A personal account by Tony Beale
It started with a portacabin in the back-car park of The Club. How could I resist the aroma of your books? I never thought it would come to this – a spacious, airy library suite with 1,000s of books and DVDs; a reading lounge and study booths and desks connected magically to this wondrous worldwide web!
Now that’s got your attention and apologies for appropriating Hot Chocolate’s inimitable song of 1982! 1982 was a good year for the Beale family, our second daughter Dana was born and we joined The Club. Needless to say, one of the first things we did was to join the venerable Club Library. However, the Club Library story starts earlier than the 1980s. Let me take you on a trip down ‘Club Library Memory Lane.’
Founded in 1962, the existence of a Club library facility is lost in the distant mists of time. Can any founding Club members out there please help fill this gap?
This was the decade when the force of nature known as Monica Hunswick and her band of volunteers, notably Sally Benge and Pat Read, established the Club Library as a sub-section of The Club. In the humble premises of a windowless portacabin, the modern Club Library can trace its roots. The operational running costs of the Library were subsidized by The Club’s main finances and so the Library filled an important role of providing cherished reading material in an otherwise culturally barren landscape while running on a shoestring budget.
The Library continued to be open for only four days a week and was closed at weekends and on public holidays. Yet these intrepid lady volunteers kept the Library going throughout the 1980s and carried the torch for the Library’s future incarnations. I became the only male volunteer librarian in 1986, presumably to stop me from asking so many questions and recommending various books to buy!
The 1990s was a period of transition that saw the Library’s nomadic shifting of premises from a converted beer cellar to the current management offices suite than a stint in the Waterfront Cabin. We had pinned our hopes on being given the old gym (where we are currently and finally homed) – but this took till the next decade to realize. From 1998 onwards, the Library became open seven days a week with Club members employed as paid librarians. Jan, Hilary, Cathy and Sakina were followed by Gill, Vivien and student librarians primarily at weekends.
This decade saw the Library peak at 600+ members and over 1,000 users. We expanded to offer a DVD sub-section to enhance the Library experience. The ‘icing on the cake’ was the relocation of the Club Library to its current premises in 2005 where it continues to provide a quiet haven for any Club member or guest to curl up with a good book, do some private study on their laptop or use one of the Library’s PCs and printer facility while availing of The Club’s Wi-Fi Hotspot.
Given the inherently transient nature of expatriate life in Abu Dhabi, it became increasingly difficult to maintain the standards of Library services without full-time staff operating the facility. I had stayed on as the nominal ‘Senior Librarian’ − an éminence grise overseeing Library operations and deeply involved in ordering books from the UK. However, it was inevitable that the long-term future of the Club Library lay in The Club management fully integrating the Library into its Recreational Department.
Thus, in August 2014 we reluctantly bade goodbye and thank you to Club member librarians Vicki Pincombe, Julieanne Bright, Jill Green and Michelle Loibner (not forgetting the fantastic four-weekend student librarians Paul Mueller, Leya Beidas, Maya Takahashi and Gillian Sandford). The ‘rock’ upon which the Club Library has run since 2014 is the Library Supervisor, Daryl Murillo, ably assisted by Librarian Crizalles Gawat and the merry team of Library Assistants.
Whither the Club Library in the turbulent twenties? The onset and aftermath of Covid-19 have seen more members reach for the comfort of an intriguing book or captivating DVD. Our Library finances are tight as we have not raised Library subscriptions (AED 330 to borrow eight hardbacks and unlimited paperbacks) since January 2014. We strive to order the most popular bestselling books on the market and also to satisfy DVD viewing tastes as best we can. A vital source of revenue is from our sales of surplus books and DVDs. This income really helps us maintain the standards of service that you expect from the Club Library. We hope to see you soon in the Club Library and to engage with us on the expanded Club website. An exciting new chapter begins!
The Club Library