Responding when books are lost

When books are destroyed during conflicts or disasters, the potential they create is lost too – so we work around the world to restore lost book collections

Whenever books are lost, learning is threatened 

Books might not be the first thing that come to mind when you think about the climate crisis. But, as the number of extreme weather events grows,  books are increasingly at risk.

Books are often lost forever in conflicts too – destroyed in an attempt to attack culture and deny history. 

Returning to reading and learning can be key to recovery and to coping with life during a conflict. So we are committed to restoring book collections that are lost, and to providing books to people living with conflict.

Books and the climate crisis

When Hurricane Dorian tore through the Caribbean Islands in 2019, it turned libraries and schools to rubble. Our local partners were suddenly faced with the huge challenge of rebuilding libraries to help people keep learning. 

Together we distributed thousands of new books to schools and libraries – creating optimism and helping learning continue, even in the aftermath of disaster.

And when Cyclone Freddy destroyed schools across Malawi in 2023, we partnered with the country’s National Library Service to provide 20 Discovery Book Boxes to schools in the hardest hit regions. Each one received 444 books. 

Books during conflict and crisis

Mosul University library in Iraq was once home to over a million books. But when Islamic State occupied the city in 2014, the library was burned to the ground. Only a few books survived. 

Since 2018, we’ve been working to restore the lost collection – and so far, we’ve provided 30,387 brand new higher education books covering  science, engineering, the humanities and medicine. 

In Syria, where we’ve been working since 2018, we’ve provided 62,844 books to support children’s learning, support healthcare providers and help university students finish their education. 

In Lebanon, where a deadly port explosion in Beirut destroyed numerous schools and libraries in 2020, we’re working to restore lost book collections. To date we’ve sent 54,887 books. These are already filling the shelves of libraries and schools as the city begins to recover.

And in 2023, in collaboration with PEN Ukraine, PEN International and English PEN, we sent a shipment of 25,000 books to Ukraine as part of the ‘Unbreakable Libraries’ initiative.

In all of these places and more, books provided thanks to our supporters are helping people to keep following their ambitions – and to feel greater hope for the future. 

 

SDG 4

Quality education

SDG 10

Reduced inequality

Our impact

207,578

books to conflict affected countries last year

12

conflict affected countries supported last year

62,844

Books to Syria since 2018

30,387

Books to restore the University of Mosul library

Why restoring lost collections matter

When books are lost, much more than words on a page disappear. Here are a few stories that show why books matter so much when the worst happens.

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