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Library Resources outside the U.S.

This guide offers information about services and resources you can utilize from the Brown University Library when studying abroad, as well as information for using foreign libraries and research institutes.

Library Landscape for the Middle East

Library access and the function of libraries and related institutions is quite different from what you have come to know of both public libraries and university research libraries in the US. In some cases access may be very restricted, books might not be available for check-out, and call number systems might be completely different. As you get started think about what kind of library you might want to use. In any given country they might include: 

  • National Libraries or those of major cities or regions
  • University libraries
  • Cultural Center/Museum libraries
  • Manuscript or document libraries (including archives)
  • Foriegn Institute libraries
  • Private libraries available by appointment

In most cases you will need some form of local institutional affiliation in order to gain access and certainly to use valuable resources such as manuscripts or rare books. If your goal is simply a quiet place to study you may want to consider other options.

Many public libraries of the Middle East are chronicly underfunded and in some cases under threat by war and/or political efforts to disrupt open scholarship. However, there are many dedicated professionals who staff these institutions who can be enourmously helpful for research when approached with respect and consideration. Often some knowledge of Arabic, Turkish or Persian will be necessary to navigate both catalogs and the library itself.

In many countries your best bet is the local affiliate of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers which maintains The Digital Library for International Research (DLIR)

Libraries and Institutions by Country/Region


  • Brown ID card holders can access the library of the American University in Cairo becuase we are both SHARES partners. Its collections are substatntial, however, with the move to the new campus it is no longer as convenient as its former down town building.
  • Brown is also an affiliate institution of the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) and can use its library and collections. They ask students to have a letter from their advisor.
  • The gem of Egyptian public libraries is the Bibliotheca Alexandrina which is a beautiful space in which to study but also houses a growing and diverse collection. Admission or membership is by fee which is nominal and well worthwhile if you are spending significant time in Alexandria.
  • If you are potentially interested in what is available at Egyptian public university libraries one place to start is with Egyptian universities' libraries consortium catalog.


  • The American Research Institute in Turkey has centers in Istanbul and Ankara both with libraries. For details on accessing libraries and conducting resarch that requires permission they offer the following guidelines. Permission for work at a museum library, such as Topkapı or Istanbul Archaeology Museum,  may also require permission from the Ministry of Culture in Ankara and therefore require more time to process.  With this in mind scholars hoping to work in these locations should begin the application process well in advance of their arrival in the country.
  • There are a number of types of libraries in Turkey. Most holdings are grouped in union catalogues : TO-KAT is the national union catalogue of university and research centers’ network whose participants may be viewed when carrying out a detailed search (Detaylı Tarama). For technical reasons however, a number of university libraries and research institutions figure have joined another union catalog managed by Yordam (click here for the list of participating institutions).
  • The union catalogue of Istanbul Municipality libraries (İstanbul Belediye Kütüphaneleri Kataloğu) including holdings in Ottoman Turkish may be reached here.  Among them Atatürk Kitaplığı is the richest in old and rare collections, including manuscripts.

All of the above sites are designed in Turkish.

  • Millet Yazma Eser Kütüphanesi in Istanbul holds a rich collection of both manuscripts and printed books in Ottoman Turkish.  The catalog is in Turkish, Latin script and search is available only in Turkish.


The American Center for Oriental Research in Amman had many connections with Brown and has served many students studying Arabic or archaeology among other fields. It has a small library but can work to connect you with other local institutionsas needed such as the Institut français du Proche-Orient or CBRL: The Council of British Research in the Levant


North Africa :

CEMAT (Le Centre d’Etudes Maghrébines à Tunis) is the overseas research center of the American Institute for Maghrib Studies (AIMS). Based in Tunis, CEMAT offers a specialized library with works primarily in English on the Maghrib and the Middle East and regularly organizes lectures, roundtables and conferences on themes pertinent to the region.

The following are some of the key libraries and research centers in Morocco and Tunisia: