Puku Onix Project teammate, Melvin Kaabwe, had the honor of visiting the Mohammed Muhammad bin Rashid library in Dubai On the eve of the Sharjah International book national book fair and was inspired to find this gentle fountain of knowledge rising out like a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of Dubai.
The library is an architectural and technological marvel for visitors and booklovers built to ignite the imagination.

View of MbR Library from Train platform
View of MbR Library in Dubai from train platform looks like an upturned book


Rising out of the desert as a fountain of knowledge, the building is designed to resemble an open book towards the sky whilst simultaneously in keeping with the themes of voyaging by ship which are a prominent feature of most magnificent buildings Dubai. Perched on the banks of the Dubai creek, the Library is a confluence of ancient knowledge, modern technology and the power of books to take one on a journey anywhere in the mind. There are various accessibility options using multimedia displays and augmented reality (AR) particularly for children to be encouraged on their journey to develop a love of reading organically.

Free ticketing at the door is done by an online booking service tablet.
As one steps into the library concourse, there is an AR experience that puts one into an epic space adventure story together with resident astronauts on an interplanetary mission just as a start!

AR Interactive display
Interactive AR display at MbR Library

One user-friendly approach for the MbR library is using augmented reality at various patron touch-points in showcasing what the library has to offer. Patrons can use interactive information kiosks that are set out as 3D renders of the library one can manipulate with their fingers to scroll, flip, stretch, pinch and zoom to navigate the library.

 

No books are kept on the shelves to be taken out! Patrons do not need to pull out Books. Most books on the shelves are just for showing exemplars of whichever genre is catalogued.
Library patrons can instead request any title out of the more than 4 million books (including e-books and audio books) available by simply typing out the book name or other search criteria in a search bar on one of the information kiosks or

requesting it from the librarian. A complex system of conveyor belts and space showing shelving shelving then we’ll get the book and bring it to you.

Interactive display
Interactive display at MbR Library General section


So the issuing of books as well as the returns is completely self-service.
All of these library services are possible because of the standardized usage of book data particularly metadata which Puku is prioritizing for the easier discovery of books in our local Southern African languages.
Copying excerpts of books directly to USB storage device as document or image format is available with an automated page-turning camera scanner device. The device is programmed to ask the user to acknowledge the copyright implications for any book copied and to accept the consequences of copyright infringement before proceeding.
For children there is a dedicated section This section has popular titles for children but is the only place in the library which has a level of joyful energy and excitement you can feel and hear aloud unlike most “shhhh” libraries. The children’s section is lively laid out with pods for individual reading as well as a common indoor obstacle course area with slides, climbing nets, bridging etc for play. Children are encouraged to read with ‘Pepper’ a robot friend.

Pepper the Robot
Pepper the robot reader inside the kid’s library section at MbR Library


Pepper can read to the children as well as give them suggestions, call for a an authority figure and verbalize other types of information. On the upper floors, older children (young adults) such as school going teens and young adults have access access to private study carrels where they can do their assignments from school as well as other research or contribute in study groups at groupwork tables.
Individual desks and long tables with glare-free eco friendly smart-lighting are installed throughout the library and pause areas.
Other designated sections of the library include a dedicated periodicals section for newspapers, journals, magazines and such. Then as one would expect based on the Emirates great history of nautical prowess, there is a specific maps/atlas and lastly a media section.
In each section, a digital screen showcases the most popular book available for patrons based on borrowing statistics. It displays the book cover content, synopsis and availability in an eye-catching way that is reminiscent of an attractive retail window display.
There are conference rooms conference rooms available on the upper floors as well. Towards the rear of an exhibition space which is currently showing showing modern art.
While simultaneously on the way to the view outside of the Dubai Creek, there is a beautiful exhibition of Arabic calligraphy on framed portraits of the words as poems or scripture extracts.

Immersive e-Reader
An immersive e-reader device at MbR Library

In another path to the creek is an immersive interactive e-book desk counter that animates a selection of titles accessed via an RFID / NFC tile that displays the content on a rap around screen with 3D capable sound. A user controls page-turning and magnification of the illustrations with a simple dial.
As one walks into the rear garden there is a multicolored installation of pillars adorned by sayings of his Royal Highness. These plinth like structures are shards of knowledge spouting the Ruler’s wisdom in languages from around the globe.

HRH MbR Sayings in isiXhosa
A plinth in the Library gardens displays HRH MbR sayings in isiXhosa

Puku was impressed to see South African languages including Tsonga, Setswana and isiXhosa well represented in translation from the Arabic script.
Puku has been a champion for indigenous languages via isiXhosa festivals and other activities in Southern Africa, it was a distinct experience to see visualized in such a creative manner. This impressive library gives us a glimpse of what is possible to promote children’s books responsibly and with a view to ensure the posterity of our languages into the future given the right techniques and standards for book information now.