NYU Abu Dhabi and National Archives Collaborate to Create an Online Public Library of Historic Arabic-Language Materials

Arabic Collections Online to offer 20,000 digitized historic books in Arabic for global users

Press Release

The National Archives has joined with NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) and six major universities to digitize its holdings of historic Arabic language materials to Arabic Collections Online (ACO), an Arabic digital library freely available to the public at dlib.nyu.edu/aco.

ACO, an open-access initiative sponsored by NYUAD, has set a goal of reaching 20,000 digitized Arabic books provided free of cost to a global audience.  ACO is sponsored by NYUAD in partnership with Columbia, Cornell, Princeton, American University in Beirut, American University in Cairo, and, now, the National Archives, who will support with the digitization of the materials.

Using state-of-the-art digitization techniques, ACO is preserving thousands of volumes from their partners’ distinguished library collections to provide an online repository of Arabic-language material for the global community. Seeking to preserve Arabic-language resources for future generations, topics covered on ACO range from fiction, poetry, literature, criticism, and culture to society, economics, history, law, biographies, and Islamic studies.

“Many of the aging books in existing library collections are irreplaceable once they succumb to deterioration over time. One such document available through ACO is Aḥādīth al-ṣabāḥ fī al-midhyā’. Published in 1947 and featuring the religious teachings of Sheikh Maḥmūd Shaltūt, the late Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the original book was never reprinted and now exists only in a few libraries,” said Justin Parrott, Librarian for Acquisitions and Middle East Studies at NYUAD.

Director-General of the National Archives Dr. Abdulla Alraisi, noted that NYU Abu Dhabi is partnering with the National Archives on two fronts. The first is the contribution of the institution's books to the online repository of the archive. The second is supporting a five-year project with Arabic Collections Online in concert with the National Archives.

More than half of ACO’s user community reside in Arabic-speaking countries in the Middle East, including Iraq and Syria, two countries that have endured significant conflict and destruction of their libraries and heritage. Other researchers utilize ACO across Europe and North Africa, as well as Russia, Indonesia, South America, and Australia.

ACO is an ongoing initiative that continues to roll out upgrades to improve user interface and features, as well as adding thousands of new digitized books with the goal of reaching 20,000 volumes. Readers can view books in the online digital reader, or download them as high or low-resolution PDF files for off-line viewing at their convenience.

For more information and to access content, please visit the website at dlib.nyu.edu/aco 

About NYU Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and research campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly selective undergraduate curriculum across the disciplines with a world center for advanced research and scholarship. The university enables its students in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and arts to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world and advance cooperation and progress on humanity’s shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi’s high-achieving students have come from over 115 countries and speak over 115 languages. Together, NYU's campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and students opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents.