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The State of Public Libraries in Jordan

November 11, 2010

Is it me or do I feel like there are very few libraries in Amman? Correct me if I’m wrong, but there are Abdul-Hamid Shoman, Hussein Cultural Center, and the British Council libraries, then there is one I discovered by chance in Al-Ashrafiyyeh Cultural Center, plus those in universities, hospitals, etc. I guess you can count all the public libraries using your two hands, plus maybe a foot, tops.

Doesn’t that sound like too few? There are probably some more I didn’t mention, but still, because out of those I mentioned, the only one big enough to be really called a library is Shoman. I know that the internet has shattered the culture of going to the library to find a piece of info, but books aren’t dead, at least not yet.

Moreover, when it comes to the libraries themselves… Now, Shoman is a really nice library, spacious, well-lit, friendly staff, not the biggest collection of scientific books, but still very good. As for the library at Jordan University, ahh, where do I begin? First, the library is not comfortable at all, poor lighting, old, I mean really old, chairs and tables, and there is this weird sense of unfreshness that I just can’t describe (katmeh). Oh, and in Summer there is this super-loud AC that just drills your head off, once I was in the library when the AC was turned off, ahh, the peace…

But ultimately, it all comes down to the books, and the library sports a Β very huge collection of very antiquated books! For literature and humanities, these books may have value, but for science, none whatsoever. You might as well burn them for warmth. There was two cramped aisles full of medical books, long aisles, but like I told my friend once, you could get twenty new books and they’ll be of more value than this entire collection. The knowledge you can acquire from these books is simply extinct. Same goes for the puny library in the public hospital I go to. It’s a shame that Shoman has a better medical collection than that hospital’s library.

Now, this is a great area for philanthropists to give money to. I like what Shoman and Talal Abu-Ghazaleh has done, the latter runs a student center near JU. Kudos to them. But why aren’t there others? It doesn’t cost much to donate books, and I think it might be tax deductible. πŸ™‚ Think about it, JU library serves 30,000 students (most of them don’t read, but whatever), if somebody donates a book, imagine how many students are going to benefit from it over time.


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  1. you are completely right,

    add to what you said there also yarmook university library, its very big -huge!- library , good staff, comfortable , easily categorized index, but unfortunately old books ! i remember once i was looking for books for my research, but all the information i found was out 0f date!

    there is Ψ§Ω…Ω†Ψ© ΨΉΩ…Ψ§Ω† library , i dont know if its still open , because last time i visit it was before 10 years i think , and it sucks!

  2. w7l,

    There is no library in Amanet 3mman, it was transferred to Al-Hussein cultural center which is next door.

  3. Excellent post Ehab =)

    You know what, I studied a semester at AUS (American University in Sharjah) and they got what I think will become the best library in the Middle East. At the University of Jordan, a day at the library equaled a visit to the ER room in the evening, (another way to say too much dust =)

    The AUS library is well built, built to be a library, and they are aiming for 100000 books in few years. They bring in 20 books per day, and begged us for suggestions. I remember once sending them suggesting 20 books that were either highly controversial to be found in the public in an Arab state, or rare. They sent me a list of the books that were available, and where they were in the library! Believe it or not, they had the 20 books, all of them!!!

    There were several small RFID reading machines coupled with computers scattered all around the library in convenient places, for the students to burrow the books by themselves. Undergrads could burrow up to 20 books in one time for quit some long time (I forgot how much but it was really long), Grads 30 books with the option of extending two times! I once needed a book that was burrowed by a professor for a full semester, they sent him a note, he brought it back and I was given the book for two days.

    There were many computers for searching in between the shelves, unlike in UJ where you had to wait in the ground floor for a functional computer (that can last for hours) =)

    They had laptops for use inside the library, multi-task machines (copies, scanning, printing, …etc) meetings and presentation rooms, multimedia sections (CDs, tapes; commercial movies, documentaries, contemporary songs, classic songs), Journals, Newspapers, and a full subscription to ScienceDirect!!!

    I hated the University, and could not put up with the way of life in UAE, but that library, was awwwwwwesome! I wouldn’t mind serving 5 years of imprisonment there =) Forgot to mention the super friendly staff, and the sessions held for various writing and research topics; e.g. teaching people how to write research papers, plagiarism, and how to chose a graduate program. Did I tell you that as an alumni, you get a free access to the library and can borrow books.

    Just like in JU! Grumpy staff pissed off all day long, for no obvious reason!!! One of them once hit me on the ankle, while I was standing in an aisle, with his trolley without saying sorry or even smiling or anything. I think he did not like my ankle hitting his dear trolley, because he grinned!

    Anyways, I think that a library needs well trained staff and costs too much, and you know, money in our universities find its way into senior staff pockets, so these 40000 students should really shut up! What is more important, reading a decent book, that might enlighten their minds, or the bank accounts of those poor staff? They are used to a high quality life you know and can not give it up! We should feel with them!!! Poor, poor people! God be with them! πŸ˜‰

    Anyways, I am glade that there are many bookshops in Jordan, not the best you can get, but good =)

  4. Forgot to say too many computers in the ground floor with a really fast internet connection, at least to the ones I am used too =) and that was a post inside a post, not a comment ;p

  5. Why would they care about libraries?because of the huge amounts of people racing and fighting over books?lol
    But I couldn’t agree more about JU library,OMG the AC !! lol
    But I normally just take my books and get out I never stay inside cause there’s also a constant weird smell,and the staff..w ma adrak ma el staff (‘-_-) except that bold nice guy he’s OK

  6. Haitham,

    I like how you just burst out, good to let your deeper feelings go πŸ™‚

    But I don’t know if you’ve been to JU library last year, there is now some computers that allow students to borrow on their own, fully-equipped with a touchscreen and everything! And the e-library offers some neat subscriptions. So there is some semblance of progress… πŸ™‚


    I would think (hope) that JU library has a (somewhat) big following. Students definitely want to read, you know, like during exams, the library is full. πŸ™‚

    In the end, you don’t need all of those 30,000+ students to read, a tiny fraction is good enough…

  7. I miss having decent libraries. I used to live about 2 blocks from one in the US and my library card got used!

    I don’t think books are dead yet…I still can’t wrap my head around using my computer or another device to read books…it’s just not the same!

    Great Post πŸ™‚

  8. haitham permalink

    I wanted to say: “what libraries!” 😦 + πŸ™‚
    But every1 else beat me to it , lol

    It`s trajic Ehab, but then again,,, we need less than a page “on average” so there u got yr “answer”.

    I like the 1 at Shoman, I think it`s good. But dfntly nt enough!

    And what u said is key; regarding that it boils down to thE “books”!


  9. You are spot on about the libraries! Like Wintersamar, I used my library card more than any card in my possession. I adored the quietness and the gathering of seemingly infinite knowledge all around me.

    These days I have pretty much left scientific reading behind and read for pleasure. Buying fiction books here is a dreadful experience! The few shops that sell books in English (I still can’t read ;~) or write) ask far, far too much for the books. I recently bought a Stephen King collection of short stories on special offer (thank God) whose price was more than 30 JD! I am slowly moving to reading on the computer device but believe me there is a great deal of satisfaction to be gained by holding a book, smelling the paper and ink and turning the pages. Of all the things I miss from back home, books are the top of the list!

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