Jericho Public Library plays an integral role in the education of thousands of children and adults alike. The one-story library lies in the heart of the historic West Bank city, making it accessible to school students and any one of its 27,000 residents seeking knowledge and self-refinement.
The building’s four main pillars were originally constructed each in the shape of an open book to stand as an architectural landmark of knowledge and learning. But the building was crumbling and in disrepair.
Thanks to USAID funding and contributions from the community, ANERA completed a new building to take its place in 2005.
Since then, the library has been a vibrant center of learning for Jericho’s population, young and old. May Hilal has been working there for 13 years.
The 49-year-old librarian recalls the dire conditions of the old library, established in 1975.
“The library’s old location was a dilapidated building,” says the librarian. “Part of the ceiling suddenly collapsed one time.”
The old library was basically a tiny, two-room apartment. The space could fit very few readers and there were just two out-dated computers for library personnel.
May, a mother of four young girls, was named library director for the new library. All her daughters are library patrons, and her two youngest girls spend their summer at the library, reading books and helping around. May and her husband have always encouraged a love of books and learning in their children and May extends that encouragement to all who enter the Jericho Library.
The library houses some 30,000 books, all categorized by a computerized system. The books are donated by local and international cultural organizations or purchased by the municipality.
Library Provides More Than Books
The library organizes children activities for summer from competitions and book discussion groups to storytelling and creative writing. The staff regularly organizes educational field visits to historic places in Jericho and community services like the traffic police, firehouse and civil defense department.
Older children and adults often attend the library’s poetry reading evenings, workshops, lectures, book readings, and courses like nutrition, health and English language lessons.
The library is also used as a training center for local community organizations. Visitors also use library’s new computer lab, equipped with eight computers and free Internet. There’s also a DVD player, LCD screen and a projector. The municipality is responsible for the library’s upkeep.
The air-conditioned facility is considered a perfect retreat for readers and researchers, especially in Jericho’s summer, when the temperature degree can reach as high as 45°C (113F).
May considers herself most fortunate to have discovered and pursued the world of library science: “There’s a great joy in living amidst books. All the information you ever need is right there at your fingertips.”