Community Finalizes Library Management Plan

The local association, Amezray SMNID and the owners of the igherm have reached the final stage of drafting the library’s management plan. Once this management plan is signed by both the association, the igherm owners, and project manager, Cloe Medina Erickson, the final stage of construction can begin. This spring the drafting of the management plan for the library was given to Amezray SMNID, which is a local and legally registered Moroccan community association.  Throughout the spring and summer, Youssef Oulcadi, the association president has been working with the community to draft a community-wide plan that will discuss all details of the library management including income, financial reporting, librarian job description, operating hours, and more.

“The process of creating a community-wide agreeable plan is very important for the sustainability of the project,’ stated Oulcadi.  “Without taking the appropriate amount of time to draft this plan we would risk the outcome of the entire project.”

Oulcadi anticipates that the plan will be finished by September 2011 and signed by all responsible parties in October.

Youssef Oulcadi, Basou Adi, Jim Miller, and Mustapha Qadery (from left to right).

Additionally, in July the Moroccan American Commission for Cultural Exchange (MACECE) visited the project with their Fulbright-Hayes Summer Seminar group, which included 15 American academics and scholars representing their affiliated universities.  The MACECE group visited the igherm and learned about all of the Atlas Cultural Foundation’s work in the region.

Exterior Renovation Completed!

I just returned from nearly four months working in the field.  It was an extremely successful trip on numerous levels.

We finished the exterior renovation of the igherm including the martoub (stucco finish), new roofs and reconstruction of the six original decorative towers.  The local association Amezray SMNID has provided the project with potable water and will be responsible for oversight of the library’s operations and finances.  The French Association Les Amis de Amezray has agreed to sponsor and oversee the training of locals to become librarians. Montana State University graduate architecture student Jaron Mickolio completed the design for the computer rooms, reading room and book stacks.  The Caid of Zawiya Ahansal will be donating all of the local government’s history books on the region, tribal records and family trees to be housed in the library.  They want the library to be a place for researchers and professionals to come and study in addition to being for locals and school children.  The library will serve over 10,000 local men, women and children.

East facade finished towers.
Igherm during construction with Mount Aroudane in the background.

During my visit I attended numerous meetings focused on the future of Zawiya Ahansal with the local government and tribal leaders including the Sheikh, Caid, Moqaddam and Caliph.  At the moment Zawiya is lucky because its leaders are very open-minded and eager to develop the region in a sustainable manner that respects their culture.  They are so grateful for all that we are doing in the region that on more than one occasion I saw these grown government men cry – with real tears of happiness for our work and efforts in the region!

Cloe Medina Erickson meets with local leaders.

“These historic buildings hold the history of Morocco and if we let them die then we will be letting an important piece of Morocco die with them,” Sheikh Ahmed Amahdar

Moqaddam, local tribal leader.

The Moroccan Ministry of Culture heard about the project and invited me to Beni Mellal, the provincial capital, to present our work.  As a result of this presentation they have offered to partner with us and expand our work to include another project in the local village of Aguddim.  This new project will begin in September and will include the restoration of a 300 year-old igherm into a professional residence.  This igherm was originally a saint’s house and once renovated will provide visiting researchers, authors, and artists a historic yet modern place to live and work for extended periods of time.

Saint's house, location of new professional residence.
The saint's house will be returned to its original splendor. Photo: Ernest Gellner, Saints of the Atlas.

In addition to talking with the government about restoration projects we also talked about the most pressing needs in the region in the areas of education, health, and economics.  They have provided me with a list of their top five needs.  Among these is providing clean drinking water to five very small villages in the region, an ambulance, a snow plow (so the ambulance can get out in winter), trail work to Taghia, a boarding house for school girls and a garbage incinerator.

With our new partnerships in Morocco we hope to expand our mission and slowly include projects that focus on both restoration and health, education and economics.
What do you think is the highest priority in the region for our future projects?

A local family that will benefit from the library.

I will return to Morocco in September and we will begin construction on the library, break ground on the professional’s residence and begin discussions on our future goals.

The Nobelity Project, Dell and 50×15 donate computers to library.

Thanks to The Nobelity Project, Dell, and the 50×15 foundation for donating 13 computers to the library!  Through the Nobelity Project, a certified 501(c)3 education and action non-profit, 8 OLPC’s and 4 laptops have been donated for use in the community room of the library.  The computers will be used to teach locals, adults and children, about basic computer use through a series of training workshops.

The Nobelity Project, founded by Turk Pipkin,  is working towards a better future of all our children. One of our principal goals is to connect people all over the world with reliable information and innovative thinking on pressing global problems like global warming, the energy challenge, global health, economic disparity and development, cultural understanding, nuclear proliferation and general question of war and peace.

Turk Pipkin is the director of One Peace at a Time, an inspiring feature documentary highlighting solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. The film includes the insights of Nobel Peace laureate Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Physicist Steven Chu, (Barack Obama’s Secretary of Energy), Dr. Helene Gayle (CEO of CARE, International), American legend Willie Nelson and many others.