ABU DHABI // The emirate is bucking an international trend by opening community libraries rather than closing their doors.
Since the closure of the National Library in January 2010, six libraries have opened in Abu Dhabi and more are in the pipeline.
In Britain, government spending cuts have led to the closure or switch to voluntary operation of more than 150 permanent or mobile libraries. Funding cuts have also affected libraries across the United States.
In June last year, the Pulitzer prize-winning poet Charles Simic said libraries' "slow disappearance is a tragedy, not just for those impoverished towns and cities but for everyone, everywhere, terrified at the thought of a country without libraries".
Al Bateen Children's Library tells a different story, and Yakout Omar is just one parent who makes sure her five children, aged 18 months to 12, are regular visitors.
Ms Omar, 36, a Syrian who has been in the UAE for seven years, is passionate about books and the importance of libraries in an age dominated by technology.
"I hope they will get used to books more than other media. They have iPads at home, desktop, laptops and everything but the relationship with a book is different."
Since 2010 Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority has opened libraries on the Corniche, Al Bateen, Al Nahyan, Mazyad Mall in Mohammed bin Zayed City, Al Bahia and Al Ain.
The UAE and Arabian Gulf Library, which opened on the Corniche in March, is due to move to Khalifa Park because of difficulties with parking, while another is due to open in Al Marfa early next year.
Ms Omar's daughter, Sara Mohamad, 12, said: "In the library there are so many books you can choose. I like books. They are important because they introduce us to new worlds. A book can make you think and let your imagination work."
Fatema Al Tamimi, a children's library specialist, said her library in Al Bateen was busy, with many requests from schools and visits from parents with their children.
She believes books still have a place when it comes to research as the internet is not always reliable.
"Not all of it is authentic and with books you always should go back to the original ones and reference the hard book," she said.
Sheikha Al Muhairi, a manager of library services, was at the recent opening of Al Bahia library.
"This is a neighbourhood library and it's part of the objectives of the municipality and the authority to create libraries across the emirate," she said. "When neighbourhoods are asked about amenities they would like, the library is usually one of the high priorities."
The libraries have mostly English and Arabic books. To borrow, adults have to pay a deposit of Dh400, which they can get back at any time. Under-18s do not have to pay.
"Libraries are like hospitals, clinics, schools, they should be open everywhere," Ms Al Muhairi said. "Previously, Abu Dhabi was small, and having one library was enough, but it's not the same any more."
The libraries in Al Bahia and Khalifa Park are run in conjunction with Abu Dhabi Municipality, with the facility in Al Marfa set up through the Western Region Municipality.