x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Rethinking libraries

Even in the age of e-readers, conventional libraries need to be around

It will be a sad day for Abu Dhabi when the city’s oldest private library shuts its doors at the end of next month. The Daly Library has been open since 1978, a time when there was a pressing shortage of English language books in the emirate.

Unquestionably, the Abu Dhabi community will lose a little treasure when it closes its doors for the final time. As The National reported yesterday, the library started with around 500 books, but now stocks more than 7,000 titles. These books, together with the library’s cataloguing system and even its shelving units, will be shipped to Addis Ababa and will help stock a similar facility in the Ethiopian capital.

The reason behind the closure is a practical one: in the age of the e-readers, people now use conventional libraries less. But this closure should not spell the beginning of the end for libraries. Far from it. Even if globally the sector has recently suffered some sharp challenges, the best facilities are beginning to adapt, repositioning themselves as information centres and meeting points for the communities they serve. Some libraries have also rethought their book-buying policies to represent undiscovered or underrepresented authors. Those who innovate and adapt will always be relevant, even as eReaders become more popular.