January 18, 2022

Harvard Librarian Puts This War Crime on the Map

From the Harvard Gazette:

In August 1992, in the Bosnian city of Sarajevo, nearly 2 million books went up in flames.

Fragile, 500-hundred-year-old pamphlets and vibrant Ottoman-era manuscripts disintegrated into ash as the building holding them, the National Library of Bosnia-Herzegovina, was shelled and burned. It was not the first act of cultural destruction by Serbian forces against other ethnic groups in the Balkans, and it certainly wasn’t the last: Over the next seven years, Serb nationalists led by dictator Slobodan Milosevic would wreak havoc across the Balkan region.

But burning the library and its contents was the act that drew András Riedlmayer into the Balkan conflict. And almost 30 years later Riedlmayer, a bibliographer at Harvard’s Fine Arts Library, knows more about the destruction of that region’s cultural heritage than almost anyone. He has testified against its perpetrators in nine different international trials and helped set a precedent of prosecuting this kind of destruction as a war crime.


“This is certainly not something I thought I’d be doing in my work as a librarian,” Riedlmayer said. “But if you really want to make a librarian mad, burn down a library.”

Read the Complete Article (approx. 1200 words)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.