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CLIR Awarded U.S. State Department Grant for Algerian Library Preservation Project

The Council on Library and Information Resources Awarded U.S. State Department Grant for Algerian Library Preservation Project

The United States State Department has awarded the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation grant for the purpose of undertaking initiatives to preserve and safeguard desert libraries in the Adrar region of Algeria. 

Three members of the Algerian Khizana stand in front of a collection of manuscripts on long table.
Khizana members with collection materials, outside Adrar, Algeria

The Algeria Cooperative Plan for the Digitization of Manuscripts will collaborate with two custodial partners, the Algerian Ministry of Culture and Arts and with khizhanat, independent family and community library collections across the Sahara region of the country. The project focuses on digitization, documentation, conservation, and accessibility.

The project hub is situated in Adrar, Algeria, within the colloquially named “Triangle of Fire” in the Sahara. The region faces escalating challenges due to climate change, with rising temperatures posing a severe threat to invaluable manuscript collections housed in desert libraries. These libraries represent an integral part of Algeria’s cultural heritage, containing manuscripts that offer a unique insight into the rich history and traditions of the region. Preserving these desert libraries is not just a matter of conserving historical artifacts but is crucial for maintaining the identity, stories, and cultural fabric of the local communities that span generations.

Adrar is also home to the Algerian government’s National Manuscript Center (NMC). CLIR, working closely with this vibrant manuscript community, aims to establish a Digitization Lab at the NMC. This will involve training staff in digitization, documentation, conservation, and creating digital records. Additionally, CLIR will hire and train representatives from the khizana community who will conduct an outreach campaign, fostering partnerships and piloting digitization, documentation, and conservation initiatives. This step is pivotal in promoting sustainable practices within the community, empowering them to actively participate in the preservation of cultural heritage.

Charles Henry, president of CLIR, said, “These Algerian desert manuscripts are severely stressed by climate change. Having the opportunity to help their custodians combat this threat is a mission-related effort for CLIR. With CLIR’s long record of helping to reveal hidden collections, this project in Algeria is especially important to us.”

“We are honored to provide support to the dedicated custodians of these Algerian desert manuscripts. Severely stressed by climate change, preserving and making accessible this unique and vital cultural legacy is consonant with CLIR’s historic mission of revealing and helping sustain hidden collections under threat.” 

“Cultural heritage preservation is a shared U.S.-Algerian goal, and the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation project carried out by the Council on Library and Information Resources will further our cooperation in this vital space. Most importantly, the project will have considerable benefit for an honored and critical cultural resource – desert manuscripts,” says US Ambassador to Algiers Elizabeth Moore Aubin.

Peter Herdrich, the executive project director leading the CLIR team in Algeria, along with national manager Abir Chorfa and educational director Abdelhamid Salah, the Chairman of the Egyptian Heritage Rescue Foundation, expressed their commitment to the project. Herdrich and Salah have previously collaborated with CLIR on digital projects in Iraq, Yemen, and on the Digital Library of the Middle East. “We have had an excellent experience in Algeria working with our local partners for the last three years. And looking forward, we hope to continue to offer assistance to our friends as they take a leadership role among the nations in the effort to preserve and protect heritage,” said Herdrich.

This collaborative effort underscores the global significance of cultural preservation and sets the stage for a new direction in cooperation between the U.S. and Algeria.

For inquiries or additional information, please contact: Stacey Patton, Communications Director (CLIR) at

About CLIR

The Council on Library and Information Resources is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning.

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