Christine A. Rowett
Late last year, the ambassador to the embassy of Rwanda sent
a heartfelt letter to Hopkins. He began it by stating that more
than 1 million residents were killed there in 1994 during the
worst genocide since the Holocaust of the 1940s. The central
African country, he noted, is about the size of the state of
Theogene Rudasingwa then described how, since 1994, the government and people of Rwanda have been attempting to rebuild their country and lives.
"It has been a very difficult challenge," Rudasingwa wrote. The letter, which was sent to universities throughout the United States, was not a plea for sympathy or funds. Instead, it appealed for cooperation in a literary, cultural and educational campaign designed to help the Rwandese.
A result of Rudasingwa's request, the Milton S. Eisenhower Library on the Homewood campus will send more than 15 boxes of academic books and other research publications to the country, located east of Zaire and south of Uganda, in the next few weeks. A sample of the publications includes Richard Hofstadter's The Age of Reform, The Shakespearean Moment by Patrick Cruttwell and Carl Sandburg's Abraham Lincoln.
"Since July 1994, the government and people of Rwanda have been trying to rebuild their shattered country and lives," Rudasingwa wrote. "Educational, health and other social infrastructure were destroyed."
There are 4,000 students enrolled at the National University of Butare in Rwanda, Rudasingwa noted, and "almost an absolute lack of books and other educational materials."
"We know of the devastation that they've experienced," said James Neal, director of the MSEL. "They've gone through such a devastating time that they need special help."
The materials to be sent were gathered among gifts from library supporters and faculty members who have accumulated academic materials that the library already has.
"We did try to find things that are in French, as French is the local language," said David James, head of acquisitions at the MSEL. "But a good bit of it is in English."
Neal, who worked closely with the library community on similar global efforts while at Penn State, noted that English is the primary language for most scholarly publications. "Many of the students will be able to take advantage of what is sent," he said.
This is not the first time the MSEL has answered a call for aid. Each year, James said, a representative from the Philippines comes to the library, sorts through the duplicates and takes those publications that may be of use there. Duplicate materials are routinely sent to other research libraries at universities such as Loyola and UMBC as well.
"I think that we have a global visibility and a global commitment," Neal said. "We recognize that countries in the developing world have a difficult time. This is a small contribution to the rebuilding efforts there."
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