18 Apr 2018 – 14:26

QNL: A blend of culture and technology

Machaille Al-Naimi, President of Community Development, QF.

By Fazeena Saleem | The Peninsula

Qatar National Library (QNL) has created an environment in a culturally and technologically superior setting to serve every segment of the community. It also compliments three core pillars of the Qatar Foundation (QF) — education, research and community development, says Machaille Al-Naimi, President of Community Development, QF.

“The QNL is the first national library to open in the 21st century, it is a historical moment for Qatar and for the region. It will cater everyone and be a centre place where you bring in  every segment of the community,” she told The Peninsula.

The collection at QNL has been carefully selected by leading experts and librarians to respond to the needs of library users in Qatar. QNL aims to cater for everyone’s needs, whether reading for leisure, study, career advancement or research.

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The main collection features literature spanning an array of subjects and genres, including Arabic, English and other 20 languages.

“Beauty of the QNL is variety of  languages that we offer and the wide range of subjects. QNL’s collection covers all areas of knowledge, including religion, linguistics, cookery, fiction, history, arts and sciences.  You have books to fit any group of readers like children, youth, adults and student researchers,” said  Al-Naimi.

“Since the soft opening in 2017,  around 30 percent of the books have been borrowed which shows the hunger and need of our society,” she added.

The library’s vision is bridging with knowledge Qatar’s heritage and future. This demonstrates the significant role QNL will play in unlocking human potential as Qatar builds a knowledge-based economy.

“Through everything we do aim at empowering the next generation. We seek to unlock the potential, by giving the tools on how to be empowered and knowledgeable. Education is key to everything, without it you can’t make informed decisions or get involved in dialogues. Here QNL plays a major role in education, research and community development,” said  Al-Naimi.

“The library is designed in such a way that it connects from past to the future. It has a Heritage Library demonstrating the  past and takes to the future with the Digital Library, advanced technology and innovative facilities,” Al-Naimi said.

The heart of QNL, the Heritage Library, comprises some of the rarest and most valuable books and manuscripts related to Arabic and Islamic civilization.

“QNL’s design places the Heritage Library at its foundation, reflecting the importance of this collection and emphasizing the connection between the past, present and future. The Heritage Library is unique in the Arab world, as it offers access to its entire collection to researchers and the public in order to promote cultural understanding,” said Al-Naimi.

The Heritage Library is in the process of being digitized and made available online. The Digitization Center is a state-of-the-art facility that digitizes content in all formats — either from QNL’s Heritage Library or acquired from other institutions — and makes it available online.

“The Heritage Library is complemented by one of the most modern preservation and conservation laboratories in the world, which takes care of its valuable collection using the latest technologies,” said Al-Naimi.

Qatar Digital Library,  a world-class online portal, provides users with free access to the world’s largest collection of archival records relating to Qatari and Middle Eastern history as well as a significant collection of medieval Arabic scientific and medical manuscripts.

QDL is the outcome of a joint project known as the British Library-Qatar Foundation Partnership, which is managed by QNL. QDL supports QNL’s mission to spread knowledge, nurture imagination, cultivate creativity, and preserve the nation’s heritage for the future. The digitized materials on QDL support historical research by scholars, students and the general public in Qatar and around the world.

“Having access to such a vast base of information for free, unlike other libraries is commendable. If you look at the amount of research being done in Qatar after opening of the digital library it has increased thrice than before.  It’s a great achievement within a short span of time,” said  Al-Naimi.

Besides collections and different sections of the library, the building has been designed in a unique way. The main interior space is designed to allow a precise amount of daylight to enter and maintain a connection to the world outside.

“Daylight filters through the glass façade, providing natural light that is conducive to reading and socializing,” said Al-Naimi.

The location of QNL was chosen to complement its surroundings. The site is located between Weill Cornell Medical College and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. Qatar Foundation Headquarters is situated behind the medical college. All of these buildings share an architectural affinity, featuring white concrete in an orthogonal-shaped footprint.

QNL’s bookshelves are designed to be an integral part of the building itself, rising out of the floor, so that the books form the centerpiece of the Library.

“The design also underscores the high value of books and knowledge,” said Al-Naimi.

A blend of classical materials, such as marble for the Heritage Library; and modern materials, such as stainless steel for the other collections, have been utilized to great effect throughout the interior.

“Along with the use of differentiated columns, these elements combine to emphasize one of the library’s core themes —the progression of knowledge from the past to the present,” said Al-Naimi.

QNL also hosts events for every audience, such as literacy workshops for parents, training sessions on how to use the freely offered online databases, cultural programs, children’s events, and personal development and capacity building workshops.

QNL has a state-of-the-art Innovation Station, which provides dedicated spaces with access to 3D printing and scanning equipment, an audio and video recording studio, a photography room with equipment for digital design, musical instruments, virtual reality accessories, do-it-yourself (DIY) electronics, and much more.

“We hope more people to get engaged with QNL: We want them to see beyond a library and  a centre for the community that people can come in and enjoy,” said Al-Naimi.