The idea for Books for Freedom first began on January 17, 2002 when NPR aired a report from Anne Garrels on the National Library of Afghanistan. Garrels reported that much of the library's contents have been destroyed over the years of war and strife in Kabul. Most of the books have been stolen and sold, the paper torn out and used to wrap food. Among the collection of current books in the library are a few of Lenin's works and books on US foreign policy from 1962. There is no heat or electricity. Due to lack of power and funds the library is only open a couple of hours a day. Its no wonder that only 30% of the population of Afghanistan is able to read and write.

The response to Garrels report was amazing. The e-mails streamed in from people who wanted to donate books, money and time. Melissa Street, and her father, Chriss Street, who had both heard the NPR report, wanted to collect books and send them to Afghanistan. They connected with Anne Garrels, who in turn, connected them with others who wanted to help. They realized an organization was needed to bring people together to accomplish the task of sending books to Afghanistan. Thus, Books for Freedom began.

On February 10, 2002 the New York Times published an article by John Burns that generated much of the same reaction. It spoke of women getting back into the classrooms at Kabul University. The article ended with the University's chief librarian, Muhammad Sadiq Wadid sending out a plea to Western countries for books. Again, there was a huge response from this article and people who wanted to help were connected with Books for Freedom.

Our aim is to collect books for libraries and schools in Afghanistan. We have a comprehensive list of the types of books that are needed and in what languages. Our list has been compiled by seeking the expertise and knowledge of the following people:

*Homeyra Mokhtarzada at the Afghan embassy in Washington DC

*Nancy Dupree, American relief worker in Pakistan

*Prof. Hamid Dabashi, Middle Eastern/Arabic department chair at
Columbia University

*Robert D. McChesney, a professor Middle Eastern Studiens and History at New York University

*Benedicte Santry, who teaches Pashto at the University of Pennsylvania

*Brian Spooner, who teaches South Asia Regional Studies at the University of Pennsylvania