Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, CEO of SBA (2nd L); Eman Bushlaibi, Director of Sharjah Public Libraries; Mansour Al Hassani, Director of Publisher Services at SBA with Tracie D. Hall Executive Director of ALA Image Credit: SBA

Sharjah: As the sole representative of the Arab world at the 2023 edition of the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference and Exhibition, the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) has discussed ways to build and strengthen partnerships with global library professionals in order to stay ahead of ongoing transformations, build industry resilience and ensure sustainable growth of libraries in the Arab region and worldwide.

The world’s largest library event, held in Chicago, Illinois recently, was a meeting point for librarians, educators, authors, publishers, trustees, exhibitors, and special guests from around the world to engage and discuss the latest trends, legislations and policies that are shaping the future of libraries.

The SBA delegation was led by Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, CEO of SBA, who met with Tracie D. Hall Executive Director of ALA, to discuss ways to enhance the synergies and collaboration between the Authority and ALA. Among these discussions, the most important one was on the overarching strategy for the organisation of the upcoming 10th edition of the Sharjah International Library Conference, held annually in collaboration with ALA, which will be organised on the sidelines of the 42nd edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) in November this year.

The international library conference in Sharjah is the only professional event ALA organises outside the US, which testifies to the emirate’s regional and global importance in preserving and propelling the knowledge industry, and in building bridges of constructive communication among library professionals around the world.

Sharjah representing Arab culture and civilisation

Al Ameri also met Dr. Carla Hayden, President of the American Library of Congress, to discuss cooperation opportunities and build on the strengths of Sharjah’s position as a renowned knowledge city and its conscious efforts in activating the role of libraries to achieve inclusive sustainable development, in line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. Dr. Hayden praised the emirate’s efforts in representing Arab and Islamic civilisation in major international cultural events, as well as its prominent and leading contributions in introducing the world to Arab culture.

The delegation discussed the emirate’s initiatives throughout the year, and highlighted to the American publishers how they can participate in SIBF 2023, and Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival. They also introduced the American side to Sharjah Publishing City Free Zone”, the first of its kind in the world. For their part, the American publishers expressed their interest to participate in Sharjah Publishers Conference in Sharjah, which positioned SIBF as the ‘world’s largest book fair’ in terms of buying and selling of copyrights for two-years in a row.

Boosting cross-sectoral efforts

Ahmed Al Ameri said: “SBA returns to this annual conference year after year, owing to its leading role as a nexus for leading international library professionals, knowledge institutions and the publishing industry to boost their efforts and make them more cohesive and future-focused in order to realise their shared goals to continue transforming and reinforcing the role of libraries in social and intellectual growth as well as in sustainable development in the digital age”.

“According to His Highness The Ruler of Sharjah, libraries will continue to serve as a wellspring for human development as long as knowledge and innovation remain the basis for growth. Our discussions with global stakeholders at the ALA Annual Conference have reinforced this belief, as we explored promising new collaboration opportunities with ALA’s senior officials, librarians, businesses, publishing professionals and other ecosystem players — all equally invested in SBA’s goal to achieve inclusive progress and open new windows for sustainable cross-cultural communication with other cultures.”

Surgence of libraries

Eman Bushlaibi, Director of Sharjah Public Libraries, noted: “In the past few years, libraries are experiencing a resurgence of interest and investment, not just in Sharjah but around the world. This means that people want to come back to these vibrant social spaces, and as library professionals, it is our utmost responsibility to continue keeping the libraries at the heart of our communities. Which is why coming together in a global conference like this is so important to share experiences, and more importantly, our knowledge on ways we can work together to succeed in our efforts to maintain the appeal of public libraries as relevant and digitally savvy hubs of knowledge that continue driving the development of conscientious and intellectually responsible societies, generation after generation.”

Key learning

For his part, Mansour Al Hassani, Director of Publisher Services at SBA, said: “We are taking key learning on latest industry transformations and insights on development opportunities back to Sharjah from this global event. Our engagements with global participants were extremely fruitful and we have witnessed strong interest in utilising the platforms, services and regional expansion opportunities SBA and Sharjah provide to the publishing sector and the library ecosystem. They are all excited to join us at the Sharjah International Book Fair this November to explore these prospects.”