-Shawka – Rafah or about the situation of the children using the library and the library building. All families are displaced including the librarian Mahmoud.
In times of conflict, children on both sides suffer. IBBY’s mandate through the Children in Crisis Fund is to help where it can. The above news gives you an idea of the immediacy and importance of IBBY’s mandate around the world and how fragile the work of IBBY is.
One of Lepman’s beliefs, and we in IBBY Canada say this repeatedly, is that books are mirrors and windows. Through reading and books, people can come to know and understand each other. Making reading and books available to children and families everywhere is a crucial part of what IBBY does.
2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, what better time to donate to IBBY’s Children in Crisis Fund.
Shannon Babcock and Theo Heras
IBBY Canada President and Vice-President
With information from IBBY International and IBBY Palestine