They come by busload and one at a time, from young children to college students - lining up to enter the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) for tours, research and reading, learning and discussing.
The Children’s Library is bright and colorful, filled with books in many languages as well as puppets for storytelling, computers and movie rooms. The Young People’s Library - for youngsters age 12 to 16 - includes informational books but also titles popular with Western teens, like the Twilight series.
In November 2014, the Friends of the BA in Maryland/D.C./Virginia (of the Baltimore-Luxor-Alexandria Sister Cities Committee) delivered just over 200 new books to these libraries - all purchased with funds raised through the First Book Virtual Book Drive in March 2014 and the May 31 Celebration in Alexandria, Virginia.
The First Book Global Marketplace, the international arm of the American literacy organization First Book, shipped and delivered half the books. The other half were hand-delivered in suitcases by Friends co-chairs Tharwat and Karen Leggett Abouraya. All the titles were selected by the library staff, including Sylvia Stavridi, Collection Development Coordinator for Special Libraries, and Ingi Abdelkader, Head of the Children’s Library Section.
The First Book Global Marketplace makes deeply discounted children’s books available to organizations that meet at least one of the following criteria:
1. 70% or more of the population you work with is in-need.
2. Your organization works with disabled children.
3. Your organization works with people affected by recent natural disasters.
The BA library staff expressed interest in obtaining more audio books, DVDs and books in Arabic from both Egyptian and foreign publishers. The Friends will be looking for opportunities to assist with these requests.
Through the generosity of Hands Around the Library artist Susan L. Roth - whose visit to the BA in 2009 inspired the book in the first place - we also delivered original art from the book to the Children’s Library and also to Dr. Ismail Serageldin.
One of the founders of the Baltimore Friends of the BA, Abdelwahab Elabd, is also working on developing a lending library at the BA for blind readers, similar to the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped at the Library of Congress in the United States. The BA already has the Taha Hussein Library which uses special software to enable blind and visually handicapped readers to access books and journals.
It was a great joy to hold hands with the BA staff who are working with such energy and passion to keep children excited about the world around them through books - we look forward to our continuing collaboration.