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A Bosnian reader checks out books on shelves of the American library, a part of the National University Library in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina. A joint project of the U.S. Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina and U.S. troops serving with Stabilization Force will introduce a state-of-the-art library area replacing the cramped section where the American library is now.
A Bosnian reader checks out books on shelves of the American library, a part of the National University Library in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina. A joint project of the U.S. Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina and U.S. troops serving with Stabilization Force will introduce a state-of-the-art library area replacing the cramped section where the American library is now. (Ivana Avramovic / S&S)

TUZLA, Bosnia and Herzegovina — This city near Eagle Base will soon join cities around the world boasting book sections known as American Corners, created to help increase understanding of the United States.

The national university library in Tuzla has an American section that opened in 1997 and has grown steadily in size and popularity. It is housed in a cramped attic corner with shelves displaying about 3,500 books. It does not have enough room to display all 5,000 books in English that are available.

“Of all the foreign libraries, the American library is by far the most popular,” said Sejbin Damadzic from the Tuzla library. Other foreign sections include French, Austrian, Turkish and Iranian books.

A joint project of the U.S. Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina and U.S. troops serving with the Stabilization Force will expand the library and turn the entire attic into a state-of-the-art library space.

The $24,000 project will increase the size from about 550 square feet to about 1,725 square feet, and will feature a reading area, television, video recorder, computers, Internet access and space for more books. Construction of a skylight that will replace the current brick roof supported by wooden beams will open up the attic and provide enough room for everything.

“The American Corners represent institutions where people would have free access to information and thereby the opportunity to participate in all aspects of society, where they could learn and understand new things about the United States and its society,” reads a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Bosnia.

“The American Corners would make sure that United States’ society, its policies and values are present and understood at all times.”

Money for the project comes from the training funds for military personnel, said Maj. J.P. Moszer of the 34th Infantry Division, a National Guard unit based in Rosemont, Minn. Moszer, together with Capt. Scott Rohweder of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 682nd Engineer Battalion from Willmar, Minn., is overseeing the project.

While a civilian construction company is in charge of removing the wooden beams and replacing the brick roof with a steel-and-glass skylight, soldiers will have an opportunity to improve their military occupational skills by pitching in to install flooring and make bookshelves.

Moszer and Rohweder, engineers in their civilian lives, have learned about Bosnian methods of construction by working with the contractor and by studying the construction of the library building, which is over 100 years old.

“These types of projects are not unusual for National Guard soldiers,” said Moszer. “We can give something good to the community and we can also enhance our combat skills.”

The improvements are extremely valued, said the library director, Enisa Zunic.

The library has been host to numerous lecturers, from visiting American professors to present and former U.S. ambassadors and their wives. The improvements are seen as enhancing the library’s mission.

“That will be a library that will serve not only the residents [of Tuzla] but broader public,” Zunic said.

The project is expected to be finished and the American section officially opened around Jan. 15.

“We know how important the libraries are in America, so they [American soldiers and the embassy] have given the importance to our library in Tuzla,” Zunic said.

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