The end of this month should see the opening of the Al Safa Art & Design Library, a branch of the Dubai Public Library system. The Art & Design Library was previewed during Art Dubai; the new library is the leading pilot for an initiative to revamp all Dubai Culture’s public libraries, a project that was announced by Dubai Culture’s vice chair Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum back in 2016.
Dubai Culture has big ambitions for the remodelling: “Far beyond a traditional library, Al Safa will serve as a dynamic platform where members of the creative community can meet, create, work, research and read”.
Conventional reading isn’t the main focus, certainly; about 30 percent of the space available in the Al Safa Art & Design Library is devoted to “books and reading spaces”. The remaining 70 percent is given over to “art-related programmes and galleries”. In practice this means the Library will have a good-looking gallery, a “creative space” that sounds like a communal workroom, a number of multi-purpose rooms and work areas, and a dedicated children’s library designed to engage the younger generation with an activity room, a media room, a book room and an interactive digital wall.
The library will have a large collection of books, magazines and other resources for just about every field of art and design. There will also be an interesting-sounding materials library, as well as digital content and databases including a stock images library.
If the acquisitions policy is as good as this implies, the library should be a significant addition to the cultural life of Dubai.
That could be said of the building itself, too. The original Al Safa library dates from the 1980s; the design competition for its refurbishment and expansion was won by the Dubai-based multi-disciplinary design studio Pragma with a proposal that involved wrapping the existing structure with a 5m wide perimeter to add reading lounges, study rooms and galleries. This approach also results in the creation of inner gardens allowing light and ventilation into the inner book stacks and reception areas.