When Bethlehem University opened in 1973, the library was located in a classroom on the ground floor of the main building, now named De La Salle Hall. The collection consisted of 525 books and there were two persons on the staff. In those early years, the university depended on generous benefactors, both individuals and organizations, to provide books.
A new era originated in 1977 with the construction and opening of the new library building designed by architect Francesco Montana. The Catholic hierarchy of Germany through the Agency of Misereor, the Catholic Center Development Agency, the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, and the friends of Bethlehem University, funded the construction.
In the beginning years, the second floor was used for science teaching and storage. Soon after, the Audiovisual Center was established, followed by the special collections for Palestiniana in the mid-1980s. By 1983, the total collection had grown to 27,000.
The modern era came in 1995 with the creation of the electronic card catalog. The age of computers arrived with Internet service, access to electronic periodical databases, and the use of CD-ROM resources. A major development was the construction in 2000 of Turathuna: Center for Palestinian Heritage funded by Development Cooperation Ireland.
A major transition occurred in 2005-2006 with the conversion to a new library management system, LibSys.net. The system contains six integrated modules: acquisitions, cataloging, serials, circulation, OPAC (online public access catalog), and administration. The implementation of the new system completely removed the need to maintain the traditional card catalog. It was designed by Noursoft Software Development in Ramallah and tailored to the Arabic language. The Bethlehem University Foundation provided the funds for the purchase.
In the spirit of a globalized network of sharing digital information, the Library embarked on the project of digitization in 2009. Bethlehem University Library pioneered the conversion and preservation of rare books about Palestine, among the academic universities in the West Bank.
To further upgrade and enhance the project of digitization, the unwavering and much-appreciated support of the Vice Chancellor, Brother Peter Bray, enabled the Library to receive two grant awards from the New Zealand Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, for the purchase of a streaming server and high-powered computers.
Our Library story continues as we journey “together and by association,” challenged by Brother Peter’s words: “Is there a better way?” This better way saw its fruition on the 24th February 2016 during the opening of the refurbished Library. A renovated first class resource center which provides among other facilities: a quiet study area on every floor, 11 discussion rooms to accommodate groups of students or teachers with their students who either wish to study or make a presentation using the latest equipment and technology, or to hold classes.
A café-library makes studying or reading comfortable, a cozy place showcasing the scenic places of Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala.
In addition to all the above novelties, a daring and enterprising move was taken by the Library Team. In consultation with, and the able professional assistance of staff at the Instructional Technology Unit, the implementation of the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology was successfully implemented. The University Library now boasts of various RFID features such as self-help check-in/out kiosks, security checks at the entrance doors, handheld/mobile circulation services and the Digital Library Assistant tool used for book inventory, among others.
It is indeed undeniable that Bethlehem University, also called an oasis of peace, constantly works to provide the best quality education to the youth of this country. The present Library, aiming to be the University’s “intellectual hub” is a loud testimony to this educational endeavor at its peak.