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Pining For Public Libraries in Beirut

March 24, 2014

I miss public libraries. I saw this photo essay yesterday on the New Yorker and it made the longing all the more poignant. The photographer, Robert Dawson, spent 18 years documenting pubic libraries across the United States. In his introduction of his book to be released, “The Public Library: A Photographic Essay, he writes in his introduction, “Public libraries are worth fighting for, and this book is my way of fighting.” Only since I’ve lived in other countries without widespread public libraries have I realized what a gift it is to have access to them.

That being said, there are some cool used bookstores through Beirut. I found this one over the weekend, “Book Bazar,” on Jeanne d’Arc  Street in Hamra. I was able to find some really great books in English (Arabic and French are there as well). Despite the spell that used bookstores never fail to cast on me, the air heavy with the smell of old pages, I have to say my favorite place to find books still remains Souk al-Ahad, or the Sunday Market. This is mostly due to the atmosphere, a place where you can find anything. Though the books may be moldy, it feels like so much more of an achievement whenever I’m able to find a treasure in the trash.

So it’s true, I will continue to pine for my public libraries past, but in the meantime, I’ll remind myself to be thankful there are still places, albeit few, to find used books here.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Rekha permalink
    June 7, 2014 5:19 pm

    I came across your blog while reading up on libraries in the middle east for my project Libraries of Our Lives. I had got the impression that Beirut has public libraries from the website But perhaps not.
    If you are interested in libraries please check out our multi author blog: that captures memories of libraries. May be you’d like to share a story.

    • June 8, 2014 2:59 pm

      Hi Rekha, I actually found the libraries in Beirut after I wrote this post – I just hadn’t been looking in the right places before! I think your project is great, and I would love to share a story and highlight it on my blog. I am of the firm belief that we need libraries to survive. Keep up the good work, and thanks for sharing your project with me.

      • June 22, 2014 6:05 am

        Hi Melissa I have just sent you the invite to be an author on my blog. Once you accept the invite you will be able to share the story any time. Pls feel free to include links to your blog too.

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