PUBLIC READ­ING IN LE­BANON

Lebanon Traveler - - INDOORS -

Dr. Imad Hashem, re­spon­si­ble for books and read­ing in the Min­istry of Cul­ture, shares his thoughts on the im­por­tance of li­braries in Le­banon

In­te­grated in lo­cal public life and play­ing a role as cul­tural, ed­u­ca­tional and so­cial spa­ces, the public li­braries of Le­banon have be­come true meet­ing spa­ces. In­deed, the cre­ation and devel­op­ment of neigh­bour­hood and vil­lage li­braries as­sures a bet­ter pro­mo­tion of books, fa­cil­i­tates the dis­cov­ery of read­ing, but above all, of­fers public spa­ces for the young and the old.

Be­ing ac­ces­si­ble and free of charge, public li­braries pro­vide ac­cess to knowl­edge and in­for­ma­tion for all cit­i­zens. By the di­ver­sity of ser­vices pro­vided, the plu­ral­ity of sources, the va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties or­gan­ised, they fur­ther of­fer the pos­si­bil­ity to di­vert and ed­u­cate one­self, to build one’s per­son­al­ity and opin­ion in the re­spect of public space.

To­day, the im­por­tance of public li­braries has be­come clear to the Le­banese; they wit­ness a con­stant devel­op­ment and are to­day at the cen­ter of ac­tiv­i­ties of the Min­istry of Cul­ture and Civil So­ci­ety Or­gan­i­sa­tions.

The idea of public li­braries, which in­cited some mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to small ini­tia­tives be­fore 1975, has re-emerged af­ter the end of the civil war in 1990. Cer­tainly, ini­ti­ated by civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions and as­so­ci­a­tions, the wave of li­brary cre­ations has known an ex­pan­sion and am­pli­fi­ca­tion thanks to mil­i­tant ac­tivism of the lat­ter, but also thanks to the in­volve­ment of the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and the en­gage­ment of the Min­istry of Cul­ture in the frame­work of a pol­icy of democrati­sa­tion of cul­ture and ac­cess to books in par­tic­u­lar.

The Cen­ters for read­ing and cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties

In 2001, the Min­istry of Cul­ture launched a large public read­ing project by cre­at­ing 14 cen­ters for read­ing and cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties, Cen­tre de lec­tures et d’an­i­ma­tion Cul­turelle (CLAC) in part­ner­ship with the In­ter­na­tional Or­gan­i­sa­tion for the Fran­co­phone (OIF) and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties. Based on the model of the CLAC and en­cour­aged by their suc­cess, which is il­lus­trated by the num­bers of vis­its (1000 per month in 2004) and book rentals (300 per month in 2004), the min­istry has con­tin­ued to pur­sue this ini­tia­tive and has cre­ated li­braries through­out [Le­banon]. To date, 45 cen­ters for read­ing and cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties are dis­trib­uted in all re­gions of the coun­try. At the be­gin­ning equipped with a stack of 2,500 books in two lan­guages, they now of­fer to the public di­ver­si­fied col­lec­tions of some 4,000 to 5,000 books, news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines, CDS and mu­sic, with par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion be­ing paid to the space for chil­dren.

The Li­brary of Baak­line

The li­brary ( 05 304050, Baak­leen, Chouf ) was cre­ated in 1987 in a her­itage build­ing of 700sqm and was at­tached to the Min­istry of Cul­ture in 1997. Of­fer­ing a trilin­gual col­lec­tion of 75,000 books and more than 7,000 mag­a­zines, news­pa­pers and jour­nals, it em­ploys 20 peo­ple of which some are pro­fes­sional li­brar­i­ans.

The na­tional read­ing week

A na­tional read­ing week, co­or­di­nated by the Min­istry of Cul­ture, is or­gan­ised ev­ery year dur­ing the month of April. In 2008, more than 400 events were or­ga­nized by li­braries, cities, book­shops and pub­lish­ing houses... all ac­tors in the chain of books.

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