The Mohammed Bin Rashid Library will be “a place of wonder” when it opens.
In an exclusive interview with The National at the library’s pavilion at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, Isobel Abulhoul, a board member and chief executive of the Emirates Literature Foundation, says an opening date for the library will be announced soon, but that the waiting won't go on much longer.
The building is located on the banks of Dubai Creek in Al Jaddaf and shaped like a bookstand to hold the Quran. Construction began in 2016.
The library spans 54,000 square metres and contains seven thematic sections spread across as many levels.
A 550-capacity indoor theatre and an outdoor amphitheatre will be in place, in addition to a large courtyard with plenty of greenery.
“The outdoor area will be developed as time goes on,” Abulhoul says.
“There will be a two-storey cafe which will have a seating area for the cooler months.
“There is a garden with distinct Arabic features, and the amphitheatre will be a marvellous space for outdoor activities.”
Accessibility has been considered, too. Al Jaddaf Metro station is 2.5 kilometres away, so a shuttle service is planned to pick up and drop off library visitors using public transport.
When it comes to its collection, Abulhoul says there are nearly a million physical and digital titles in various languages, in addition to a Treasures exhibition, home to first editions by the likes of William Shakespeare and French playwright Moliere.
A membership scheme will be in place for UAE residents to borrow books.
Overall, Abulhoul says, the library is intended to be a cultural hub for families and book lovers, as well as another stop on the UAE cultural tourist trail.
“The Mohammed Bin Rashid Library will be a tourist destination,” she says.
That sense of occasion, Abulhoul says, will be immediately felt upon entry.
“When you go inside there is this feeling of calm. The design is unbelievable and each part of the library has a different colour scheme,” she says.
“We want this place to be a haven for families, book and study groups and for anyone who wants to be inspired.”
There will be special sections dedicated to children, young adults, geography, science and periodicals, media and visual arts and special collections.
Also expect a cultural programme, as the venue promises to host regional and international authors.
Abulhoul says the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature will host some of its sessions at the new venue next year.
“We cannot wait to have some of our literary events of the highest calibre in this library,” she says.
“What is better than that? Writers and books in this great space. What else could we ask for?”
Abulhoul says the library is a further sign of the UAE's commitment to culture and knowledge.
“It shows how important culture is for human beings and literature is at the heart of that. It helps us to understand the past, ourselves and other countries, cultures and religions.
“The written word is often the start of the most creative processes and it connects us all together.
“I view the UAE literary landscape as similar to a jigsaw puzzle with libraries playing a huge part in the middle of that.”