PROLOGUE


A long time ago, the United Arab Emirates existed as seven separate sheikdoms scattered along the Arabian Gulf, known then to the British, as the “Pirate Coast” due to the prevailing maritime unrest.  During the 19th century, the sheikdoms permanently allied themselves with the United Kingdom through a series of treaties. The General Maritime Treaty of 1820, was the first and this truce lead to close ties with Britain.

In 1853 the Perpetual Treaty of Maritime Peace was signed and the coastal sheikdoms officially became a British Protectorate called the Trucial States. This  arrangement lasted for more than 100 years, during which time Britain supplied troops to provide protection, prevent smuggling and deal with any tribal or border disputes.

THE JOURNEY


It all began with a box of yo-yos……

In 1969, a battalion of Scots Guards was stationed at the British Royal Air Force (RAF) base in Sharjah. The United Kingdom had already declared its intention to withdraw from the Gulf. The Trucial States were coming to an end.  One day a young officer wrote a letter to his grandmother, Lady Verney of Eaton Square London. He mentioned how they were all bored to tears as there was so little for them to do now that British military operation was winding down.  Without delay Lady Verney took a trip to Harrods, purchased a dozen yo-yos and dispatched them to her grandson.  Alas this was not what he expected!

However, it did give him an idea.  Why not gift them to Sharjah English Speaking School for the pupils to enjoy.  He duly delivered the yo-yos to the Headmistress who distributed them amongst the children and encouraged them to write thank you letters to Lady Verney.  She was delighted! Their gesture prompted Lady Verney to send her collection of books to the school, as she was becoming blind and no longer had the ability to read.  But the books were too advanced for the school’s level and a new home had to be found for them.

Now at that time there was a Political Agent appointed by the British Government to be their representative in Dubai. His name was Sir Julian Bullard and at his residence he had a room already furnished as a Library. He agreed to become the custodian of the collection. Lady Verney’s books found their way as 2 parcels filling 3 shelves, placed alongside paper backs left behind by those going home after working offshore on the Gulf oil rigs. It was Sir Julian’s wife, Lady Margaret, who had the idea of the books being borrowed. By charging a nominal fee per book loan, funds could then be raised to pay for more stock. Word soon got around and Dubai Lending Library was born.

To make access easier, a move to the nearby office of the Political Agent was agreed upon. Everyone who visited was given a cup of Arabic coffee. Books were ordered from England and flown in by the RAF to their base in Sharjah.

Two years later, in 1971, the sheikdoms joined together to become the United Arab Emirates. The days of the British Protectorate were over and this brought to an end the free air transportation of book orders. Ships became the next option and stock began making its way by sea, a long process from start to finish. By then, the British Embassy in Dubai had been established and offered assistance when necessary. The Library quickly outgrew its premises and as a stop gap moved into space above a supermarket in Karama before settling in Satwa.

In the 1980’s, rising rents and eviction threats saw the Library come close to folding but the loyal volunteers doggedly searched for a ‘forever home”. Portacabins twice brought the Library back from the brink during this precarious period. The first one came courtesy of the local church at their compound in Bur Dubai. During the library’s time there, its name was changed to Community Centre Lending Library.  The second one was erected within the grounds of the Dubai International Arts Centre on the Beach Road Jumeirah. It was at this point that the original name, Dubai Lending Library, was reinstated.

The library flourished there in what would become its longest sojourn; into the 1990’s, embracing the Millennium and in due course a new name “The Old Library”. But soon the clock began to countdown for a different reason….

This oasis of literature was shaken by news that the land of the library was to be reclaimed as part of a development scheme for a new look Jumeirah Beach Road. Would this be the end of the road for The Old Library?

As if by magic, Majid Al Futtaim came to the rescue with his new project Mall of the Emirates where, in time, shops ski slope and penguins would be living side by side. At the suggestion of Mr. Brian Wilkie, a British expatriate and staunch supporter of culture in the community, a Theatre and Arts Centre was added and it was agreed that The Old Library could be included. Until that happened, the library needed to find a place to go. Undeterred the volunteers reached out and in 2004 a kindly soul, sympathetic to the Old Library’s cause, offered a villa at an affordable rent in Umm Suqeim. With great enthusiasm they transformed the rooms and resided comfortably for 2 years until 2006 when the grand move to Mall of the Emirates took place. The Old Library settled into a spacious suite alongside the Dubai Community Theatre and Art Centre – DUCTAC for short.

2007 brought a fanfare official opening ceremony of the community complex in the presence of local dignitaries. In these splendid surroundings, the Library grew from strength to strength. More members, more volunteers, more books and at long last a computer system. Adopting “ALICE” was the first foray into library software.

2009 arrived marking 4 decades since a box of yo yos inspired a library. To mark this milestone, celebrations were organised. The icing on the cake of The Old Library’s 40th Anniversary, was a garden party hosted by the British Consul General in the grounds of his official residence. Having survived against all the odds, it was significant that the event should be held at a place linked to the origins of The Old Library and career of Sir Julian Bullard.

The Old Library enjoyed many more years serving the community from its prime location until the shock announcement in 2018 that DUCTAC could no longer be accommodated at the Mall of the Emirates. After 49 years was this the final curtain for the Old Library?

It came to pass that a new performance was waiting in the wings, orchestrated by the loyal band of volunteers who steadfastly sought a solution. A matter of months and a hop skip and a jump brought a sparkling new location. Like the proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes the Old Library emerged shining as brightly as a jewel in a crown at the Dubai Gold and Diamond Park, thus allowing a significant anniversary to be reached the following year…2019.

50 YEARS OF SERVICE


From its humble beginnings in 1969, The Old Library has grown from one box of yo-yos, 2 parcels of books, and three shelves to a collection of over 25,000 books. It started its journey in a small trading post and now resides in a park filled with gold, diamonds, and the ultimate treasure, books.   

THE JOURNEY


1969

A battalion of Scots Guards is stationed at the British Royal Air Force (RAF) base in Sharjah. A young officer writes to his grandmother, Lady Verney of Eaton Square London. He mentions how they are all bored to tears as there isn’t much for them to do now that the British military presence is winding down.

Lady Verney takes a trip to Harrods, purchases a dozen yo-yos and sends them to her grandson. [Not what he was looking for :)]

He gifts them to the Sharjah English Speaking School. The children are delighted with their toys. They write thank you letters to Lady Verney who is thrilled. This prompts Lady Verney to send her collection of books to the school, but the books are too advanced for the pupils. The Political Agent, Sir Julian Bullard, based in Dubai agrees to become custodian of the collection.

Lady Verney’s books find their way as 2 parcels filling 3 shelves, and are placed alongside paper backs left behind by those going home after working offshore on the Gulf oil rigs.

Lady Margaret, Sir Julian’s wife, has the idea of starting a library and the Dubai Lending Library begins.

The Library is moved to the Commercial Offices of the Political Agent. Books are ordered from England and flown in by the RAF to their base in Sharjah.

1971

The Sheikhdoms come together and the United Arab Emirates is formed. The Library goes on the move to seek affordable roomier premises; sources space above a supermarket in Karama as a stop gap, secures a sojourn in Satwa.

1980-1990s

In the 1980s rising rents and eviction threats almost close the Library but loyal volunteers keep searching for a ‘forever home’. Portacabins twice bring the Library back from the brink during this precarious period. The first one is courtesy of the Holy Trinity Church at their compound in Bur Dubai. During the library’s time there, its name is changed to Community Centre Lending Library. The second one within the grounds of the Dubai International Arts Centre on the Beach Road Jumeirah. The Library flourished there and is eventually renamed “The Old Library” to celebrate its tenacity.

2000 – 2006

The Jumeirah Beach Road location of the Library is reclaimed as part of a new development and the hunt for new premises starts again. Majid Al Futtaim comes to the rescue with a new project; a Theatre and Arts Centre is added and it is agreed that The Old Library can be included.

Until the construction Mall of the Emirates is completed, the Library finds a temporary home in a villa in Umm Suqeim.  In 2006, the Library moves to the Mall of the Emirates and settles into a spacious suite alongside the Dubai Community Theatre & Arts Centre (DUCTAC).

2019

In 2018 MoE announces that DUCTAC will no longer be accommodated there. The volunteers again work hard towards finding a solution and in 2019 a new chapter begins at the Gold & Diamond Park allowing the Library to reach it’s 50th anniversary!

 

50 YEARS OF SERVICE


From its humble beginnings in 1969, The Old Library has grown from one box of yo-yos, 2 parcels of books, and three shelves to a collection of over 25,000 books. It started its journey in a small trading post and now resides in a park filled with gold, diamonds, and the ultimate treasure, books.