The Library of Alexandria is a great library and culture center, not only in Alexandria but on the Mediterranean coast and the whole world.
The ancient Egyptians had a great deal of knowledge in every field. Ancient Egyptian libraries are the most important source of this knowledge. The Ancient Egyptians had two different types of libraries. The first type was called ‘Pr-Madjet’ or ‘House of Books.’ This library was like our public library nowadays, so it was found in schools, colleges, and public areas.
While the other kind of library was called “Pr-Ankh” or “House of Life” This library was very limited to the general public. It was found in the temples and exclusively for the members of the government and the priests.
Ancient Library of Alexandria:
The Royal Library of Alexandria was once the largest library in the world. At first, it was part of a great research center or university, and one of its main jobs, originally, was the editing and copying of the texts. It was soon becoming a center for research and learning. Scholars who worked there came from all over the ancient world.
The library consisted of several buildings. The main book depository, the museum with a satellite library in the newer Serapeum, the Temple of Serapis. The library was constructed during the time of Ptolemy I and got greater and greater during the times of Ptolemy II and Ptolemy III. While Julius Caser is accused of burning the Library of Alexandria.
New Library of Alexandria:
Under the supervision of the former first lady of Egypt, Suzan Mubarak, the project of the New Library of Alexandria began in the 1990s. The construction of the library began in 1995, and it was officially inaugurated in October 2002.
The construction of the library cost about 200 million USD. In 2010, the Library received a donation of 500,000 books from the National Library of France.
The New Library has shelf space for 8 million books. The main reading room of the library covers 20,000 square meters.
The New Library of Alexandria contains a conference center, specialized libraries for maps, multimedia, the blind and visually impaired, young people, and children. It contains also four museums and four art galleries for temporary exhibitions. As well as 15 permanent exhibitions, a planetarium, and a manuscript restoration laboratory.
Design of the New Library:
To choose the best design of the library, an architectural design competition was organized by UNESCO in 1988, to choose a design worthy of the site and its heritage. A Norwegian architectural office had won the competition. This Norwegian office was associated with Austrian Architect Christoph Kapeller and Egyptian Architect Ihab El Habbak. This architectural team consisted of 10 members representing 6 countries. As well, UNESCO created an International Commission for the Library of Alexandria which consisted of high-level representatives from 18 different countries and organizations.
The design of the library is awesome. The main reading room stands beneath a 32-meter high glass-paneled roof, tilted out toward the sea like a sundial. The walls are of gray Aswan granite, carved with characters from 120 human scripts.
The mission of the New Library of Alexandria:
According to the official website of the library, www.bibalex.org, the main mission of the library is to be a center of excellence in the production and dissemination of knowledge and to be a place of dialogue, learning, and understanding between cultures and people.
So the library will focus on four main aspects, that seek to recapture the spirit of the original ancient Library of Alexandria.