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Bookstores vs digital age: An uphill battle for relevance in Kuwait’s Libraries
October 5, 2018, 5:39 pm
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The ushering of the digital age had resulted in a huge leap in information and data gathering as well as an overall progress for mankind, but before such developments, public libraries and private bookstores where the places to go when one was concerned with knowledge and wisdom.

While public libraries were present in Kuwait since 1923, the current boom in information access through digital platforms had almost forced such facilities to fight an uphill battle for relevance. Providing their input on the issue, a number of librarians and bookstore owners told KUNA that their facilities remain as beacons of knowledge and education despite all the circumstances and challenges.

Official at Al-Faiha Public Library Fatima Al-Arada said that libraries were a huge part of the education process,helping countless knowledge seekers in the past and present to expand their horizon.

The Faiha Public Library and its counterpart in Khalediya area continue to service their purpose despite the digital age, said Al-Arada who indicated that some public libraries, such the one in Aradiya and Kaifan areas, still conduct tours for school students to instill the importance of reading.

She added that the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL) continued to backup public libraries, heeding their calls for development and progression.

Meanwhile, to compensate for the lack of physical material, the Kaifan Public Library began to digitize content to keep up with the current status quo.

Kaifan Library official Huda Al-Humaidan said that publishers were keen on digitizing their products to appeal to the masses.

She affirmed that such step was a necessity to survive nowadays, stressing that the NCCAL and the Ministry of Education should provide more assistance to keep public libraries up-to-date.

Al-Humaidan indicated that the lack of interest in reading was due to the advent of easy and on the go material almost substituting books.

She also blamed the current economic and political happenings in the region for driving people away from seeking books or heading to public libraries.

Libraries and bookstores owned by the private sector did not fare any better, suffering from the dilemmas plaguing their public counterparts.

Razan Al-Marshad, a partner in Sophia bookstore, said that the digital age was the least of the problems facing book lovers in Kuwait, because there were other matters such as censorship that keep dragging down public interest in reading and knowledge.

To have a successful private bookstore, one must have a vast variety of books appealing to every age and gender, said Al-Marshad who indicated that most library costumers in her opinion were among children and females.

Some private libraries and bookstores -- such as (Takween) bookstore owned Bothayna Al-Essa -- were eager to have an extensive database for digitize books.

Having such database, alongside physical books,is not necessary a bad thing because both formats complement each other, said Al-Essa who affirmed that any facility, catering to the needs of knowledge seekers and students, was a welcomed sight in her opinion.

The argument whether the digitalage would kill libraries and bookstores might be subjective according to whom a person asks, however, such facilities seem to withstand the test of time as long as there were enthusiasts willing to open books. 

Source: KUNA

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