What do we lose when we lose a library

What do we lose when we lose a library lead image

What do we lose when we lose a library, KU Leuven, September 9–11, 2015

To commemorate the centenary of the destruction of the Library in 1914, the Goethe-Institut Brüssel, the British Council Brussels and the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) are organising a three day international conference on the challenging topic: What do we lose when we lose a library?

The burning or destruction of books – and material heritage – is a symbol of so much more. What does a community lose, what does a city or country lose, when a library is turned to ashes? Examples come from all times and places. We can think for example of the destruction of a library in Alexandria in the far past, the demolition of a library of the Jesuits in China, the library fires in Leuven in 1914 and in 1940, the destruction of manuscripts in Chartres and Warsaw during the Second World War and the ruined libraries in Croatia and Sarajevo at the end of the 20th Century. The threat to the library in Timbuktu in 2012 and the very recent destruction of books and archives in Mosul, Aleppo and Sanaa complete this sad list. The worldwide protection of libraries will therefore stay one of the biggest challenges for the conservation and spread of knowledge.

For three days, more than thirty speakers from a range of countries will closely look into the historical facts, the methods and strategies on how threatened book collections can be protected. What are the traumas from the past? What can we learn from these for the future? How can libraries strengthen their position? How can they protect their collections? In addition, the conference will also explore the digital challenge for libraries.

Keynote speakers of the conference are

  • Abdel Kader Haidara, Mamma Haidara Library, Timbuktu, Mali
  • Aleida Assmann, University of Konstanz, Germany
  • David McKitterick, Trinity College, Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • Ismet Ovcina, National and University library of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo
  • Michael F. Suarez S.J., Rare Book School, University of Virginia, United States
  • Herbert Van de Sompel, Research Library of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, United States
  • Father Justin, Saint Catherine's Monastery, Sinai, Egypt
  • Alan Kramer, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
  • Emmanuelle Danchin, University of  Paris, IRICE, France.


Registration closes August 31, 2015.