There is so much to say. Summarizing or condensing this experience feels impossible, yet I will try. In 1990, Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop wrote about the idea that books can be “Mirrors, Windows, or Sliding Glass Doors.” Once I stepped foot off the plane in Dubai, it was obvious to me that this concept could also apply to experiences and I wondered where I would find mirrors and where would I find windows?
The United Arab Emirates is a country with a lot of forward-thinking innovation and philosophies amidst a strong connection to tradition and the past. In Dubai, there is a structure known as the Dubai Frame. It was built as a way to connect the past with the future. When you stand on one side and look through the frame, you are looking at old Dubai. When you stand on the other side and look through, you are looking at modern Dubai. I found this structure to be the perfect metaphor for this experience.
We also found ourselves intrigued by the Islamic call to prayers. No matter where we were, walking around in the city, in our hotel room, or in the public library, five times a day we could hear loud and clear the call to prayer being broadcast from the nearest mosque as a reminder to pray. We knew that prayer was a very important part of the Islamic religion yet did not understand how integral it is to daily life until we saw it (or heard it).
The United Arab Emirates prides itself on its commitment to literacy and knowledge. Here is an excerpt from the SIBF’s web site:
“The 38th edition of Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) concluded yesterday (Saturday) after a record turnout of 2.52 million visitors through the 11-day event. Organised by Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) under the Sharjah World Book Capital 2019 theme 'Open Books… Open Minds', the event witnessed participation of Nobel laureates, Booker Prize and Oscar winners, along with 2,000 publishers from 81 countries.”
“On November 7, SIBF set a Guinness World Record for successfully hosting the world’s largest simultaneous book signing ceremony in one location with 1,502 authors from the UAE and beyond signing their own books. SIBF broke the previous record held by Turkey.” https://www.sibf.com/en/newsdetails?itemId=42852
While the Book Fair took place over two weeks, the Sharjah International Library Conference happened for three of those days. Andrea and I presented each day as part of the school library strand throughout the conference. We offered a full-day, pre-conference workshop titled, “Building Empathy Through Your Collection and Curriculum.” I discussed diverse books and Andrea shared her work with augmented and virtual reality. We also presented on “Transforming Your Library” where we shared many ideas in a quick fire format. Finally, I did a short session on Guided Inquiry Design. Andrea and I have lots of experience presenting but we were challenged on how to build a presentation when everything you do and say needs to be translated. We both like to include interactive activities, small group discussions, and exploration time into our presentations. While some of that could work with translators, some of it couldn’t.