With reading habit dying out, libraries become ‘ghost houses’
JEDDAH – The three-story Jeddah public library is located in Al-Nuzlah Al-Yamaniah neighborhood, in the south of the city, and its rundown condition resembles a deserted ghost house, Makkah daily reported.
The head of the library, Ezzat Murad, said the responsibility of the library was transferred from the Ministry of Education to the Ministry of Information three years ago. At the time, the library was in a bad condition and was partially refurbished.
Murad said the library provides books in both hard copy and electronic format. He noted that the library’s location has contributed to a lack of visitors.
“A plan was discussed with the minister of information to open a branch of the library in the northern part of Jeddah,” he said.
The three-story library is divided into separate halls, but it lacks basic facilities such as an information center. The archives and classification section is located in a small corner of the library and is equipped with two desks but no employees or even a computer. There are also no tables or chairs for visitors and there is no multimedia section in the library.
The third floor contains rare books that are completely unprotected, while the foreign books section is dusty and poorly ventilated. The women’s section has seven employees but no supervisor or an administrator.
Visitor Ibrahim Al-Rekhaimi said it was his first time visiting the library, and he was surprised to find it empty.
“There was only one employee inside who looked very bored. He did, however, show me around the library but it smelled bad and when I found a reference book I was looking for, it was completely damaged and of no use,” he said.
He also noted that he had to use the stairs because the elevator was out of order and the lack of lighting forced him to use his mobile phone’s camera flash to look for books. Furthermore, the library does not have internet service for research and there was no way to search its database.
When Al-Rekhaimi wanted to check out a book, he was told that he had to fill out a form, which would then be sent to Riyadh for approval.
The city of knowledge
Makkah, the city of knowledge and center of revelation, has tens of public libraries with many valuable books that remain untouched for many years.
Today, people have stopped visiting the city’s public library to spend some time and enrich their souls. People tend to buy books, put them on the shelves and never touch them again. They never read them.
Makkah daily met several residents of the city — some employed and some students — and asked them about the reasons why people have stopped reading or lost interest in this important habit.
They agreed that many people do not go to the library as it was the case in the past. In fact, the last time the young men Makkah daily interviewed visited a public library was a decade ago during the days when they were still students. They only went there because their professors required them to conduct research.
They said that in the past five years, they have not purchased any books to read or to keep up with the events or to increase their knowledge.
Member of Makkah Cultural Club Dr. Abdullah Ibrahim said until recently, libraries used to be thronged by visitors, but today, things have changed due to several factors, the most important of which is the presence of a number of competent cultural centers that have books selected carefully.
Ibrahim confirmed that the number of visitors is just a handful except for the newspaper corner, which people visit in order to read news on sports.
Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of Jazan Literary Club Al-Hassan Bin Ahmed Al-Khairat attributed the reasons why so many people have stopped going to public libraries to modern technology. “Today, you can download books off the internet and read them instead of going to a public library. Everything is available at a click away. So why bother and go to a library?”
He agreed that many students fail to develop the habit of reading in school and at home.