The Qatar National Library requires a new building to offer up-to-date services and modern reading facilities to the people, according to a senior official.
Abdulla al-Ansari, the director of the public libraries department, told Gulf Times that the acquisition of a new building, whether on a temporary or permanent basis, is the top priority at the moment, as the current location is hindering the services they can offer.
Al-Ansari, who is also the director of the Doha International Book Fair, said the library currently contains some 280,000 volumes (250,000 Arabic and 30,000 English) of some 70,000 titles, with a further collection of 2,000 manuscripts and 5,000 copies and digital versions of manuscripts as well.
However, according to al-Ansari, the number of people who use the library has diminished over the years.
“Unfortunately the number of people using the library is decreasing because of the popularity of technology which makes it possible to access much of the information they require at their home.”
Despite the decreasing number of users, the library continues to add some 6,000 title a year to its collection, and al-Ansari said the technical committee for acquisition chooses the new additions by visiting local and international book fairs.
Space limitations at the current location mean that the library cannot display all its books in the way they wish, but al-Ansari is hopeful of offering a new facility.
Part of the expansion plans for the library includes services to encourage youngsters to read more, such as a dedicated section for children, as well as computers which will store digital versions of books.
Al-Ansari said that through the public libraries department and the Doha International Book Fair, the Ministry for Culture, Arts and Heritage has been attempting to encourage young people to read by hosting events and promotions, such as at the last book fair, where children were given vouchers to choose their own books.
He said that although the number of people using the library is decreasing, the number of new Qatari authors is on the rise, especially in the fields of fiction and poetry, which are often translated into English to “provide an idea of Qatari culture and heritage.”
Al-Ansari said it was “difficult to compare the Qatar National Library to others in the region” because the building in which the library is housed is 47 years old and the fact that throughout the region, other libraries have taken the opportunity to develop and modernise.
However, in terms of its collection, the Qatari library is one of the best in the region, he claimed, especially because of its manuscripts, some of which are up to 900 years old.
Al-Ansari recognises the need for change to bring public libraries into the modern era, and said talks were underway about the relocation project. But he also wants more people to read, and is passionate about encouraging people to do so.
“People who read are people who think and develop themselves and their countries,” he said, adding “reading can provide people with new ideas, helping young people understand the world around them, and enabling them to participate.
“We want young people to be able to add their own culture to the world, and not just import culture from elsewhere, and reading will help them do this,” he added.
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