Abu Dhabi: New York University Libraries received a grant of $500,000 (Dh1.83 million) from the philanthropic foundation Carnegie Corporation of New York to support Arabic Collections Online (ACO), a major project to create a publicly available, digital library of public-domain Arabic language content, it was announced on Sunday.

The ACO aims to digitise 23,000 volumes from the New York University and partner institutions and make them accessible to the public on its website. The ACO is a partnership between New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) and NYU New York and it was launched in 2013 with funding from NYUAD.

To date, nearly 8,200 volumes have been posted to the site, covering more than 5,000 subjects; 2,000 more have been digitised and are in process of being posted. The NYU’s Digital Library Technology Services has developed and manages the online interface, a web portal accessible around the world. The NYU expects to reach its 23,000-volume goal by the end of 2020.

“Arabic Collections Online has become extremely popular in the Middle East, where access to libraries, especially outside of major cities, can be difficult,” said Ginny Danielson, head of the NYUAD library.

The NYU is coordinating the digitisation of Arabic language books from six leading academic libraries: NYU, Columbia University, Cornell University, Princeton University, American University of Beirut (AUB), and American University in Cairo (AUC). The books encompass fiction, poetry, literature, criticism, culture and society, economics, history, law, biography, and Arabic language and grammar.

The books — all in the public domain — range in date from very early materials to imprints as late as the 1990s. Many of the older books are rare or fragile, and nearly all are out of print. ACO ensures that their content is saved digitally for future generations.

“We are so proud that the work of ACO has been recognised with philanthropic support from Carnegie Corporation of New York, which has been a funder of numerous digitisation projects aimed at improving access to scholarly resources,” said Carol A. Mandel, dean of libraries. “This generous grant is helping us bring great library collections of Arabic materials to a wide audience, free to anyone, anywhere, with an internet connection.”

Key audiences for ACO include universities with Arabic programmes worldwide, secondary educational institutions in the Middle East, and readers of Arabic everywhere. Users span the globe, including China, Vietnam, and Iceland, but currently more than 80 per cent are in the Middle East.