The Librarian of Basra


Story Title: The Librarian of Basra
Author: Jeanette Winter
Storyteller: Ajay Dasgupta
Language: Hindi


Alia Muhammad Baker is a librarian in Basra, Iraq. Her library that has 30,000 books, is a meeting place for the book lovers of the city. The library has books in hundreds of different languages and even has a 700 year old book on Prophet Muhammad. Alia loves her library and the books. They are dearer to her than mountains of gold. As Iraq heads into war, Alia fears for her library and the books. Will she be able to save the books and the library or will the war destroy everything? This is a beautiful story about how one person’s conviction and love can move mountains; literally.

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In an interview with Michele Norris on National Public Radio, Jeanette Winter quoted Alia speaking about her motivation: “I spent my life taking care of books and those masterpieces of great authors and writers as if they were my own children. I treasure every name, every word of them. I gave books my whole attention, my whole respect. I always encourage others to borrow books, stories, novels, because I know deeply inside what a great change the reader will have in mind, in conduct and in dealing with life. All those who destroyed and ruined the library were ignorant and are not of our good people. Basra is well-known for its goodness, kindness, its high concern of old and modern history and its great understanding of what books mean for humanity.”

Download and read the full book here:

More Resources

This beautiful story in English as a picture book.

Here is a picture of the library after it was burnt down

More Amazing Resources

Resources for Teachers/Parents

This is an excellent story that can be used in class or can be discussed with children at home. Here are some resources on how to use this story for learning and exploration with young minds.


Ajay Dasgupta

On a mission to make stories more accessible to every child. Founder of The Kahani Project and Skills Cafe' (

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