DUBAI // A Dh1 billion library in the shape of an open book is expected to open next year.
The Mohammed bin Rashid Library in Al Jaddaf will hold more than 1.5 million volumes, 1 million audio books and 2 million e-books, making it the world’s largest electronic collection and the biggest library in the Arab world.
The project, to open at the end of next year, was announced on Monday by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, at the launch of the Year of Reading, declared for 2016 by President Sheikh Khalifa.
“We want a dynamic library that will reach you before you reach it and which encourages you to start reading from childhood while supporting you as a scientist, researcher or specialist when older,” said Sheikh Mohammed. “The library will be a compound for books, a community for readers and writers, and an association for content, culture and thinkers.”
Overlooking the Dubai Creek, it will preserve Emirati culture, promote the Arabic language, and publish new titles and a contemporary Arabic dictionary, as well as translate 25,000 titles into Arabic.
“The human mind is the centre of development and the book is the tool used to renew the mind. A nation can never grow without a renewed mind and lively, knowledgeable spirit,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
Seven storeys tall and covering 1 million square feet, it will have children’s, Arabic, international, business and media sections to make reading accessible to all.
It will include a centre for conservation and restoration of historical manuscripts, and a museum section displaying rare artefacts from the Maktoum family collection.
Plans were announced to host more than 100 cultural and intellectual events each year in its seminar and conference rooms.
In September last year Sheikh Mohammed launched the Arab Reading Challenge, which encourages 2.5 million students from 20,000 schools in the Arab world to read. The library will be the home to this initiative.
“The Arab world is facing a learning gap,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
The centre will be geared to print and distribute 10 million books in the next few years. The library will also be the headquarters of a Dh2.4 million Arabic Language Award launched by Sheikh Mohammed to help people to embrace their Arab identity.
Construction work has begun for the centre, which will be built to accommodate 2,600 visitors at any time, said Hussain Lootah, director general of Dubai Municipality.
The municipality estimates that 9 million visitors from overseas and across the country will visit the library each year.
“We have started piling work. The real construction work will start in June,” Mr Lootah said. “The whole area will be transformed. The structure is unique and iconic. It is a challenge.”
The learning centre is part of sweeping changes planned in the area. Al Jaddaf station was the last of 20 on the Dubai Metro Green Line that opened in 2014.
There are also plans for a new ferry service to link terminals in Festival City and Al Jaddaf to draw in tourists.