What is a man, woman, or child, if once their life is saved and food and shelter found they are without any activity, and are unable to read, write, or communicate?
It is in response to this fundamental question that Libraries Without Borders / Bibliothèques Sans Frontières launched the campaign ‘The Urgency of Reading’, in November 2012. The fulfillment of basic needs is undoubtedly the first priority in humanitarian situations. Yet from LWB’s work in Haiti, we know that access to books and information resources improves outcomes for displaced persons and helps sustain intellectual stimulation and promote self-worth and resilience amid crisis. Whether through books, computers, legal assistance or training, access to information and cultural resources empowers individuals and gives them the tools to reconstruct what has been lost. Libraries Without Borders began to implement this style of intervention, with positive outcomes, in Haiti, but similar dynamics were at work in the aftermaths of earthquakes in Chile in 2010 and Japan in 2011.
This campaign aims to make access to information, books and culture in displaced populations a priority for international aid organizations. The international call is supported by many writers and intellectuals around the world, among which are winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature J.M. Coetzee, Toni Morrison, and Doris Lessing, as well as novelists Isabel Allende, Stephen King and Salman Rushdie, and academics Antony Appiah, Zygmunt Bauman, Robert Darnton, Natalie Davis, Owen Fiss, Lawrence Lessig, Anne-Marie Slaughter or Sasskia Sassen.
Expanding upon our research and advocacy work, we are delighted to invite you to the Maison de l’Amérique Latine in Paris, on the 11th and 12th of October 2013 for the International Urgency of Reading Conference. This event will be the occasion to unite actors that rarely have the opportunity to meet, such as information and cultural specialists, actors from the fields of humanitarian and crisis intervention, as well as benefactors and sponsors,in order to bring them together to change and improve the attention given to the intellectual dimension of human beings in humanitarian emergency situations.
This conference is also the occasion for LWB to unveil its Ideas Box, an autonomous and portable media centre that it is creating for deployment on the ground in humanitarian emergencies. We are expecting you in numbers that mirror the enthusiasm you feel for this important occasion to reflect, exchange ideas and create new models for better emergency responses to the crisis situations in the world today.