A word from our chairman
Five years after founding Libraries Without Borders/Bibliothèques Sans Frontières, Patrick Weil reflects on the organization’s mission, progress, and future challenges.
Today’s world is home to 795 million illiterate adults and 72 million children not in school. Hundreds of millions more—children and adults—have no access to books due to lacking resources. In the few public libraries in developing countries, fundamental works in world literature and sciences are often absent. In some of them, the most recent works date back to a half-century ago. And this doesn’t include whole regions where libraries do not exist.
I’ve often noted the role that books and libraries play in the success of students coming from the poorest environments. So many women, men and children would see their futures transformed if they could access books. A book does more than convey knowledge and provide an opening to something new. It’s also an essential instrument in exercising the critical mind and in the education for democracy. Finally, a book is also and must increasingly become an essential driver of sustainable development. Placed in a library, it moves from hand-to-hand and from generation to generation.
Not only do books provide a source for longterm development, but they also provide relief in humanitarian emergencies. Being able to read, write, and express in the worst humanitarian catastrophes helps victims to cope with the trauma of disaster and to hold on to their humanity and identity.
That’s why we founded Libraries Without Borders / Bibliothèques Sans Frontières five years ago. We want to respond to this vital need for books, culture, and information in developing regions. In doing this, we provide relief in humanitarian emergencies and the building blocks for longterm development. Finally, by promoting the access to knowledge, we wish to strengthen the aspirations for democracy, justice, and dialogue between cultures across the world.
Patrick Weil is Professor of History at the University of Paris I – Sorbonne, a Senior Research Fellow at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), and a Visiting Professor at Yale Law School.