USAID-Iraq HEAD: Higher Education and Development

Higher Education and Development for Archaeology and Environmental Health Research
SUNY at Stony Brook

Libraries and Facilities Assessment:
Baghdad Visit 17–22 December, 2003

1. Overview

Subsequent to the first USAID-Iraq HEAD Program meeting, held in Amman, Jordan 15–16 December 2003, a team from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, including the E. Christian Filstrup, Director of Libraries, Elizabeth Stone (Director) and Jennifer Pournelle (Asst. Director) of the Archaeology Project; and Wajdy Hailoo (Director) and Shawky Marcus (Asst. Director) of the Environmental Health Project visited Baghdad to inspect facilities, assess needs, and solicit bids toward execution of the Program. Critical components of this effort, aimed at restoring Iraq’s capacity to conduct higher education in these fields, are (1) bringing libraries—including holdings, internet connectivity, and information technology management—up to current graduate standards; (2) bringing faculty up-to-date in their fields; (3) enhancing graduate education and (4) establishing IT capacity to support libraries, teaching and research.

1.1 Libraries. We investigated in some detail the rehabilitation, shelving/furnishing, telecommunications infrastructure, and computer requirements at the University of Baghdad College of Arts (Kulliyat al-Adab) archaeology library and the Mosul University College of Arts library, identified electronic resources to deliver to these facilities once they have good Internet connections, and profiled their printed book and journal needs. Prior to our trip, we had consolidated lists of in print books and determined procurement sources. We also agreed in principle to help the medical libraries in Iraqi universities. We also began investigating shipping arrangements, and will apply for military space-available shipment from CONUS to Iraq.

A big question, relevant to all Iraqi university and research libraries, is whether to install integrated library systems (ILS) now, or to start with simple cataloging systems such as WINISIS and later move the data to more a sophisticated ILS. DOS cultural affairs officer John Russell referred us to colleagues now involved in relocating the national library and conserving its damaged documents, and at the Mustansiriyah University library for advice. Clearly, we should coordinate technical solutions among the several DOS and USAID-funded library initiatives. We recommend a separately-funded (DOS?) workshop that would bring to Iraq Arab library information technology specialists, perhaps from the Gulf States which enjoy a number of highly computerized university and research libraries.

1.2 Faculty Refresher. Archaeology faculty were enthusiastic about the opportunity to meet their international colleagues at the 4th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, to be held at the Free University, Berlin 19 March– 3 April 2004. [1] We provided by-name invitation letters so that they may proceed with Visa applications to the German Consulate. We also agreed to hold intensive refresher workshops in archaeology in Erbil during a 10-week summer program, followed by 2-week follow-on sessions at Mosul and Basrah. Given sufficient funding, we also discussed bringing several ESL faculty to Stony Brook for an intensive refresher course in teaching English.

1.3 Graduate Education Enhancement. We met many diligent, enthusiastic, English-speaking young men and women anxious for access to world-class archaeological research and technologies—but making the best of primary school-sized desks, 1960s-era survey equipment, and chipped plaster casts. At the request of the faculty and deans, senior graduate students were invited to the summer workshops—an obvious and essential boon to their Ph.D. education. At these workshops, we will include hands-on sessions that introduce students and their faculty to technological advances in archaeological survey, as well as introductory computing and GIS skills. ESRI has agreed to support this effort with software donations. To assist this effort, we will investigate the possibility of recruiting a graduate of "Train the Trainer" GIS (ArcGIS 8x) sessions conducted by ESRI instructors during November 2003 on behalf of the UN OCHA-HIC.[2]

We also distributed applications for SBU’s M.A. program in Near Eastern Archaeology. ESL workshop graduates (see Faculty Refresher, above) will teach intensive English to prospective candidates and others at their home institutions following the summer sessions. The American Center for Oriental Research (ACOR) in Amman, Jordan will assist students and others with the complicated U.S. visa application process (which at present requires two trips to Amman), and can provide facilities for training in library and IT skills should the security situation in Iraq at any time preclude training sessions there. English and Arabic-language library assistance is also available at the National Library in Amman.

1.4 IT. Clearly, not just the university, but wider Baghdad is tech-hungry. We noted satellite dishes sprouting all over the city. Neareast Resources[3], who provided logistical support to the Library of Congress team that visited Baghdad in October 2003,[4] arranged accommodation, provided vehicles, bodyguards, and translators, and accompanied us to meetings.[5] They have recently opened a state-of-the-art Internet Café ideally suited as a training site, and will provide bids for facilities renovation, for installing high speed internet access and computers in departmental labs and libraries, and for delivery of print materials arriving from CONUS. We have also solicited competitive bids from other providers.

Details of meetings and site visits, with first steps to be executed pending final approvals, follow below.

2. National Museum of Antiquities: Higher Education and Preservation

While the national museum of antiquities was famously looted, the museum’s library director Zainat al-Samakri and her staff managed to save its library collections. The staff is unboxing the collection and, with Department of State funding, the library will soon be wired for computers and Internet connectivity. Zainat wholeheartedly supports this opportunity to implement ILS and expand awareness of her collection beyond the confines of the museum’s walls.

While not specifically a brief of our project, we did note an issue with profound implications for the long-term success of archaeological training and research—and of immediate import for the preservation of archaeological sites and antiquities. While we and others both independently and through DOS cultural affairs representative John Russell have provided archaeological site lists and coordinates on an ad hoc basis to several military entities, we have now answered several redundant requests. Clearly, a permanent liaison mechanism for communication of these to construction planners and security forces is needed to prevent inadvertent site destruction during and following Phase IV.

We offer several recommendations.

1. Over the immediate term, we can provide existing, georeferenced site catalogs to an appropriate topographic entity for production and distribution to relevant construction planners, contractors, and CMOCs. We note that the CPA is already producing map overlays for other aspects of infrastructure development.[6] Since we can supply the geocoded data, doing these for known archaeological sites would be a trivial task.

2. At the same time, regional antiquities representatives—already resident in and assigned to local directorates by the Ministry of Culture/National Museum of Antiquities—should be appointed as liaisons to CMOCS and CPA/USAID construction planning authorities, and included in briefings on construction planning or military basing activity likely to impact local terrain. These representatives are already well-acquainted with sensitive archaeological sites and antiquities in their areas, and will remain as institutional memory of ongoing projects after military rotation or CPA handover to Iraq civil authority.

3. Over the near and longer term, these reps—some of whom will be candidates for the M.A. program offered at SUNY under this project—should be introduced to GIS trainers from the Ministry of Planning as well as the HIC map center and support group,[7] so that they can learn to update and maintain site maps for the museum and liaison offices. This might be conducted as an independent workshop, or run concomitant with SUNY’s GIS training modules in Erbil this summer (see Graduate Education, above).

3. Baghdad University

3.1 College of Arts. Assistant Dean Dr. Tomas described the looting that stripped the only graduate humanities library in the country of computers, furniture, and appliances—and the conflagration that reduced to white ash its entire collection of 175,000 volumes and manuscripts. Avidly pro-technology, where given materials he has refit some classrooms and common areas, but needs international assistance to rebuild the main library. He is concerned that all attention is being directed to the smaller archaeology library, but understands that it will be a model for other departments.

3.2 Archaeology Department. We met with the department chair, director of research, librarian, and other faculty and students, who have moved the departmental collection to two rooms on the first floor, and are now undertaking a hand-written inventory. Some 4500 (mostly Arabic, and few post-dating 1980) books and journals were saved, but suffered smoke damage in the April riots, and the entire card catalog was lost.

Agreed immediate needs include:

1.       Turn the outside corridor into an adjacent reading room.

2.       Rehab both spaces with shelving for books and current periodicals, tables, chairs, a photocopy machine, computers with internet connections and a printer, and air conditioning. We plan to begin wiring in February.

3.       Clean, inventory, and properly shelve the collection.

4.       Procure printed materials since 1980—books, journals, American dissertations, and maps. Students stressed the need for publications on the entire ancient Near East. Faculty stressed the need to include Islamic-era archaeological materials. We will send materials; the librarian will receive and register them and put them into use.

5.       Bind or wrap the paperbound materials, and digitize or bind photocopies of deteriorated books.

6.       Computerize the catalog and give the librarian and her students training in basic computer skills and in the specific library software. She will send a regular report.

7.       Add a departmental computer lab on the second floor, where steel gates provide additional security for the teaching museum wing, now undergoing replastering and painting. We suggest refitting the plaster-cast lab as a multimedia center, with a computer lab installed in perimeter benches, and hands-on teaching and display cases in the room’s center. This approach allows students to compare study pieces with world-wide collection catalogs.

8.       Provide updated field survey equipment, with technology and GIS training.

3.3 College of Medicine. Filstrup met with library head in the office of the Dean (not present). The library was badly looted in April, losing the most important part of its book collections (about 8,000 volumes), all of its computers, and its entire computerized catalog, which it will rebuild when it receives computers.

The library is one of five Baghdad medical libraries that use WINISIS—UNESCO-sponsored library software that manages monographs—to catalog its books. It requires outside software support and searches only by keyword, but is fairly simple to use and supports both Arabic and Roman script entry and display. The medical library had several important medical indexes on CD, including Silver Platter’s Medline, which, with 25 journals, the library receives free of charge from WHO. One faculty member has taught Medline searching skills for the Ministry of Health and said she would be willing to train Mosul University librarians. Agreed needs are:

1.       Redo the wiring in the library and install some computers;

2.       Put in a CD tower to manage Silver Platter and other databases on CDs;

3.       Order post-1995 environmental health books;

4.       Subscribe to a basic set of print or electronic environmental health journals,

5.       Establish a document delivery service for environmental health articles found on indexes but not held at the library.

4. Mosul University

Mosul University’s library consists of a main library and 24 branch libraries, including the medical library. All told, the main and branch libraries hold 140,000 volumes and 3500 journal subscriptions, but no current foreign subscriptions. Like other Iraqi university libraries, it has purchased almost nothing since 1990, adding mostly gifts of journals. The library was looted of all its computers and printers, but its collections were left intact.

4.1 College of Arts and Department of Archaeology. We met with Prof. Muhammad-Basil Al-Azzawi, Dean of the College of Arts (including archaeology, translation, and library science); senior faculty of Archaeology and Cuneiform studies; and the university library director, who has a staff of 80, of which 10 have professional skills. The library catalogs new books and keeps track of serial publications on a cardex. One graduate student is good with computers, could learn a computer system and train the others, and Jirjis plans to hire her when she finishes her library science degree at Mosul. We will try to visit the Mosul campus in early 2004.

Agreed needs are:

1.       Purchase for the library 10 computers and printers, provide the library and the archaeology department with internet connections, and connect the two via wireless.

2.       Send books and journals. Jirjis will receive and catalog the materials and send regular reports. Dean Al-Azzawi will give him an email address.

3.       Subscribe to Anthropological Literature online, and figure out document delivery later.

4.       Provide updated field survey equipment with technology and GIS training.

4.2 College of Medicine. The medical library has a technical services staff and is ready to process any materials we can send them. The library seats 100 and has 14,000 books and 150 journals, including some foreign journals, but all come as gifts. There is Internet access in a central university office, but none in the library. Staff at the public health center that Hailoo is establishing at the University of Baghdad will assist with communication and logistics. Immediate needs are:

1.       Hailoo (SBU) will contact the Mosul University Medical College dean to get the library wired for computers and Internet access.

2.       Once that is in place, we will purchase 10 computers for the library to support all aspects of medical education and research. The dean of the medical college is responsible for their installation and support and for basic computer training.

3.       For environmental health subjects only, Ayyub will send ILL requests to SBU. This probably will have to be via email when that is functioning.

4.       Once the computers are functioning, Filstrup will arrange for Medline training, probably from the Baghdad U. Medical Librarian.

5.       SBU will subscribe to a core set of environmental health journals for the medical library and will begin shipment of environmental health books published in the last five years. SBU arrange transport to Iraq; Hailoo and the dean of the medical college will arrange for transportation from the port of entry to the university.

[1] See <>.

[5] General contractors active in Iraq’s reconstruction, Neareast Resources manages facilities reconstruction, telecommunications installation, and security, translation, and publishing services (including purchasing Iraqi publications for the Library of Congress office in Cairo). See <>; <>; <>.

[6] At the Palace, unclassified examples line the hallway enroute to the first-floor women’s restroom.