Monday, 20 November 2017
Public libraries

Serving Beirut Residents and Visitors

Though they are not in a typical guidebook, the Beirut Municipal Public Libraries are spaces open to all and worthy of exploration for foreigners and locals alike. The city’s three municipal public libraries, in the Geitawi, Monot and Bachoura neighborhoods, were the first in the history of Beirut. The first library branch in Bachoura was created in 2000. Funded partly by the municipality but mostly privately, these spaces were founded and are still run today by non-governmental association ASSABIL. ASSABIL, which started as a mutual desire to promote reading between a few volunteers, has turned into a way to bring books into the minds and homes of everyone from migrant workers, refugees and students to women at home, retirees and all those in between. This year is particularly special for the Bachoura branch, the oldest public library in the capital, because it will be celebrating its 15th birthday this year. Passion for learning and open access for all has been the driving force behind the continued founding of libraries throughout the city, with a fourth planned for this year in Tariq al-Jdeideh.

“Our success is that we are an association of volunteers matching with the local government,” ASSABIL President and volunteer Antoine Boulad says, continuing, “When you have 40,000 books available for free to everyone and those 40,000 are all different, they symbolize the diversity of thinking in a society. Although the world is changing, the relation of thinking between an individual and thinking on a page is not.”

TEXT AND PHOTOS BY MELISSA TABEEK