Revolutionary Libraries: Building Collections and Promoting Research about the January 25th Uprising in Egypt


On January 25, 2011 protests rang out in Egypt’s cities, demanding the resignation of President Husni Mubarak. Centered in Tahrir Square, located in downtown Cairo, the demonstrations brought together groups of protestors from divergent ethnic, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds. As Egyptians found solidarity in fighting Mub?rak’s regime, archivists, librarians, oral historians, students, faculty, staff, and administrators at the American University in Cairo (AUC) convened in dorms and homes to develop a plan to document the momentous events of January and February 2011. From the onset, University on the Square: Documenting Egypt’s 21st Century Revolution project planners knew that the role of the AUC, Egyptian, and global communities would be the key to developing a comprehensive and transparent record of the January 25th Revolution.

The University on the Square project strives to document the revolution as well as AUC’s scholarly response to the demonstrations, elections, and trials. To accomplish these lofty goals, project coordinators have solicited contributions of photographs, videos, visual art, written testimonials, and oral histories, as well as archived millions of web documents. We are currently expanding our efforts in order to promote the use of our institutional repository by faculty and research centers to provide long-term access to revolutionary papers, presentations, datasets, and lectures.

Crowd of demonstrators

Crowd of demonstrators from the University on the Square: Documenting Egypt’s 21st Century Revolution digital collection. Image courtesy of Robeir Rasmy and the American University in Cairo Rare Books and Special Collections Library.

In order to enhance student learning AUC archivists and librarians offer information literacy instruction sessions, online learning objects, and support for the development of interactive learning technology.  Reference and Collection Development librarians work together to enhance book holdings of revolutions worldwide. Students in a number of journalism and history classes at AUC work with librarians and archivists to prepare biographies, timelines, interviews, papers,  and audio documentaries related to the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.

Working collaboratively, in the library, and with students, tech support personnel, administrators, and faculty, AUC librarians and archivists have been able to acquire, preserve, and promote use of the unique cultural heritage materials and scholarship related to the January 25th Revolution. Wikis and institutional repositories provide new ways for students to interact with and understand technology as well as the ongoing socio-political events in Egypt. As we strive to document the ongoing revolution, librarians and archivists will continue to rely on our student, faculty, and staff partners to collect, make accessible, and preserve the January 25th Revolution as well engage researchers through information literacy instruction and technical training.


Carolyn Runyon and Meggan Houlihan, “Revolutionary Libraries: Building Collections and Promoting Research about the January 25th Uprising in Egypt” (paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Library Association’s International Papers Session, Anaheim, California, June 23 2012).

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