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A new chapter in nation's progress

His Majesty King Hamad will officially open the BD20 million Shaikh Isa Cultural Centre and National Library in Juffair this afternoon as part of the ongoing National Day and Accession Day festivities.

His Majesty and other leaders will be received by Supreme Islamic Council chairman and the centre's board of trustees chairman Shaikh Abdulla bin Khalid Al Khalifa.

The landmark cultural edifice, the biggest of its kind in the GCC, is a tribute to the late Amir His Highness Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa.

Affiliated with the Royal Court, the centre will offer readers and researchers a wide range of books in all fields of human knowledge.

It will also host cultural and scientific activities, exhibitions, conferences and forums.

Arab and Islamic civilisation and Bahrains deep-rooted rich heritage will also be a key concern.

The colossal centre will also promote dialogue between cultures and civilisations and encourage intellectual creativity.

The state-of-the-art library will be a major source of knowledge for academic staff and students enrolled at colleges, institutes and universities.

The library has a collection of over 75,000 books which would eventually be increased to 250,000, said the National Library director Dr Mansoor Sarhan.

The Manama Public Library in Gudaibiya has already been closed and thousands of books from the library had been moved to their new home as early as July last year.

Dr Sarhan said that the library was equipped with a view to making it one of the most advanced public libraries in the region.

Two halls on the centre's ground floor are for general books, reference books and periodicals.

One of the halls on the first floor is for national publications, including 4,400 books written by Bahrainis, said Dr Sarhan.

Also, there are copies of 2,200 theses, published by Bahrainis for their Masters and Ph Ds.

The new library has four large reading halls with Bluetooth connectivity.

The halls will have books including literature, philosophy, history, reference, national publications, 3,000 foreign books and 13,000 United Nations publications.

It will be equipped with a national e-network, interconnected, in its turn, with other leading libraries and databases in the world.

It will also be equipped with booths ensuring instant translation services in 14 different languages.

A series of other sub-halls would be used to host delegations holding committee meetings.

Other venues also include halls for artistic and plastic art shows.

The centre will also host the general-secretariat in charge of the Isa bin Salman Award for humanities in addition to a section for historical documents.

Apart from initiating academic events, the centre will also acquire studies, researches, periodicals and manuscripts relating to Bahraini culture and Arab and Islamic civilisation.

His Majesty laid the foundation stone for the project on December 26, 2001, dedicating the landmark centre to the late Shaikh Isa for promoting science and knowledge in his lifetime.

One of the greatest attractions of the complex is a Children's Library that will offer a wide selection of subjects, stored in over 8,000 books.

"Initially, it will have 5,000 children's books. Our mission is to encourage reading among children," said Dr Sarhan.

There is an audio-visual library and a music library, with special emphasis on classical music, said Dr Sarhan.

"There is also an electronic library equipped with 24 computers, which will prove a great boon to researchers," he added.

"They can use their laptops in cubicles specifically designed for researchers.

"The area is equipped with wireless Internet facilities and connections to other libraries worldwide."

The library also has teleconference facilities and will be managed by 54 qualified Bahraini staff, said Dr Sarhan.

There is also an electronic library that will store CDs of books and periodicals.

"There is a music library with albums and musical instruments, as well as an audiovisual library," he revealed.

"We are also offering special services to disabled people.

"Blind people will be trained in the Braille system."

The library has a mini-conference and cultural hall, which can seat 400 people. It will be used to host lectures, conferences and forums.

Meanwhile, a high-tech conference hall that can accommodate more than 1,000 participants will be used to host global conferences and other key events.

Among the donors, Alba has offered financial support to the library.

Board chairman Mahmood Al Kooheji presented the cheque to the project's national committee chairman and Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs chairman Shaikh Abdulla bin Khalid Al Khalifa.

"Alba is firmly committed to supporting national projects that helps the local community," said Mr Al Kooheji.

"The project is very important to Bahrain, as it has a great architectural and educational value with its different facilities."

Shaikh Abdulla thanked Alba for its contribution to "an outstanding monument in memory of the late Amir".



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