Qatar National Library with over one million books opens today
07 Nov 2017 - 13:14
By Fazeena Saleem / The Peninsula
Residents in Qatar will be able to access over one million books and rare texts and manuscripts free of cost now, as the Qatar National Library will open its doors for the public from today. Arguably the largest library in the world to be opened in the 21st century, it is spread over an area of 45,000 square-metre and has a collection of books in around 20 languages.
The library, which offers free membership available with a Qatari ID, has a rare heritage collection of texts and manuscripts related to Arabic and Islamic civilisation.
Located at Qatar Foundation’s (QF) Education City, the library houses a main collection and has separate sections such as Children’s Library, Teen Library, Heritage Library and other facilities. The facility was announced in 2012 by H H Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of QF.
“The opening of the QNL building is a landmark achievement for the cultural and education landscape in Qatar. QNL is a place where everybody can learn, collaborate, and create,” said Dr Sohair F Wastawy (pictured), Executive Director, QNL yesterday during a media tour of the facility.
The Library collection mainly comprises Arabic and English language texts, but also provides a wide selection of books in other languages. These include French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu, Tagalog, Sinhala, Malayalam, Bengali, Nepali, as well as Russian, Korean, and Chinese, reflecting Qatar’s diverse society.
“Qatar National Library aims at catering everyone in the community. The collection includes books of 17 to 20 languages. Also with time we will bring include new additions to the collection depending on the demand,” said Dr Stuart James Hamilton, Deputy Executive Director, International relations and Communications, QNL.
The rare and unique collection in QNL includes a joint atlas of which only 12 copies are available in the world.
The Heritage Library, located in the centre of the QNL building is one of the most resourceful features. It is designed to resemble an excavation site to match with the nature of the collection. The door is designed with the word Eqra meaning ‘read’ in Arabic.
In addition to Arabic manuscripts, historical maps and globes, scientific instruments and early photography, the Heritage Library also contains writings by travellers who explored the Arabian Gulf region over the centuries.
The collection includes incredible resources, documents and other items relating to the modern history of Qatar, says Aysha Hassan Al Ansari, Head of Heritage Collections at QNL.
The Heritage Library contains medical, pharmacological, and astronomical texts, along with famous works produced by Ibn Sinā and Al Rāzī. It consists of more than 26,000 printed books, 4,000 manuscripts, 70,000 photographs, and 1,200 maps, as well as numerous atlases, globes, traveller’s instruments and extensive archival materials.
Its exhibition area features space to display approximately 300 items, giving visitors the opportunity to learn about the history and culture of Islamic world and Qatar.
While, QNL’s Children’s Library is containing more than 100,000 books in Arabic, English, and other languages. It also includes picture books, chapter books, information books, easy readers, magazines, DVDs, databases, audiobooks, e-books, and e-magazines.
For fostering love of reading from a young age, the Children’s Library will offer early literacy programs and workshops for families to develop reading skills from an early age. It also has educational toys, arts and crafts materials, and innovative learning software, as well as its own team of dedicated librarians.
The Teen Library at QNL, is for visitors aged between 13 to 18 years, and has more than 30,000 books, magazines, computer labs, graphic novels, interactive learning tools, and a specially-tailored events space.
Library’s unique building was designed by renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and is fully accessible to visitors with special needs. It features numerous custom-designed innovations, including an automatic book sorting system, several interactive media walls, and self-check-in and check-out machines that make borrowing books easier for members. Visitors can also utilise individual and group study spaces, computer labs, a writing centre, and Innovation Stations offering a wide variety of creative tools, such as 3D printers and musical instruments.
Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra will perform on the third Thursday of every month starting from January at the library’s 450 seat auditorium. A full range of exhibitions and services will be launched at the official inauguration ceremony in 2018.