Adonis Diaries

Archive for May 15th, 2019

Lebanon: The story of late Maitre Phares Zoghbi: Univeristy USJ decided to close it to the community and displace all its 50,000 books to its headquarter

In Kornet Chehwa municipality (Lebanon), the late Maitre Phares Zoghbi’s private library (containing 50,000 books, many of them are expensive and unique), was opened to the community as a private library for over 2 decades. People could come read and borrow 2 books at a time. Last week, we learned the university of USJ is closing it. Why?

I overheard that USJ has already exchanged this property with works a company has performed on the hospital of Hotel Dieu?

Diala Gemayel published in the daily Orient 19/10/1999 what sounded as a testament of late Zoghbi:

«Je l’offrirai soit à la municipalité, soit à l’évêché de Kornet-Chehwane, soit à l’État, mais à une double condition : qu’elle soit installée dans une construction spéciale portant mon nom, ou dans une annexe à la Bibliothèque nationale, et QU’ELLE CONTINUE DE GRANDIR SELON L’USAGE ». Malheureusement, cette biblioteque tomba sur USJ.

Last week, Nada announced the closure by the university USJ. Nada is in charge of the page “Les amis de Maitre Phares Zoghbi”,  created in March 2010 to pay tribute to this exceptional bibliophile that has put all his life to the service of the book and reading.

The announcement stated:

Requiem for the landmark library of the municipality.

After more than 50 years at the service of the readers of the region of Kornet Chehwan and its surroundings, the library will close its doors soon and its fund (meaning the 50,000 books?) will be transferred to a room that is already dedicated to it at the campus of social sciences of the USJ.

The statement goes on: “The friends of late Zoghbi welcomed this news with infinite emotion and sadness, all the more this close-by community library welcomed all audiences, without discrimination. No, its new location in a university campus will only be accessed to students and researchers.

The friends of late Zoghbi are also forced to see that the library had no adapted means, (forced of not having adapted means?) ,that its website was not updated (its information users on the schedules, the news, the historic of the place) and that without accompaniment and activities, as it was the case for more than 5 years, the minimal service of the library could not be assured and that all users knew and asked for it. (Read my notes)

Here we have a special thought to all the friends of the library who, to remedy the lack of news, have enriched the library of more than 400 books, (because USJ declined any further “investment”). That met the needs of the readers and the documentary fund and to the events that have punctuated the country and the world, without forgetting the readers in search of beautiful novels!

We thank them with all heart! They allowed the library to sail as much as possible with for only precept “the book to all”.”

I replied:

In Kornet Chehwan (Lebanon), there exists a private library of late Maitre Phares Zoghbi. After years of negotiation with the university USJ,  this university has decided to trample on the spirit of keeping this library opened to the community. USJ decided to close the library, transfer all its books and dismantle all the shelves. Is the purpose to sell the property and land for real estates developers?  Is the soul of preserving a semblance of a community dead? This ignominy should Not passaran.

Why the USJ is intent on robbing the community from a local library? I urge everyone to do his due diligence and inform the newspapers, TV channels, deputies and friends on social media of this calamity and remedy to this injustice.

Nada replied:

“Le contrat de donation de maitre Phares Zoghbi autorise l’université USJ à déplacer les livres (meme toutes les 50,000 livres?) Et c’est inutile de faire tout ce bruit meme si cette fermeture fait mal.

I replied:

Est-ce que l’université à le droit de demanteler tous les etageres? De deplacer tous les livres et les transporter a l’universite’? Pouquoi prendre cette peine si USJ a deja des copies de la plupart des livres ? Pourquoi pas deplacer seulement les livres uniques et juridiques? Oui il y a de quoi faire un tas parceque cette library doit etre ouverte a la communaute’. On peut toujours trouver un manager avec nos contributions. Pourqoui USJ veut vendre la maison et la terre? Is USJ already bankrupt?

Nada replied:
Adonis le terrain a été acheté par l’USJ et payé à Maître Zoghbi pour qu’il puisse vivre à la fin de sa vie. Les livres ont été offerts et dans le contrat il est stipulé que l’usj peut les déplacer et ça tout le monde le sait et moi en premier. (Qui sont ces Tout le moned?) Ta tristesse est compréhensible mais inutile d’accuser l’Université. Tu ne connais pas le dossier. On est tous triste mais on n’y peut rien. Tu m’obliges à te raconter des détails sur Maitre Zoghbi et je n’aime pas. Calme toi
I replied:
Pourquoi tous ces secrets? Et pourtant, USJ doit permettre aux amis de la library d’ouvrire la bibioteque de leur propre argent de contribution. En tout cas, est-ce que le “dossier” respecte la volonte’ du Maitre?
Nada replied:
“Ce n’est pas un secret Adonis. Maitre Zoghbi a vendu le terrain et le contrat est clair. Il a pu vivre avec cet argent. La bibliothèque a été offerte et dans une clause du contrat de donation il est précisé que l’USJ peut prendre les livres dans un local situé dans la faculté de droit et que dans ce local, tout doit être assuré..nouveautés technologie, accueil des lecteurs…
Nada went on: “À mon avis ce qui est blessant c’est que tout se fait dans le secret et même les lecteurs n’ont pas été avertis ni par annonce, ni par avis. Moi même je l’ai appris par hasard. Cela fait plus de 15 ans que la BPZ est ouverte et la moindre des politesse est de s’excuser de cette fermeture auprès de la municipalité et des lecteurs, ….
Tu peux rentrer sur FB sur la page Bibliothèque USJ et écrire ce que tu veux. C’ est la page officielle…Nous Adonis on n’est que les amis, et pendant 5 ans nous avons essayé en mémoire de Maitre Zoghbi de garder la bibliothèque vivante…je suis triste.  C’est tout ce que je peux te dire..Rentre sur la page et écrit leur ce que tu veux…Courage!”
I replied:
Merci Nada pour les eclairssissements. Je prepare un article que je posterait sur mon blog avec des links on Fb and Twitter. I never lies in my writing.
It is embarrassing and frustrating that a university would not meet in open sessions with the municipality and the friends of the library to figure out alternative plans to enhance the “performance” of this landmark library and encourage the community to meet in a welcoming environment.
My impression is that USJ is operating with a colonial mentality and doesn’t think it has any “obligations” to consider the community opinions. Yalla, endosser vos Gilets Jaunes
The municipality should open a substitute library for the community if it is Not ready to negotiate with USJ. Even small municipalities would fight to retain its landmark location, what if this municipality is big and has so much money that it is re-doing most of the good roads.
Most people would admit that reading hard copy books is passe’. I believe it is the way books are distributed and made it easy to borrow and acquire that is the source of this problem. Municipalities that opened street kiosks to borrow books have witnessed increased convergence to reading books.
And It is lack of spaces to stow books that is another reason that people prefer Not to buy any more books. Let municipalities allocate spaces for saving hard copy books and people would gladly bring their books to be shared.
Note 1: I have posted many articles on this library and reviewed two of Zoghbi’s books and was the sole person to actually patronize this library in the last 15 years, sit down almost every day, rain or shine. I would walk a mile to read, write and peruse all new books. Occasionally a few students would come for a few days to study for their exams. For years I posted reviews on my blog of almost every book I read in the library
Note 2: USJ adopted the State strategy of degrading its public institutions in order to privatize them. The library was run by a passionate and dynamic care taker Rita. Rita organized many events and encourage the dissemination of the existence of the library by inviting newspapers and TV channels and other events where the friends of the library met. A few students were dispatched to help out and Layla was a great a addition for a while.
Then USJ must have decided a couple of years ago to sell the property and undertook to degrade the “performance” of the library by hiring a total apathy to manage the library.
Note 3: Portrait : Pharès Zoghbi , l’homme qui défend et protège le livre
« La liberté disparaît quand on cherche à détruire le livre et tous les régimes totalitaires l’ont fait quand c’était nécessaire. C’est ce que rappelle Maitre Zoghbi, en s’appuyant sur des exemples historiques :
«L’incendie de la bibliothèque d’Alexandrie par les Romains et les Arabes; l’incendie des livres à Cordoue, évoqué dans un des films de Youssef Chahine, “Le destin”…C’est pour toutes ces raisons que Maitre Pharès Zoghbi a «adopté, le livre comme compagnon».
Stowing books in universities is tantamount to preventing the common people to even think of reading. It means: practically burning books.
Note 4: The friends of the library will meet this Thursday, May 16, 2019. I’ll keep you posted of any alternatives.
Note 5: I have to offer my excuses to Nada because of my shortcoming on how Fb works. It seems Fb transformed Nada to its full name since I copied part of her sentences.
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