Can the world's oldest library survive?

Published 5:08 AM ET, Thu September 29, 2016
07 worlds oldest library Khizanat al-Qarawiyyin07 worlds oldest library Khizanat al-Qarawiyyin
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Al-Qarawiyyin library in Fez, Morocco, is the world's oldest, continuously running library. It dates back to 859 AD. saiko3p/Shutterstock
The library is part of the complex that includes Qarawiyyin Mosque and Qarawiyyin University. Over the last four years, the library has undergone a multimillion dollar restoration. DeAgostini/Getty Images
The library is home to over 4,000 texts, including some that are exceedingly rare, such as a 9th-century Qu'aran written in Kufic script on camel skin. The restoration includes a state-of-the art lab that can digitize and restore these texts, as well as mend holes in ancient paper rolls, and prevent cracks in scrolls. Samia Errazouki/AP
The al-Qarawiyyin Library has long been a source of fascination for Fez residents, few of whom ever passed through its doors. The architect and engineer charged with the restoration -- Aziza Chaouni -- helped to ensure the library is open to the public. Samia Errazouki/AP
Chaouni is the latest is a line of women that have shaped the library's history. The library was founded by Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy Tunisian merchant. Samia Errazouki/AP
Over the centuries, rain water poured off the roof of the neighboring mosque and infiltrated the library. After excavating, Chaouni discovered what she described as a river running underneath the floors. To rescue the structure from further damage, she built an underground canal system to lead the water into the sewer. Jose Ignacio Soto/Shutterstock
Chaouni says she uncovered several secret rooms while restoring the library, including a secret chamber where VIPs accessed the library. Patricia Hofmeester/Shutterstock