x

Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

High-tech centres added to public school libraries in Dubai and the Northern Emirates

Seven libraries have already been equipped with iPads, 3-D printers and interactive digital tools that promote literacy, independent learning, creative thinking and technical savvy.
Oasha Al Mazrooei, head of learning resources for the Ministry of Education, says that libraries are now becoming LRCs – learning resource centres. Delores Johnson / The National
Oasha Al Mazrooei, head of learning resources for the Ministry of Education, says that libraries are now becoming LRCs – learning resource centres. Delores Johnson / The National

ABU DHABI // Public school libraries in Dubai and the Northern Emirates will have a high-tech, Dh1 million upgrade over the next five years.

Seven libraries have already been equipped with iPads, 3-D printers and interactive digital tools that promote literacy, independent learning, creative thinking and technical savvy.

“The traditional library had books and shelves for books. Now things have changed. Libraries are becoming LRCs – learning resource centres,” said Oasha Al Mazrooei, head of learning resources for the Ministry of Education.

“LRCs are to provide motivation, innovation and creativity, support the curriculum, develop skills of students and instil the culture of reading in schools.”

The ministry plans to convert 24 libraries by September as part of the second phase, which began at the start of the school year.

“Then, as part of the strategic plans for the five coming years, there will be 420 LRCs to be supplied by the Dubai Educational Zone and Northern Emirates,” Ms Al Mazrooei said.

Apart from books, the centres will have 40 iPads, two 3-D printers and a SMALLab learning area, which turns floorspace into a giant touchscreen.

Ms Al Mazrooei told Tuesday’s second annual UAE Libraries Symposium, hosted by Abu Dhabi Municipality, that refitting the libraries with equipment and furniture would cost between Dh750,000 and Dh1 million.

The ministry is also encouraging families to build home libraries, said Dr Ahmed Hafez, the ministry’s senior supervisor of library schools. He oversaw the My Family Reads programme and wrote a booklet on the subject to help families get started.

“The topic of reading in any community starts in the home, with the family,” said Dr Hafez.

“Some families think of the home library as a decor but by establishing a home library or a family library, it will help the reading skills of all the members of the family. The parents are the role models.

“The child will mimic and imitate his parents. If they read, he starts reading. The first source of culture for children is to follow the parents.”

Literacy rates within the UAE are high – 93.8 per cent of the population between the ages of 15 and 64 years of age are literate, says the Unesco Institute for Statistics.

But that shouldn’t diminish the library’s role or the need to promote reading in the community, said Shaikha Al Muhairi, culture and research centre manager at the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority.

“Reading now is a skill for survival,” said Mrs Al Muhairi. “Reading gives you a window into the world. It makes you more human, it makes you understand the world more and appreciate the world more. It gives you a different perspective of life.

“Illiteracy is a problem and it’s very basic, but lack of reading is a different story. It stops us understanding the world.”

Emad Abu Eid, head of public libraries for Abu Dhabi City Municipality and symposium organiser, presented the findings of a survey he conducted on the public’s reading habits and attitudes toward libraries.

Mr Abu Eid said he was surprised by the high number of respondents who said the emirate could use more libraries. It has four public libraries within the city limits.

About 90 per cent said the city needs public libraries, said Mr Eid, adding that the municipality planned to open two this year. They planned to operate 20 libraries within the next 20 years.

The symposium celebrated the UAE’s Year of Reading, given libraries’ historical role “as one of the sustainable institutions that promote the culture of reading, not only for this year but for the future”, Mr Eid said.

rpennington@thenational.ae