Not just a library…
I got invited to the Media Event the day before the Qatar National Library opened its doors to the public on 7th November 2017. I had heard so much about this building, not least of all from people who were involved in its construction.
To be really honest, if I think of all the things I could be doing with my time, a trip to the library has never featured highly. That’s probably due to my memories of libraries growing up in the UK. They were dark, quiet places. I remember my local library where a scary-looking woman would peer over her glasses, tell you how long you could have the book for before you heard the loud clunk of the date stamp hitting the page. It took a certain kind of person to be a librarian! Libraries seemed boring places to me where everyone had to whisper and be quiet. Even the squeaking of shoes made heads turn and eyes roll. So it really intrigued me how they were ever going to make this place appeal to a generation of young people who live with their smartphones in their hands.
During the tour, it didn’t take long to realise that this was far beyond anything I could have expected from a library.
Encouraging children to read and enjoy being around books and education is one of its key objectives. How would you do that? Make it a place where noise, interaction and fun are not only acceptable, but encouraged.
I kept trying to detach myself from my own experiences, but realised I was brought up in a era where reading books was normal ‘entertainment’. We had little in the form of technology. We had four channels on TV. Even having a telephone at home was a luxury!
Some things I discovered about QNL:
- It has a floor area of 45,000m2
- It has capacity for more than one million books
- Anyone with a Qatari ID can register to become a member of QNL
- It boasts a 120-seat auditorium where they will host talks and concerts
- There is a dedicated teen section for 13-17 year olds with dedicated staff
- The Heritage Library contains more than 4,000 manuscripts
- It has a map printed in Rome dating back to 1478
- Its digital library is free of charge for everyone around the world
Some days later I decided to return with my little friend, six-year old Izabela. If anyone was going to put the facilities to the test, my Izabela would. She is very bright and inquisitive and so I wanted to see how she would take to the place.
She wasn’t too interested in the books to begin with, but she loved the freedom to explore. She peered inquisitively over into the heritage library, explored the café, played on the computers and got involved in anything she could.
Izabela was certainly happy to touch, climb, examine, explore and play
My experience of libraries at the age of six certainly differs from Izabela’s experience at QNL. They have not only provided a space for future generations to fall in love with reading, but are also encouraging their curiosity through engaging with the library’s space and its collection of resources. I hope that Izabela and her generation do grow up with a love of books and that QNL continues with its mission to promote discovery and the nourishment of the human spirit.