The Institute is said to have housed over 30,000 manuscripts which had been collected over the years from private family collections throughout the country. Selections of fragile manuscripts had been bound using camel hide to accord them protection. Several of the documents are also said to date as far back as the 13th century, during a time when the city thrived as an Islamic scholarship center and trading hub. The manuscripts cataloged important historical facts, covering diverse topics including politics.
The fabled city has several other libraries and mausoleums most of which were destroyed during the Islamic Ansar Dine rule. The city is listed under the U.N. cultural agency, UNESCO, among World Heritage sites due to its ancient shrines and mosques.
The damage caused on the Ahmed Baba Institute, as the library is called, has still not been fully ascertained by investigators. However, they fear that several priceless documents could have been destroyed during the torching incident.