Sharjah: The House of Wisdom library, which also has a machine to print and bind books on demand within minutes, was inaugurated in Sharjah on Wednesday.
His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah inaugurated the library, located near University City. The new facility celebrates the Sharjah’s yearlong tenure as UNESCO World Book Capital 2019.
The library will be home to 305,000 books, of which 200,000 are in the digital format and 11,000 comprise of books in various languages. The children’s section, ‘The Little Reader’, houses more than 2,000 books, while another section has been set aside for youth with 3,000 titles.
All under one roof
House of Wisdom has 15 lobbies and halls spread across two storeys. It is set on an elevated platform spanning 12,000 square metres. Key spaces bathed in natural light include an expansive lobby, Al Rasheed Hall, Espresso Books, Knowledge Terrace, Wisdom Vault and Al Ma’moun Exhibition; Little Reader, Wisdom Square, Ibn Duraid Reading Area, Al Jazri Lab, Ladies Diwan, the Al Jarhmi Library, and Al Khawarizmi Exhibition.
Developed by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), the library also boasts a fabrication lab with 3D printers to build prototypes of experimental projects and “cutting-edge” technology to print and bind books within minutes. The library’s futuristic suspended private pods for quiet reading and a host of “collaborative community spaces” are designed in a way that promote “academic and non-academic pursuits, social learning and cultural interaction”.
Designed by Foster + Partners, an award-winning architectural firm, House of Wisdom also includes lecture halls, reading lounges, exhibition spaces, a dedicated children’s educational area, a central courtyard, café, restaurant, and outdoor gardens planted with local varieties of fig, ghaf and palm trees.
Following the inauguration, Shaikh Sultan toured the new landmark accompanied by Shaikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, chairperson of Shurooq; Mohammad Obaid Al Zaabi, chairman of the Protocol and Hospitality Department, Marwan Bin Jassim Al Sarkal, executive chairman of Shurooq; and Marwa Obaid Al Aqroubi, director of the House of Wisdom.
The Ruler of Sharjah also viewed the ‘Book espresso machine’ that prints and binds books on demand in minutes, along with the digital self-service station. Continuing his tour, Shaikh Sultan visited the Al Jazari Laboratory (Fabrication Lab), named in honour of inventor Badi Alzaman Al Jazari’s (1136 AD to 1206 AD) scientific contributions to the world. The lab is equipped with “cutting-edge” technologies and “state-of-the-art” 3D printers, laser and vinyl cutting machines, and Computer Numerical Control (CNC) tools that enable users to instantly produce complex shaped objects.
Shaikh Sultan also visited the spaces dedicated to women and children, including the Ladies Diwan, and the children’s library for three to 10-year-olds. The latter offers a variety of seating experiences for children to read, relax or attend workshops and a diverse range of programmes in the fields of innovation, technology, and sustainability, which will be delivered in Arabic and English.
At the House of Wisdom, Dr Shaikh Sultan also toured Iraqi-born, New York-based artist Wafaa Bilal’s major solo exhibition titled ‘168: 01’, showing for the first time in the Arab world. The exhibition is an expression of “the historic loss of a priceless cultural heritage” that occurred when a fire destroyed more than 70,000 books at the library of the College of Fine Arts at University of Baghdad in 2003. The Ruler of Sharjah was briefed on the artist’s exhibit featuring a makeshift library filled with empty white books. Visitors to the exhibition are invited to replace the blank books with real ones to restore the collection of destroyed libraries in Iraqi universities and institutes. The donated books will be dedicated to the libraries of universities in Baghdad, Mosul, Babylon, and the Iraqi National Museum.
Shaikh Sultan also toured a second display of Bilal’s works, ‘The Ashes Series’, a collection of detailed miniature reconstructions of original press photographs which captured the destruction caused by the Iraq War. He stopped at Al Rasheed Hall, a space for hosting seminars, events, and conferences. Dr Shaikh Sultan Al Qasimi concluded his tour with a walk through the landscaped gardens featuring 331 trees of 12 different species, which overlook the Sharjah World Book Capital 2019 monument, ‘The Scroll’ - a 36.5m piece of public art created by British sculptor Gerry Judah, inspired by an ancient scroll design that is representative of a celebration of reading and the power of books to unite people.