Assabil was founded in 1997 as a non-governmental association aimed at establishing, developing and advertizing public libraries across Lebanon as well as encouraging socio-cultural activities that inspire people to visit such libraries.

An 18-member administrative committee including people with extensive expertise manages the association. Assabil opened Beirut’s first municipal public library in the Bachoura area in 2000. The project was carried out in cooperation with the Municipality of Beirut, which offered the building, and the Regional Council of Ile de France, which provided the equipment and the books. The second public library was established in Geitawi in 2004 thanks to support from the Heinrich Böll Foundation. Four years later, another library was set up in Monot Street, Beirut.

All three libraries are open to all citizens, with no discrimination of any kind as to social or economic class, thus facilitating encounters between people of different social, religious and political backgrounds and allowing them to come together and exchange views and ideas. The association’s resource and training center is located in Ras Nabe’e and is only open for teachers, librarians, educators and specialists.


Assabil aims first and foremost at:

  • Shifting the focus from infrastructure to human capital building.
  • Establishing and supporting public libraries that are free and open to all.
  • Providing a space to promote social and cultural exchanges.
  • Allowing public libraries to develop individuals and communities.
  • Providing free and unlimited access to knowledge as being an essential prerequisite for the development of a well-informed citizenry and democratic society.


Assabil coordinates a network of 30 libraries located outside Beirut and supports them by:

  • Providing books.
  • Transferring expertise by organizing training workshops to libraries’ staff.
  • Involving them in the activities held by the association (seminars, inviting authors and intellectuals, etc).
  • Promoting their role as a point of convergence between people as well as their mission in raising awareness and reviving reading.

In addition, the association holds a series of activities of which we highlight the following:

  • A cultural event held every Monday and covering music, poetry, cinema, etc.
  • Free storytelling hour every Friday and Saturday.
  • Consultancy services and transfer of expertise.
  • Hosting international authors in a number of public libraries within Assabil network what is known as the Neighborhood project.
  • National reading week under the auspices of the Minister of Culture.

Horsh Beirut Festival, which was held this year in the last two weeks of September and featured musical events, plays for kids, poetry evenings etc. with the aim of promoting vibrant public spaces through nature.

Another example of the achievements of Assabil is the Kotobus, a mobile library launched in 2008 and circulating in the Southern and Northern Suburbs of Beirut. The Kotobus visits public schools and allows their students to benefit from books and other book-related services.

Assabil is planning to launch Beirut’s largest public library in Tareeq Jdideh by the end of 2014. It is noteworthy that the association runs all these activities in cooperation with the Municipality of Beirut, which supports Assabil through an annual donation of LBP 200 million. Funds are also provided from several international organizations including the Regional Council of Ile de France (CRIF), Heinrich Böll Foundation, Open Society Institute, etc. in addition to individual donations in cash or books.


The obstacles that restrict the work of Assabil include:

  • The absence of a widespread culture of reading among the Lebanese.
  • The difficulty in finding free public spaces and covering overhead expenses.
  • Meager funds.

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