Reading campaign launched on library's golden jubilee

Reading campaign launched on librarys golden jubilee

Al Ras Library is the oldest under the Dubai Public Library (DPL), which celebrated its golden jubilee on Sunday.


Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Tue 24 Dec 2013, 1:12 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 6:15 PM

Before the rise of shopping malls and cafes, public libraries were something of an intellectual watering hole in Dubai. Today, however, the eight public libraries across Dubai have a total of only 17,000 registered members.

Shaikh Majid bin Mohammed felicitates some of the patrons of Al Ras Library, Dubai, on the occasion of its Golden Jubilee on Sunday. — KT photo by Mukesh Kamal

“Public libraries used to be a place where people would meet, greet, spend time together, discuss issues and have intellectual conversations. Arabs have always had a keen sense or yearning for knowledge,” said Abdul Ghaffar Hussein, the Chairman of the Emirates Human Rights Association.

Abdul Ghaffar Hussein, one of the founding members, has fond memories of the 50-year-old public library at Al Ras.

“Now you have other places that people like to visit. Back in the day, people loved to read much more than they do now. But more than a place for books, libraries are where people bond,” said Hussein.

The Al Ras Library is the oldest under the Dubai Public Library (DPL), which celebrated its golden jubilee on Sunday at the Dubai Cultural Association under the directives of Shaikh Majid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture).

Through the celebration, Dubai Culture is paying tribute to the vision of late Shaikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, who was committed to promote a literary culture in the emirate by establishing public libraries. DPL has always played an integral role in serving as creative spaces for the community, where intercultural dialogue and knowledge exchange are encouraged. The other libraries are located in Al Twar, Al Mankhool, Hor Al Anz, Al Safa, Al Rashidiya and Umm Suqeim.

Shaikh Majid, while speaking at an award ceremony in honour of the several patrons of public libraries, said: “The golden jubilee celebration of the DPL is a truly remarkable occasion, which highlights the strong focus of Dubai’s leadership to promote a literary culture in the emirate.

“Over the years, the libraries have contributed immensely in widening the knowledge of residents, encouraging youth to take up reading and in promoting social solidarity through a number of literary events held at the libraries. The DPL will continue to be at the forefront in promoting the habit of reading and in highlighting the Arabic language to the city’s residents and visitors.”

Organisations, embassies, institutions, and individuals, who have been the driving force behind the growth of the various public libraries across the city and building the cultural framework of the city, were honoured.

Catch ’em young

Dubai Culture has launched a campaign to get children in the age group of 6-12 into the reading habit. The department is working with several schools in the Ministry of Education to bring students to libraries. Abdulrahman Ibrahim, Head of DPL, Dubai Culture, said: “Once you get children that small into the reading habit, they will grow up becoming avid readers.”

He said since January this year, more than 6,000 school children from different schools across the UAE were bought to the libraries.

The department also plans to restructure the Al Ras Library by adding more tittles, and creating a data base of e-books. The use of public libraries has changed over the years, said Ibrahim. “Libraries still remain a place that people often visit. People, corporates, and government departments still use library halls for training purposes. However the penchant for reading hard cover books belongs to the slightly older generation of people. The young prefer e-books.

“There is a common cliché, where people say that most readers prefer the use of e-books, but there are still so many people who come to our libraries asking for hard copies of books.”

Taking the legacy forward

Nasser bin Ahmed Al Serkal, a student of American University of Sharjah, and great grandson of Nasser bin Abdullatif Al Serkal (1917- 1990) — another founding patron of the public library — is taking the legacy of book-loving forward.

“I am currently writing a book about my family and hope to get it published in the next two-three years. I would like people to know about my great grandfather’s contributions and the hard work he has put into building Dubai. Back in the day, education was a privilege and very few members of the community had libraries at home. Things have changed so much since then,” said Nasser.

“My great grandfather was the first man to publish a telephone directory in the UAE in 1961. He was a self-made man and even learnt English on his own,” he added. His contributions are noted in the establishment of National Bank of Dubai, a telephone company, and the Dubai Municipality.

According to Nasser, there are still small groups of people who love reading, but the habit of visiting libraries has definitely taken a backseat. “My family loved and continues to love books. Though there is a decreasing interest in libraries, the interest in the reading habit and books in general is not going to die out any time soon.”

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