The King Abdul-Aziz Public Library (The Arabic Union Catalogue Centre) was established on 13 May 2001 to serve Arab and Islamic libraries and culture. Since its establishment, it has represented a qualitative leap in the history of joint Arab cultural work, given that it is a promising pioneering cultural and artistic enterprise that has contributed to the collection of much Arab cultural content. Through it, people have easy access to books and all sources of information in all the various fields.
The Centre reflects the efforts of the Library to do all it can to enhance Arab and Islamic culture, as a major addition to the sustainable cultural projects adopted by the Library. Its role in this is becoming more prominent as it has taken the lead in going beyond the boundaries of local cultural action to address wider horizons, and enter the fields of regional, continental and international culture through an integrated system of strategic plans, resulting in the dissemination of an internationally oriented Arab culture.
One indication of the success of the Centre in reaching its objectives is that Arabic libraries are racing each other to become members, with membership now reaching about 200. Thousands of libraries in all Arab countries are following it, and the project has been adopted as a government initiative. Posters were published about it and a link was displayed on the web page of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. The Arab Federation for Libraries and Information (AFLI) awarded the Centre the Best National Project in the Arab World Award for its service to Arab libraries in 2009. The Arab Federation for Libraries and Information also awarded the Centre the Federation Award for Outstanding Library Project in Libraries and Information Centres for 2010.
The Centre has many great achievements to its credit. It has recorded most Arab intellectual production in a main database with 3,800,000 entries, which makes it the largest Arabic bibliographic database. The Catalogue comprises the largest electronic file of names with a total of 574,000 entries and the most comprehensive topic index with 354,000 entries. Member libraries have downloaded more than 1,850,000 bibliographic entries from the database, helping them build their own databases and saving them both time and money. One of the Centre’s most important achievements is the construction of national library portals, which are national catalogues for each country. The Centre has so far launched 11 portals, including the following library portals: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Jordan, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Mauritania, Tunisia, and Algeria, in cooperation with national libraries or major university libraries in those countries.
One of the Centre's notable achievements is to bring together the books translated into Arabic into one catalogue with 153,000 entries, and more than 100,000 books. This database changed the statistics monitored by UNESCO with its Translation Spotlight, which counted only 12,000 books translated into Arabic.
The Arabic Union Catalogue has not lost sight of the training of staff in member libraries, holding 387 direct and remote courses, which have benefited more than 31,000 cataloguers working in Arab libraries. The Centre has also created a special search page for manuscripts, with entries exceeding 99,200, and a search page for university theses, with 130,000 entries. The Centre intends to create a unified catalogue of Arabic manuscripts and a unified catalogue of university theses that have been accepted by Arab universities.
In view of the importance of partnerships in discovering the riches of Arabic knowledge, the King Abdul-Aziz Public Library has succeeded in signing a partnership contract with the Online Computer Library Centre. One of its most important conditions is that the International Catalogue Centre will provide the Online Computer Library Centre with 1,200,000 short Arabic entries with a link to them in the Unified Arabic Catalogue database. In the framework of the ongoing development of the Centre as a platform for knowledge services, several initiatives have been implemented, including:
• The Museum Opening Initiative and the Role of the Archives;
• The Free Access Initiative;
• The National Catalogue Support Initiative;
• The Transfer to RDA WAM Databases;
• The Cloud Services Initiative;
• The Arab Innovators Initiative.
This year, the Catalogue also launched the Arabic Union Catalogue Academy to offer training courses and professional development programmes to those working in knowledge institutions in the Arab world.
On July 11, 2009, The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology entrusted the Library with the establishment of the Arab Digital Library, which is one of the projects included in the National Communication and Information Technology Plan under the supervision of the Ministry, which is an important and pioneering project, benefiting from the content of the Arabic Union Catalogue Centre, which represents the infrastructure of this project. The first phase has been completed and the new Library will be inaugurated soon.
The Centre has also established the Arabic Union Catalogue Academy, one of its leading initiatives that represents the crown of its cumulative effort to train and develop human resources in the field of libraries and information. After delivering dozens of training courses, from which thousands of professionals have benefited over more than 10 years, the Centre's management has identified a real need for an integrated professional qualification designed to empower library and information workers with the professional skills they need to take on the burdens of the institutes where they work.
Since most graduates from the Library and Information Departments of Arab universities and some of those working in the information sectors lack the practical experience necessary to practise their profession, in addition to the problem posed by the pace of change in working methods and the tools used in the library and information sectors, the Centre envisages the development of an integrated work system, governed by a clear policy covering the process for retraining new or on-the-job professionals or graduates so that they enter the labour market in any of the information sectors in a highly productive, sustainable and effective manner, able to achieve the objectives of the institutions where they are going to work.
Aware of all these challenges and requirements, the Centre has established an Academy to provide specialized training courses and professional diplomas in various fields of informatics and libraries so as to ensure that trainees have the necessary knowledge and skills. The Academy seeks to:
1. Promote a culture of care for the organization and development of knowledge, and making it available and managing it according to international standards.
2. Provide a specialized training service to beneficiaries, especially those related to the functions of the Unified Arab Catalogue Centre.
3. Raise awareness of the applications of information technology in the areas of knowledge organization and access.
4. Transfer knowledge and keep abreast of the theoretical and applied aspects of information, knowledge, and libraries.
5. Cooperate and exchange expertise in the fields of specialized training with local and international institutions of excellence.
6. Provide knowledge institutions with advisory services and developmental studies in the field of training in the knowledge and information sectors.
The Arabic Catalogue Centre and the Arab Digital Library projects are important tools for bridging the digital divide because of the importance of the services they provide to researchers and beneficiaries, and due to the existence of a large volume of heritage resources in paper form that needs to be processed for preservation and access.
Visit the Website of the Project: www.aruc.org