Dubai Culture and Arts Authority announced that its public libraries had won the Excellence Award in the ‘I Know” initiative launched by the Arab Federation for Libraries and Information (AFLI), the largest professional and scientific union for libraries and information In the Arab world. The award honours libraries that engaged with the COVID-19 crisis, their distinguished services, and their interaction with public need during the pandemic.
The AFLI represents public libraries in the Arab world abreast of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, where Dubai Culture had obtained institutional membership and submitted the file of the integrated role played by Dubai public libraries in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Authority also highlighted the work process that was instated, which included the temporary closure of libraries and the organisation of internal virtual workshops for staff members to provide them with health advice and vocational training.
Dubai Culture formed a remote team to deal with library beneficiaries and communicate with the public during the crisis. A schedule of bilingual technical and educational cultural programmes for children and adults was organised and promoted on Instagram, whose Arabic content was reviewed before it was broadcast. Public enquiries were also responded to immediately online or via SMS.
The programmes implemented by the libraries during their temporary closure included a series of innovative activities, like ‘Virus Corner,’ a two-week programme that witnessed the participation of 27 children who were enlightened through reading in the children’s library. On International Children’s Book Day, The hashtag #MyFavouriteBook was used to engage with children to share their favourite books, and cultural information related to books and libraries was broadcast to the public under the title ‘Do you know?’ On World Book Day, Dubai Culture launched a competition to celebrate the love of reading, books, and literature, in which the Authority presented prizes and vouchers to stimulate the public’s passion for reading.
Initiatives during this period also included ‘Telling a Story’ where children book authors were invited to tell a story in an interactive and interesting way, encouraging children to read and maintain their connection to books while they are committed to staying in their homes. At the same time, the Authority supported local writers and promoted them through the ‘Introducing a Writer’ initiative that granted enthusiasts the opportunity to meet a writer and learn about their rich experiences as authors while also exploring their passion for writing. Additionally, there was a weekly ‘Books and Novels’ programme that presented prestigious, award-winning international novels which were translated into movies and became renowned as a result.
Dubai Culture also celebrated many local authors on ‘Emirati Writer’s Day’ through SMS’s and on its Instagram account, in addition to introducing famous international libraries through the ‘Libraries of the World’ programme. On the occasion of International Museum Day, the author Dr Safaa Azmy was hosted to share her interesting story, ‘Adventures in the Museum.’ Additionally, Zayed Humanitarian Day was recognised, and the “#CreateTogether” campaign was launched to encourage talents to present their creations from home in all kinds of creativity.
To consolidate the spirit of volunteering among all segments of society, Dubai Culture launched the ‘Schools of Life’ initiative that aimed to transform the main public libraries in Dubai into integrated cultural centres and platforms for learning, participation, and innovation, contributing to building cultural, artistic, and creative skills for the younger generations.
In order to provide the latest technologies to the public and enhance their experience, Dubai Culture also initiated and updated the Dubai Public Library electronic search system, ‘Symphony,’ that includes managing books on the shelves, indexing the beneficiaries or additional aliases, and supporting the Windows 2016 operating system and MSSQL16, PCLC Connexion’s records. It also updated the list of questions and answers to respond to public enquiries while the libraries were closed.
Commenting on this win, Dr. Hissa Ahmed Binmasoud, Director of Public Libraries Department, said: “We are proud of this honour, which came in appreciation of the role that libraries played in spreading culture and knowledge, enhancing the audience’s interaction and keeping them in touch with writers and reading during the pandemic. The various cultural initiatives and activities also provided customers with effective alternatives through rich, internal, digital content with the valuable contribution of our partners as well as the publication of free links and encouraging their use. “
Dr. Hissa added: “We developed an integrated plan for social media that focused on a variety of content for all to benefit from the various development programmes aimed to help audiences achieve cognitive growth and instil in them the pleasure of reading.”