'Few visitors, lots of time to read'

It's a common refrain that people in Kuwait don't read, and modern technology has exacerbated the matter. Yet there are dozens of public libraries scattered throughout the country, mostly in the Kuwaiti neighborhoods. They still open every day during the week, though few receive many visitors. At some libraries, if there are no social activities, some days see fewer than four visitors.

Yousef Al-Sayegh, a 27-year-old librarian who has been in this job for over two years, is satisfied with his work at the Khaldiya Library. "Although I'm not a huge fan of reading, I enjoy my work here. I benefit from the cultural activities held here presented by professors and teachers from the university and other institutes that have lots of useful information from different fields," he told Kuwait Times.

The Khaldiya Library is open Sunday to Thursday in two shifts. The staff working during the morning shift from 8:00 am to 2:30 pm is different from that working in the evening. "The library reopens in the evening from 4:00 pm till 9:00 pm, and this is when I come to work. The work is easy, and I just wait for visitors to come. When someone requests a book, I help them find it. Over time, I have learnt the location of all kinds of books," Sayegh said.

About 30,000 books are available at the Khaldiya Library. "The majority of our books are in Arabic, but there some English books too. We also have periodicals and magazines, and a children's room with various books for kids. Unfortunately, most of our books are old, as we haven't received any new books since I started working here. Also, not all books are the same in all libraries. Recently, we started indexing, so we will be able to check where a certain book is. Libraries have also started replacing books, so we expect to receive many new books soon," he pointed out.

The majority of visitors are students. "During the school year, we have more visitors as students come to do research at the library, while during summer, the number of visitors is less. Also, at the end of the summer vacation, teachers come to prepare for the school year. Sometimes we also have elderly people visiting the library to read," Sayegh noted.

People can also borrow books to take home. "The borrowing period is for two weeks. They pay a KD 5 deposit, and if they don't return after two weeks, we call them. If they ignore the call and don't come in a few days, then we just take the deposit. But during my two years of working here, I haven't faced such a situation. We also scan the borrower's civil ID and take their contact details. Most of the books have only one copy, and a few are available in two copies," explained Sayegh.

The average number of visitor is around seven daily during the school year, while it's around four or five during the summer vacation. Attendance is higher during social and cultural events. "At least once a week an event is held here, and we are planning to increase their number. The events are from different fields - sociology, medicine and many others," he told Kuwait Times.

Sayegh hasn't faced any problems during his two years at the library. "Everything is going smooth here. I'm happy with my job, but my only problem is the salary. I have a bachelor's degree in library sciences and information, but my salary is much lower than employees in other ministries who hold lesser degrees. This is why most of my classmates refused to work in this field. I only get a KD 10 pay rise annually. So now I'm looking for a part-time job in the morning to boost my income. Also, good relations with my boss - the director of this library Manal Al-Suqoubi - has made me feel comfortable in this job," he concluded.

His colleague Saud Abdulaziz, a 24-year-old librarian, joined Khaldiya Library two months ago. He graduated from the same faculty as Sayegh, and he likes the work. "I love reading and books, so I'm happy to work here. I have a lot of free time so I can read a lot. Now I'm learning how to classify the books and about the lending process. I appreciate the great efforts of Director Suqoubi, and my colleague Yousef, who are training me," stressed Abdulaziz.

By Nawara Fattahova