As remote learning and self-quarantine have become the order of the day, the number of monthly users of NYU Libraries’ Arabic Collections Online, ACO, increased from 50,000 to 350,000 in March. This digital library, a partnership between NYU New York and NYU Abu Dhabi, is a collection of Arabic-language, public-domain content drawn from distinguished libraries around the world and available to anyone with an internet connection. NYU hopes this resource will ease the transition to remote learning for Arabic readers. Users in March were predominately in the Middle East.
For ACO, NYU is coordinating the digitization of Arabic language books from the National Archives of the United Arab Emirates and six leading academic libraries: NYU, Columbia University, Cornell University, Princeton University, American University of Beirut and American University in Cairo.
Originally funded by NYU Abu Dhabi and currently funded by major grants from two private foundations, ACO currently offers nearly 13,000 volumes in more than 7,000 subject categories such as literature, history, law, and Islamic studies, published from the mid-nineteenth century to as late as the 1990s.
“When we began this huge digitization effort, there were relatively few open-access, online resources in Arabic,” said NYU Dean of Libraries H. Austin Booth, “so we always knew ACO would be useful to Arabic-language readers everywhere. Some use it for scholarly research, others for pleasure reading and browsing. We of course did not foresee a time when people around the world would be staying home to such an extent. But we are very glad to be able to offer this wealth of content free to anyone in the world who will find it useful and enjoyable.”
ACO aims to digitize 23,000 volumes from NYU and partner institutions and make them accessible to the public on the ACO website. The project is supported by a USD 1.34 million grant from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, and by a USD 500,000 grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.
NYU’s Digital Library Technology Services developed and manages the on-line interface, a web portal accessible around the world.