The American University of Beirut was founded by missionaries in 1866 as liberal art university. Since it early days, as Syrian Protestant College, the University was involved in social service that ranged from medical help to the local citizens and even Ottoman Governess, to different volunteer groups and institutions that were organized among students and faculty members. Some of these were the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA ), soup kitchens in the villages of ‘Abeih and Suk al-Gharb, community service center offering night classes, evening meetings, and activities for boys of the neighborhood; a ‘clean teeth’ campaign started by faculty and students in Dentistry, then medical professors worked with local government to eradicate mosquitoes from Ras Beirut and overcome malaria endemic.
In 1930s the university established the Institute of Rural Life that guided farm families to improve crop production and animal husbandry. Later the university administration tried to channel the new rising nationalism into developing the villages through the work of the Village Welfare Service that evolved into Civic Welfare League. The later aimed at development of the rural and urban areas. Even during the Arab Israeli wars the AUB students were always among the first to give social aid, medical support, and to carry out blood donation and fundraising campaigns to Palestinians and Lebanese victims.
Currently the University is involved in the three initiatives: First the Neighborhood initiative that manages research on traffic congestion, air and waste pollution then advancing Research, Enabling Communities or AUB Outreach from the Bekaa Valley, IBSAR an environment related initiative, and last the Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service. All these activities are well documented in AUB archives in the forms of, articles, documents, films, pamphlets, photographs, reports and posters.
As Archives Librarians it is our duty to draw the attention of our community to the importance of the civic service. This will be done by opening up our archives, preparing research guides, finding aids, displaying old and new acquisitions in real and virtual exhibit, giving public lectures and implementing open door policy. All the above will encourage more research and help our community to serve as role-model to the youth of Lebanon and the Middle East in promoting social work and public advancement.