If you’re a book lover in Dubai, what are your options? If you’re looking for a way to read without repeated demands on your pocket, or the assistance of an electronic device, then you must get yourself a membership in Dubai’s oldest and best library, called – but of course – The Old Library. Located in the Mall of the Emirates, the library is tucked away in an annex off the second level, next to the performing arts centre, DUCTAC.
They say the pursuit of knowledge is hard. With my terrible sense of orientation, finding The Old Library wasn’t all that easy either. It did take me twenty-odd minutes of walking and many wrong turns, the first time I visited. Luckily, there are helpful security guards in every corner of the Mall, and they’ll direct you to the correct escalator, next to the Fashion Dome.
Walking past the Gallianos, the Bottega Venetas and the Marc Jacobs, you’ll arrive at the corridor that leads past the washrooms and out into the sunlit annex, which has a delightful old world charm that’s in sharp contrast to the glittering modernity inside. Other than DUCTAC and The Old Library, there’s an art shop and picturesque outdoor seating.
Becoming a member at The Old Library is painless. All it takes is 250 AED for the entire year, and you can borrow up to eight books at a time, and keep them for four weeks.
This is far more generous and liberal than many other libraries I have been to. You don’t have to pay rentals for individual books and while they do have fines, they’re the not ruinous sort. Once you show them your ID (Emirates ID in my case) and fill out their – mercifully short and sweet – form, they’ll issue you your library card.
Though the library itself is not huge, the collection is pretty wide ranging. They have sections for fiction, nonfiction, biography, romance, classics, young adults and children. Books are arranged alphabetically using authors’ last names and are quite easy to locate. There’s a MENA section which I plan to explore – it features writing from and about the region. Special books, as their new books are called, are displayed on a rack near the entrance and you’re allowed to take only one of these out at a time.
It’s a good idea to check the online catalogue before you drop in – you’ll be able to figure out if the book you need is available or has been lent out. The staff, like they tell you proudly on their website home page, is made up of volunteers. They are always on hand to hunt down a book you want, or exchange views on your favourite authors. The library is fairly busy; I did notice however that there were more children than adults borrowing books.
So what are the negatives? Practically none. They may not carry every latest release, but it becomes available soon enough. I see from their Facebook page that they buy new titles often. They have few – sometimes single – copies of each book, which means you may have to wait a bit for your turn. But they’ll reserve it for you and you can have first dibs on it when it’s back. Indeed it only reminds me of a time when everything was not available for instant consumption, when a book couldn’t be got at the touch of a finger, or when you couldn’t become an ‘expert’ on any subject merely by googling.
Have you been to The Old Library? What are other good places to buy or borrow books in Dubai?