Knowledge without Borders: A recap of milestones achieved in the first half of 2017

Knowledge without Borders (KwB), the Sharjah-based cultural initiative, is entering its tenth year of operations, with its pace of achievements continuing unabated throughout the first half of this year. Since its inception in 2008, the initiative – which seeks to promote reading as a noble habit among the Emirati community – has successfully conceived and delivered initiatives designed to encourage engagement with books, with its ultimate aim being to build a knowledge-based and progressive society.

So far, 2017 has seen KwB participate in an array of local and international events to further its mission. Supporting artistic and literature endeavours locally, the initiative organised a series of sessions at the fifth edition of the Sharjah Children Biennial and arranged a number of recreational and educational workshops at both the 27th Abu Dhabi International Book Fair and the ninth edition of the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival.

In line with the UAE’s Year of Giving 2017, KwB organised an event titled ‘A Coffee and a Book,’ which featured a coffee booth where participants could read. All proceeds generated from the activity went to the humanitarian organisation ‘The Big Heart Foundation,’ which is also based in Sharjah. Celebrating physical activity on the occasion of UAE National Sports Day, KwB hosted a sporting and cultural event titled ‘Reading and Sports.’ Featuring two exercise machines equipped with tablets, the activity enabled users to keep fit while reading a title available from KwB’s digital library.

Venturing further afield as part of its ongoing mission this year, KwB took part at ITB Berlin 2017, the world’s leading travel trade show, where it showcased its rich creative experience with the fair’s visitors and educated them on Emirati and Arabic culture. Its presence included highlighting its efforts aimed at promoting and instilling a love of reading among readers and its various projects that support authors.

KwB has continued with its ‘Home Library’ campaign during the first six months of 2017, with the first-of-its-kind global project being the most significant initiative it has undertaken since its inception. To date, Home Library has equipped 42,366 Emirati households in Sharjah with 50-book libraries, distributing a total of 2,118,300 titles. As an adjunct to the activity this year, KwB launched a competition conducted via social media platforms for Emirati households who had received the free home libraries under the scheme. The competition, which aimed to measure the impact of families’ engagement with the books that had been distributed to them, rewarded 20 winners.

KwB has also made impressive strides with its 1001 Titles initiative, which aims to publish 1,001 first edition Emirati titles during 2016–17. The first half of this year saw the project organise a number of workshops, including one designed for publishers to guide them how to balance making a profit with producing titles of great cultural value. The project also launched a consultancy service for publishers, with the aim of providing UAE-based Emirati and Arab publishing houses with legal support and establishing a legal environment to boost the publishing industry in the UAE.

Travelling abroad to promote the ideas behind 1001 Titles, representatives from the initiative participated in the 46th edition of the London Book Fair and the 48th edition of the Cairo International Book Fair. During these events, Majd Al Shehhi, 1001 Titles Manager, conducted talks and discussion panels to showcase the project’s vision and objectives, which have now reached 80 per cent of the overall number of titles that it seeks to publish.

1001 Titles also attended the Bologna Children’s Book Fair with the aim of opening up new channels of communication with international publishers. It sponsored six Emirati publishers to travel to the event and organised a professional programme on the side-lines of the fair to engage Emirati publishers with their international counterparts. The programme discussed effective communication strategies and reviewed how to facilitate access to, as well as the buying and selling of, copyrights.

“Since its inception in 2008, KwB’s significant accomplishments have successfully furthered the great vision of Sharjah’s cultural project, a major component of which is to promote reading among all segments of the Emirati community. Now entering our tenth year, we have continued our efforts to enhance cultural pursuits and to facilitate better access to books for all. We have continued distributing titles as part of our Home Library project and look forward boosting the initiative further through enhancing the array of projects that work to support it, such as 1001 Titles,” said Noura bin Hadiya, Manager of KwB.

KwB was launched in 2008 as an initiative by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah and is closely supervised and supported by Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Head of KwB’s Organising Committee. The initiative seeks to promote a robust culture of reading in every Emirati household by establishing home libraries and supplying them with the best books of various genres that cover areas of knowledge suitable for all family members.