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The role of libraries in keeping pace with societal change: a case

study of Bibliotheca Alexandrina in supporting the Egyptian society

during the 25th of January revolution.

Amany Zakaria EL-Ramady(PhD),

Library &Information Science dept., Alexandria University Egypt

Libraries are social entities, for society they are established ,and by society they are supported.
Moreover ,it was said that:Libraries are the mind and soul of their communities, and librarians
are the mind and soul of the libraryALA1,For this reason,libraries should keep pace with
societal change.

Speaking about Egypts tremendous societal, economic, and political changes happened by the
2011 revolution, which took place following a popular uprising that began on 25th of January,
Egyptian libraries, the writer thinks, should be the mind & soul of the new Egyptian community.
Fortunately, one of the Egyptian libraries that took the initiative was Bibliotheca Alexandrina. In
this study all the activities and events held by this distinguished library to support the Egyptian
people,since the outbreak of the revolution, till the end of April 2011 are studied.

Statement of problem:

Libraries in Egypt,for many reasons, have been a marginal aid for society in the incidents. On the
other hand, Bibliotheca Alexandrina has played an important supportive role during the
consequent Egyptian revolution incidents.

The Egyptian revolution which is continuous ,until the minute of writing this paper, has had
many good and bad effects on the Egyptian people.Most of the bad effects were: the freedom
shock ,and the anti revolution incidents! To support people in these circumstances,the
Bibliotheca Alexandrina(the biggest library in Egypt)has played an important role ,through a
variety of activities ,and programs, which are worthy of study.


"Quotes About Librarians, Libraries, Books and Reading." .,{ http://www.statelibraryofiowa.org/ld/t-z/tell-library-
story/scpt/quotes-about-libraries} (accessed 20April,2011).

This study aims to the following:

identify the activities that took place to support the Egyptian community since the
beginning of the revolution, then to introduce these activities.
evaluate these activities, in order to find out their pros and cons .
suggest recommendations to develop these activities in the near future.

Importance of study:

The activities under study are not well- known to the Egyptian people,and this paper
would contribute to introduce them to the public, to make benefit from them ,as long as
they are available online.
The evaluation of these activities would lead to future developments.
As culture has a special role in building up the modern society and
in mobilizing the capacity of its members 2,this paper would provide a model for other Egyptian
libraries to support all Egyptians all over the country.

This study provides a focus and a springboard for discussion about future education for
librarianship, library management and policy development3in Egypt.


A checklist was used to collect the initial data about the activities. It was also necessary to
make Interviews with Bibliotheca Alexandrina staff at the information desk, and at the
conference centre, to get the more needed data. Then the researcher watched the video
recordings of the symposiums available online to summarize their contents, and then evaluate
them as a whole. Finally the Bibliometrics method was used to make the necessary


Bibliotheca Alexandrina is equipped with three big halls and a theatre, which enable it to hold
symposiums ,conferences ,and lectures at the same time. Moreover,Its generaldirector, as was
said in one of the symposiums, thinks that Dialogue is the best way for development; as a result ,
activitiesshown in the following tables were done:

Table(1) Symposiums

No. Title Date Speaker(s) summary

Ryynnen, Mirja. "The role of libraries in modern society.7 th Catalan Congress on Documentation. (5 th
November 1999), 1, http://www.cobdc.org/jornades/7JCD/ryynanen.pdf. (accessed 21/4/2011).
Baker,David. Libraries and Society: Role, social responsibility and future challenges, Plymouth. UK: University
College Plymouth St Mark & St John,

1 Media and the 25th of 30th Aiman EL Saiyad, the editor
January Revolution(*) April of Weghat Nazar Magazine. The role of the Egyptian Media in covering the 25 th of
January Revolution events and incidents.
2 Literature of territories(*) 30th Hala Literature Group,
April Samy Akl (literature writer) The Literature of Egyptian territories was discussed.
3 programof political 30th Heba Raouf Ezzat ,PhD of
education: the revolution April political sciences at faculty of The revolution is not just an event, that is why the
and the missing Economy& political sciences
Egyptian people has many commitments towards
commitments. (*)
4 Literature and revolutions(*) 26 April Itlala Literature Forum
The role of literature in documenting revolutions.
5 Your dream is your life! 26 April Belal Fadl(a Screenwriter,who
writes scripts and Satirists), and Many points were discussed :
Ghada Ahmed ,head of Action
-A word about Action team ,a group by many
university Egyptian youth in Alexandria , aiming to help
youth to dream and take action to make it true, and make
Egypt the best in the world.
-The power of Egyptian people, and the importance of
cultural literacy among educated people.
- The importance of sharing in political parties.
-Egyptians should trust the Egyptian forced Armey, and
importance of being patient until the present transitional
phase of revolution passes safely.
Egyptian Muslims and Christians should be united for
the benefit of all of them.
Egyptians should stop watching too much T.V.programs
and start to read and get access to information , and
search for valuable information in the Holy Quran ,and
its exegeses .,analyze this information ,before expressing
ideas, in order to build the future of Egypt.
-Every Egyptian should have a personal dream.
.Moreover, they should plan and work hard for making
dreams come true.

6 The political future in Egypt 21st April Amr Elshobaky,PhD(anExpert The 25th January revolution, and its role in the Change
at the Ahram Center for of the political structure of Egypt, how other Arab, and
Political and Strategic Studies western countries see this revolution ,and its effect on
and one of the most important them, the benefits of the revolution for Egyptian people,
specialists in the Egyptian its future ,and the challenges of the democratic changes,
regime ) including: political Islamic movements, the mysterious

political future ,and the fear of chaos and authority
7 The people and police 18th April Rear Admiral Security Director The prestige of the Egyptian police has been highly
together to restore security of Alexandria and some damaged by the misdeeds of many police officers during
and stability security leaders* the revolution, resulting in bad relationship between
both, people and the police force. This symposium is a
try for solving this problem.
8 The re-Geographical 17th April Mamdouh Hamza(one of the Hamza believes that the present geographic distribution
redistribution of the best civil engineers in Egypt of population in Egypt is improper ,and that focus
population in Egypt(*) and has supervised dozens of should be on the Western desert, out of all the deserted
major projects in Egypt and places on the map of Egypt. The success of this relies on
around the world, including in attracting population by several factors, including low-
the United States, Britain and priced housing, job opportunities, clean energy and
Japan) convenient public transportations. The Seminar is part of
the strategy of the Futuristic Studies Unit to examine the
post-revolution scene in Egypt.

9 The launch of volunteering: 11st Dr. Hala Reyadh Discussed how the volunteering social work can help
change management April with the comprehensive change taking place after the
10 The development pathways 10th April FaroukEl-Baz(Director, Center
and the future of Egypt for Remote Sensing, Boston -The re development of the Western Desert and
University Adjunct Professor of
Egyptian oases, to attract population ,for these regions
Science, Ain Shams University)
could host 2 millions of population. The Nile valley
should also developed for the same reason.

- the ground water and areas suitable for agriculture,

and the phenomenon of building construction on
agricultural land, and solutions suggested to solve this
problem. The Egyptian- African economical relations.
11 The Role of Youth in 7th April Ahmed Naguib(graduated from The following subjects were discussed :
Politics Ain Shams University in 1999. Memories in Tahreer Square ,gains of the revolution
. During his college years he was for Egyptians ,the political scene in Egypt right now
actively involved in local and ,Swedish youth and their political and economical
international youth initiatives beliefs and values, liberal ideas nowadays all over the
and received awards for world ,and how Egypt should benefit from them, the
outstanding youth leadership.) , civil society and politics in Egypt, youth participation in
Andreas Kjellander(a Social politics ,effects of unemployment on social contribution
democrats youth association. in ,social democrats party in Sweden ,the .desire and
Sweden . He's been involved in ability of Arab rebels in Egypt and Tunisia ,and their
politics since his 2002 and is role in unite the Arabs, the Egyptian revolution outside
currently chairman in the Social Egypt ,the Liberal Youth of Swedish international
democratic youth district of committee ,their Green party and its ideology ,its role
Skne. ,Basem Fathy (the in society, the green liberal movements in Egypt ,the
Projects Director at the political concepts before the revolution in Egypt
Egyptian Democratic Academy,
Democracy and Human Rights
Activist and Blogger, and
Cofounder of April 6th Youth
Movement, El-Baradei
Campaign and a number of
campaigns for Democracy in
Egypt.) , Filip Wstberg( a
board member of Liberal Youth

of Swedens international
comittee, he is also a member
of the County Council of Tby
in Sweden, the county is one of
Swedens most populated and is
located north of Stockholm. ),
Kholoud Said(a graduate from
English language schools
before receiving a BA in
English Literature.),Loay
ElShawarby(in charge of the
firms evolving practices on
international trade and
competition laws. In 2004-
2005, Mr. El-Shawarby was as
a visiting fellow with the
Middle East Program at the
Center for Strategic and
International Studies (CSIS) in
Washington, D.C. ,Manar
ElGammal(founder of the
Alliance of 25 Jan
Revolutionists in Egypt &
Arabic World. She has played
an organizing and frontline role
for the protest movement and
new opposition organizations
both before and after the fall of
the Mubarak regime. Manar
elGammal, Professor Assistant
,Faculty of Engineering
Architecture Dep.
12 The role of youth in the 1st April Amr Khaled The role of youth in the civil work after25th of January
revolution , after 25th of ( PhD of Islamic Sharia (law)
revolution. The main points were : 1- having a dream
January! with high honors from Wales
University(UK). Thesis title: and the perseverance for achieving this dream.
Islam and Co-existing with
2-The importance of unity and the cooperative work in
others. Owner of the website
(www.AmrKhaled.net), which society.
is classified as the most famous
3-How to develop Egyptian society , through civil work,
Arabic website, the first
individual website worldwide for a better future ,especially when perfect work is a
and ranked as number 425
kind of worshipping God in Islam. .
among all other websites all
over the world. 4- Egyptians should be proud , but merciful.

13 The democracy storm in the 29th Sameh Seif Elyazal discusses the current situation and democratic
Arab countries. March Director of the Egyptian transformations, and revolutions in the Arab
Institute for Strategic Studies Countries,such as :Tunisia, Egypt,Libya, and Yemen.

14 constitutional and 24th Mohamed Nour The Egyptian constitutional and legitimacy issues in
legitimacy issues March Farahat,Mohamed Refaat, future ,were discussed . The speakers also clarified the
and Tahany El-Gebaly (was the disadvantages of the current constitution, and emphasis
first woman elected to the board on the necessity for a new constitution was placed. The
of the Lawyers' Syndicate and human rights ,especially political freedom were

to the Permanent Secretariat of demanded.
the Union of Arab Lawyers.

15 The future of the Muslim 23th Abdelmonem Abou Elfotouh ( The Seminar attempts to analyze the current status of the
Brotherhood Group March Secretary-General of the Arab Muslim Brotherhood Group, and read its political and
Doctors Union and former ideological future. It also tackles the role of the Muslim
member of the Office of the Brotherhood in 25 January Revolution, its explanation of
guide of the Muslim the ongoing political and revolutionary scene, its vision
Brotherhood in Egypt, was born of the power relations, the different transformations it
October 15, 1951) went through, and its relation with the different political
and ideological trends. The Future of the Muslim
Brotherhood comes within the strategy of the Futuristic
Unit to read the post-revolution scene in Egypt. It is also
in parallel with the Training Program launched by the
Unit to spread political awareness, partially by
examining different political and ideological trends

16 The 25th of January 16th Amr Hamzawy( PhD) (A The main points discussed were :The political changes
Revolution March professor at Faculty of
that really happened in Egypt since 25th of January ,
Politics and Economy,Cairo
University, and ,a research until the moment,the challenges, and big missions
director and senior associate at
needed for a safe democratic change management, the
the Carnegie Middle East
Center in Beirut.) role of Egyptian citizens during this phase ,the required
constitutional changes , and the role of Egyptian
th th
17 The 25 of January 5 March Mohamed Salim El Awa(PhD The Egyptian past revolutions were mentioned, then the
Revolution in comparative law ,from 25th of January Revolution was explained in detail ,then
London University, an ex - the requirements for saving its fruits were discussed. The
Faculty Member ,the former main requirements were: the Control overpublic
Secretary General of the money,the independence of universities, and the
International Union for Muslim Procedures
Scholars based in London, and For prevention of crime.
head of the Egyptian
Association for Culture and
18 The Egyptian Constitution 8th Ismail Serageldi(, Director, The main points discussed were:The definition of
February Library of Alexandria, also
constitution, the pros and cons of British, and other
chairs the Boards of Directors
for each of the BA's affiliated international constitution, the pros and cons of both the
research institutes and
presidential ,and the and parliamentary systems,the
museums. He serves as Chair
and Member of a number of history of the Egyptian constitution since 1919 ,until
advisory committees for
present, and choices available for Egyptians when they
academic, research, scientific
and international institutions change their own!
and civil society efforts .)

Table(2)Other activities

No. Title Date summary

1 The revolutionary parallel writing 30th April Helping to develop the creative talents of the audience
,regardless of their experience and the field of writing of each
of them. The writer Iman EL Sebaey runs the workshop ,where
they choose a creative text about an ex -revolution,then every
one of the audience writes a text( about the 25 th January
revolution) that interacts with this text .
2 Drafting the Mediterranean sea 27th-30th April In the context of national and regional levels of the democratic
changes rapidly unprecedented,
20 authors , writers ,and think tanks from the Mediterranean
basin ,exchange ideas and experiences
3 Youth and the environment : youth for 30th April Organized by the consultants of the director of Bibliotheca
sustainable environment and better life Alexandrina ,for young people aged 13-17 years old, The
workshop seeks to increase young people's awareness of
environmental issues, and provides them with tools for e-

Dialogue and Development 26th April Haytham Abdel Aziz
2 The Role of Entrepreneurship in 22nd April Fathy Abu El-Saad
Economic Development
3 Political Islam and the Religious Map in 19th April Researcher Hossam Tammam. Tuesday
1 youth: the revolution of change 24th February Six hundred of Arab youth, coming from Egypt, Lebanon,
Tunisia, Yemen ,and Algeria ,discussed the following items:
The Situation After 25 January:
a-Challenges facing Arab rebel countries ,such as Egypt,
Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen; and their expectations after the
b-Ideas for tomorrow.(social, political ,and economical)
The program included many discussion groups to give the
chance for more fruitful discussions.

1 A party by,Egyptian singer, Hamza 22nd April Religious, political and developmental songs .
Photo gallery
Title Date summary
1 The 25th January revolution 17-30 April A gallery of photos chosen from the register , O history
,held under auspices of Dr. Mamdouh Hamza
Volunteering initiative
Title Date summary
1 Volunteer Hub :Youth Entrepreneurship 30th April The Dialogue Forum at Bibliotheca Alexandrina unit for youth
& Sustainability (YES) activities has launched a Volunteering initiative ,named:
Volunteer Hub ,which give them the chance to volunteer at
any of the B.A. activities and departments ,which enables them
to interact, communicate ,and benefit from the library
resources to support the human development field ,and gain
the necessary expertise.
Others(different activities)
1 a memorial to the martyrs of the Under preparation The general director of Bibliotheca Alexandrina has Allocated
revolution, and documentation of the a place at Civilizations square in front of the conference room
revolution for a memorial to the martyrs of the revolution January 25;
where the process for the committees to choose the proper
design and collect the names of the martyrs who write their

names. Moreover, the library is currently working on
documenting the revolution of January 25 through images,
videos, , informal ,and official documents and publications
,and other materials 4

Tables no. 1 and 2 showed The activities ,which . Were many, diverse and very helpful for the
Egyptian society , especially at the time of the revolution.

Following are the details and distributions of these activities:

1- Distribution of Speakers and participants: The library hosted a bunch of scientists

,politicians, and think tanks of which ,were three highly popular speakers ,such as Amr
Khaled, Mohamed Salim El Awa, andBelal Fadl.It also hosted two of the most
Egyptian distinguished scientists, such as Farouk El Baz, and Mamdouh Hamza.
2- Distribution of Subjects:

Table no.3 below ,shows the distribution of the subjects addressed:

Table(3) The Distribution of Subjects addressed

symposiums Titles politics Social Islamic Islamic Human geography geology economy culture literature The
work religion movements development Media
1 Media and
the 25th of
2 Literature of
3 programof
education: the
and the
4 Literature
5 Your dream - - -

is your life!
6 The political - - - - - -
future in
7 The people and
police together to

restore security and

Al Amir, Khaled. "Youth: the revolution of change:a conference at Bibliotheca Alexandrina Alexandria Magazine.
(27Feb2011), http://www.bbcalex.com/News/News.asp?id=77829. (accessed April 20 ,2011).

8 The re- - - - - - -
of the
population in

9 The launch of
10 The - - - - - -
and the
future of
11 The Role of - - - - - - -
Youth in
12 The role of - - -
youth in the
revolution ,
after 25th of
13 The - - - - - - -
storm in the
14 Constitutiona - - - - - - -
l and

15 The future - - - - - -
of the
16 The 25th of - - - - -
17 The 25th of - - - -
18 The - - - - - -

1 The
parallel writing
2 Drafting the

an sea
3 Youth and
: youth for
and better
1 The Role of -
hip in
2 Political
Islam and the
Map in Egypt
3 Dialogue and
(do Egyptians
enjoy the
culture of

1 youth: the
of change
1 The 25th
g initiative
1 Volunteer -

1 A party
Others Different
26 8 3 3 6 5 2 4 6 3 1

Because : Libraries have been identified as one of the key elements for open access to
information, which is crucial to democratic information society development5,as Mirja

Glass ,Robert. The Role of Public Libraries in Local Economic development . Lawrence, Kansas : the University of
Kansas: Policy Research Institute, 2006.{cited:30/5/2011} (http://www.ipsr.ku.edu/resrep/pdf/m260.pdf)

Ryynnen, member of the Finnish Parliament said,Bibliotheca Alexandrina, As seen above , has
supported the political development of the Egyptian society ,through concentrating on politics,
which consisted 38,8 % of the subjects discussed .This was logical,because Egyptians are in
great need for political awareness ,so ,the political activities were a great help for Egyptians to
comprehend the political issues arising every day since the revolution breakout..Moreover, social
work consisted11,9%(which is a crucial topic for supporting the revolution) ,while human
development& culture consisted8,9 %( which are very important for the present phase of
revolution).Geography consisted 7.4%.,Economy consisted 5.9%,whereas Islamic religion,
Islamic movements ,and literature consisted 4.4%.Geology consisted 2.9%,and finally, the media
consisted 1.4%.

The following chart summarizes,and clarifies this data.

Distribution of subjects

3- Distribution of Time:

The last symposium held before the beginning of the revolution was titled: Beating Cancer
Cells to Death with Gold Nanoparticles in More than One Way then on the 8th of February
,three days before the vice president Mubarak stepped down, the revolution was still on, and the
whole country was suffering hard days , Bibliotheca Alexandrina held the first symposium to
keep pace with the societal events, discussing constitutions in Egypt and the western world!!

Even though the timing was strange, the symposium was attended by many young men! The
following symposiums , which started on the 5th of March , were suitable for the Egyptian
society circumstances, thus supporting the revolution.

4-Distribution of Quantity:28 symposiums ,3 workshops,3 lectures,1 conference,1

photogallery,1voluneering initiative,1 minstrel, and others under preparation. Thats 28 activities
in 3 months ,of which April was the most active, and effective. That was logical ,because after
11th of February and on , the Egyptian society began to regain its normal life, alongside with the
continuous revolution ,when the Egyptians decided to protest only on Fridays ,in order not to
disrupt work.

5-Distribution of Languages:

All activities were in the Arabic language ,except for the symposium titled: The Role of Youth
in Politics, because many of the speakers were Swedish.That was suitable because many of the
Egyptian youth suffer from the language barrier.

6- Distribution of Attendants: it was noticed that attendants were plenty, even at the
symposium held on8th February ,most of them were young men , and the most attended
symposium was the one presented by Amr Khaled,where the main big hall was full,in addition to
the other 3 halls and theatre were complete ,and no wonder ,because he is a very popular
preacher in Egypt and in the Arab World.!

7-Availability: all the activities under study were open to all the public for free. Moreover, all
symposiums are available online, in video recordings through Bibliotheca
AlexandrinasWebcast(http://webcast.bibalex.org/home/More.aspx?ID=2), for anyone who could
not come in person to attend ,except for the ones marked with an asterisk in table (1) .

7-Marketing: The activities mentioned are marketed through many ways: On the official
website of Bibliotheca Alexandrina(http://www.bibalex.org/home/default_ar.aspx),on its official
group on the face book(http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=258460335134),its page on
Twitter(http://twitter.com/#!/ba_news_events)the printings and brochures, and the posters in the
library entrance ,especially near the information desk,and also posters outside the library ,like at
prestigious social clubs,and cultural centers in Alexandria.


The findings of this study demonstrate that Bibliotheca Alexandrina is actively and effectively
going along with the Egyptian societal change and requirements during the revolution ,since its
breakout , with wide range of beneficial activities ,which are growing in number while the
revolution is making progress.

Moreover, this library has provided Information for sustainable development; which can, thus
,support the process of creating a truly sustainable society in a variety of different ways6,7

- Bibliotheca Alexandrina should continue its activities to support the Egyptian society
development ,andSubjects needed in the Egyptian society in the present phase of revolution
,topics suggested for the coming symposiums are : lessons learned from the revolution( for both
children ,and youth), how to keep the 25th January revolution ethics and relations among
Egyptian people, especially between Muslims and Christians, how to overcome unemployment
among Egyptian youth after the revolution, how Egyptians can rely on local resources to support
the economic development ,and pay off the international debts of Egypt.

-More human development activities are needed for the present phase of revolution to support
the Egyptian youth in particular.

-The activities under study need to integrate with reading lists ,selected from the Bibliotheca
Alexandrina ' s holdings .Theses lists should include information resources on: economy,
politics, Islam, Islamic movements, , human development, history(especially Arab and Islamic) ,
Geography,and the Arab world .The Website of Bibliotheca Alexandrina should market these
reading lists alongside with the other activities.
-Webinars should also be held by Bibliotheca Alexandrina to outreach to Egyptians who live
outside Alexandria, or even outside of Egypt, to give them the chance to exchange ideas and get
answers to their questions.
-The other Egyptian libraries should follow the example of Bibliotheca Alexandrina in
supporting the Egyptian societyfor the coming phase of the revolution.
Appendix(1) The Check list:
1-What are the different types of activities held by B.A?
b- CONFERENCES(forums)


Nolin, J. (2010)."Sustainable information and information science." Information Research, 15(2) paper
431.[Available at http://InformationR.net/ir/15-2/paper431.html]

A sustainable society/system is one that learns and acts at a rate that is faster than the pace of the problems that
would destroy it,{ http://agonist.org/bolo/20090318/what_is_a_sustainable_society }



2-What types of marketing strategies were undertaken?

It seems that ,Because : Libraries have been identified as one of the key elements for open
access to information, which is crucial to democratic information society development8,as Mirja
Ryynnen, member of the Finnish Parliament said, Bibliotheca Alexandrina,

Glass ,Robert. The Role of Public Libraries in Local Economic development . Lawrence, Kansas
: the University of Kansas: Policy Research Institute, 2006.{cited:30/5/2011}