News Column

Malala Opens Europe's Largest Library

September 3, 2013

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl and women's education activist shot last year by the Taliban, on Tuesday opened Europe's largest lending library in Birmingham, where she came for treatment.

She used her opening speech to declare that "pens and books are the weapons that defeat terrorism" and called for peace and progress in Syria, Nigeria and Somalia.

The 16-year-old, who was warmly applauded by a 1,000-strong crowd, now lives with her family and studies at a school in Britain's second-largest city. Doctors have said she is lucky to be alive after she was shot in the head while on a schoolbus in Pakistan in October.

On Tuesday Malala thanked the people of her new "second home" for their support, saying: "Birmingham is very special for me because it is here that I found myself alive, seven days after I was shot."

"The teachers of this town strived to rehabilitate my educational career, and the great people of this city gave me great moral support," she said.

"We must speak up for the children of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan who are suffering from terrorism, poverty, child labour and child trafficking," she continued. "Let us not forget that even one book, one pen, one child and one teacher can change the world."

At a cost of 188 million pounds (292 million dollars), the wedding- cake-like Library of Birmingham is intended to revitalize the library service, as more and more libraries across the country shut.

It has a recording studio, an outdoor amphitheatre, a "mediatheque" providing access to national film and television archives, theatres and exhibition spaces.

It is also the new home of around one million books, including the second largest collection of Shakespeare's works in the world.

Malala placed the last book on the library's shelves, her own copy of Paolo Coelho's The Alchehmist, and received her own membership card as part of the ceremony.

The library's architect, Francine Houben, said the 10-storey building, which is covered in interlocking metal circles, was a "People's Palace" inspired by the city's "rich history and many identities."

Source: Copyright Deutsche Presse-Agentur ??? Engl 2013

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