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Books4Vijecnica

Project Overview

Helps restock the Library of the University of Sarajevo with contemporary works in a range of disciplines and in a number of languages.

Identifying the Problem

In a June 20, 1994 article in The Independent, Dr. Robert Fisk described the systematic destruction of the architectural and cultural heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina as “a cultural catastrophe for Europe.” Churches, mosques, monasteries and libraries were razed to the ground during the bitter civil war that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia. Among the destroyed institutions were the Oriental Institute with its priceless collection of Jewish and Islamic manuscripts and the National and University Library of Sarajevo. 

The National Library, also known as the Vijecnica, housed invaluable collections brought together in 1945 from a number of older institutions throughout the city of Sarajevo. On August 26, 1992, Serbian forces targeted the National Library, and around two million publications and more than six thousand invaluable and extremely rare manuscripts, books and documents were completely destroyed in the fire. This is still considered by many to be the largest single act of book burning in modern history. The destruction of the Vijecnica was not only an enormous loss to Bosnia and Herzegovina, but is undoubtedly a war crime as defined by the Hague Convention of 1954, which states that the deliberate destruction of cultural monuments is a war crime.

While many of the University of Sarajevo students are too young to remember when the Vijecnica was destroyed, they live with its consequences today. Currently, these university students do not have use of a research library that is so central to the normal academic and research life of university students. Jasmin found this unacceptable, and he wanted to assist in restocking the library funds at the National and University Library in Sarajevo.

Creating A Solution

Books4Vijecnica is primarily aimed at assisting the current and future students of the University of Sarajevo through the restocking of the library with a quality and up-to-date book collection comparable to European universities of similar size. Jasmin worked primarily with Elma Mahmutovic-Hodzic and Dajana Dzindo, Senior Fellows from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Jasmin and his team created a database of potential donors, including all European and American universities, and began by contacting each by e-mail. The project welcomed donations of works in all disciplines – from the sciences to the humanities – in any of the major European languages. The organizers originally sought two books from each institution, with one in the native language of the donor and particular to the institution or country. 

One of the main goals of this project was to facilitate a multilingual and intercultural exchange. With the support and encouragement of the Rector of the University of Sarajevo, Books4Vijecnica appealed for donations of academic publications in a range of disciplines by producing a list of book suggestions. Within a short period of time, the team has succeeded in attracting donations of over a 3,000 volumes in several languages from around the world.

Jasmin and his team are currently developing the next stage of the project. In cooperation with the Genealogical Society of Ireland, Books4Vijecnica will seek advice, assistance and support from the European Union to provide for the effective promotion and administration of an enhanced project and for the commissioning of two feasibility studies to facilitate the planning and further development of the academic profile of the University of Sarajevo.

Lessons Learned

Jasmin could not implement this project alone, and it was imperative that he work with many other people and organizations. His biggest struggle was finding enough local actors and institutions that were motivated and cooperative. Given the magnitude of the project, as well as its international nature, he also stresses the importance of detailed planning and strong communication with your team of organizers.

Funding

Jasmin sought to have Books4Vijecnica funded through Kickstarter, an online funding platform that allows people from all over the world to fund independently-created projects. The fundraising page was a massive success, helping to raise over $5,000 for the project.

Awards & Recognition

"Books4Vijecnica" was recognized as an extraordinary Senior Fellow project at the Second Annual Humanity in Action International Conference, held in Berlin.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Germany Germany 2009

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