September 15 is The Roskilde Libraries birthday and every year we celebrate by inviting old and new employees for cake and coffee. This year we celebrated on October 22 and at this occasion I did a little birthday speech about The Arab Spring, a human chain in Alexandria and how staff is the single most important asset of any library.
Welcome to The Roskilde Libraries birthday. I would like to take this opportunity to tell you a story. It is a story that in its turn is both cruel and poetic. It’s December 17 2010 and we are in the Tunisian city of Sidi-Bouzid. Here we find a man named Mohamed Bouazizi. He makes a living of selling fruit on the street, but since he has no license to sell fruit, the police seize his fruit truck. Bouazizi is a desperate man and when the police seize his fruit truck they deprive him of his livelihood. Bouazizi does something very radical. He sets fire to himself in protest against the police, the system and the regime and this act gives spark to The Arab Spring and the entire Middle Eastern world is hit by series of pro-democracy demonstrations.
The demonstration came to clashes between citizens and police and military, the existing systems collapse and in continuation of the violent demonstrations and increased pressure on the established systems, lawlessness prevails. Robbery and vandalism of public buildings, museums, hospitals and schools are taking place. This is also the case in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. Everything is chaos and the city is being completely torn apart. Out of the chaos, a group of people gathers, they take each other by the hand and form a human chain around a particular building. The building is The Library of Alexandria. In the two weeks where the riots are on, the human chain stands tall and when the disturbances drive over, not a single window is broken in the library, not a single book is stolen.
The human chain around The Library of Alexandria
This is a very powerful story to me and I think there are two things in this context that are important. The first must be found in The Arab Spring as a revolution. The Library stands for all the achievements of The Arab Spring: Democracy, Freedom, Transparency, Inclusion, Diversity. For me, the human chain in Alexandria is the ultimate tribute to the library’s function and justification in a society. And then it’s important to remember, that the human chain that formed around the library was a guard of the building, the collection, but very much also a guard for the library’s most important asset; The people who work there. The people who make a positive difference every day to the communities they earn.
So when we celebrate The Roskilde Libraries birthday today, it’s in fact the celebration of former and present employees who all have made and make a difference for the citizens of Roskilde Municipality and made it a better place to live. And if we were ever to be hit by a Zealand Spring I’m confident that a human chain would form around our libraries to protect the institution you have helped created.
Happy birthday, Roskilde Libraries! You are an magnificent friend to the community