One of Dubai’s oldest libraries reopened on Wednesday after its former home shut down four months ago.
There were fears that the Old Library, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next year, would have to close indefinitely when the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre shut its doors in the Mall of the Emirates in July.
The oldest continuously operating English-language library in the UAE went on hiatus earlier this year.
But an agreement was reached with Emaar to move it to a new 153.3-square-metre building in Dubai’s Gold and Diamond Park.
Michele Sadoon, vice chairwoman of the Old Library, is delighted that it is back up and running.
“We were really lucky with Emaar offering us a new place,” Ms Sadoon said. “It was a bit of an adventure to get to this point and we are really excited about it.”
Not having a place to store thousands of books presented a unique challenge.
“We have 26,000 books and what usually happens is that half of those books are out on loan, but that wasn’t the case when we had to find a new home,” Ms Sadoon said.
The Old Library opened its doors in 1969, two years before the UAE’s Federation, as the Dubai Lending Library. Its shelves were stocked with books donated by a patroness in London.
Over the years, its holdings continued to grow as residents and businesses donated books.
Eventually the library introduced a small borrowing fee and used the earnings to buy more books. As the number of volumes grew, the library moved homes several times.
The community of Emirati and resident readers that formed around it followed it faithfully wherever it went and it was supported by a 50 volunteers.
Ms Sadoon said the library, which has more than 2,000 members, had no concerns about losing members. “We were inundated with emails and messages from members asking, ‘When are you opening?’” she said. “We were being messaged by parents as well, telling us their children missed the library.”
As compensation for cutting off dedicated readers, the library reimbursed members for the four months’ closure.
“They were very happy with that,” Ms Sadoon said. “I was amazed about how faithful the members have been and how much support they have for us.”
The library’s volunteers were also relentless in their support.
“They kept asking, ‘When are we opening again?’ and we even had the roster all ready for the reopening,” Ms Sadoon said. The annual Dh200 fee allows members to borrow up to eight books at a time for a month.
Ms Sadoon said it was crucial for culture in Dubai that the library reopened.
“With all respect to the likes of Kindles, I think books are very important,” she said. “They are especially important for children. We had parents telling us they really missed the facility during the summer months.
“Books are vital for the development of children but they are important for adults, too.”
Ms Sadoon could not be happier with the library’s new location off Sheikh Zayed Road. “We are really close to the First Gulf Bank Metro station and it is a perfect location for people to be easily able to find us.”