The Qatar National Library: Protecting civilisation's treasures (2023)

The Qatar National Library plays a vital part in the country’s goal of diversifying away from oil and gas to become a knowledge-based economy. It’s a treasure trove of information - from the region’s culture and history to cutting-edge digitisation technology. But it also acts as a regional centre of expertise, both in restoration techniques and the fight against the trafficking of stolen documents.

An awe-inspiring building

The Qatar National Library doesn't look like a traditional old-fashioned library. Its purpose-built design is layered in symbolism.

"The awe in visitors' eyes as they step in, as their eye scans the whole building, it’s really pleasing to see," says Hind Al Khulaifi, Director of Strategic Planning and Projects. "Once you come in, your eyes can actually see most of the sections of the library.

"It was designed to have the tiers elevated, and to give a sense that with reading, with learning, your soul can be elevated, your consciousness can be elevated. The beauty of this building is it’s fully illuminated by natural light, also another symbolism for the elevation of the soul through light, through learning."

Al Khulaifi believes modern libraries should also serve as community hubs. Of course, you’ll find books – plenty of them in fact. But you’ll also find study spaces, innovation stations and sensory rooms.

(Video) The Qatar National Library: Protecting the treasures of civilisation | Qatar 365

With learning your soul can be elevated... We want people to inquire, we want people to investigate, we want people to discover and increase their curiosity.

Hind Al Khulaifi

Director of Strategic Planning and Projects, Qatar National Library

"We want people to inquire," she says. "We want people to investigate, we want people to discover and increase their curiosity through having access to such an abundant amount of resources across different subjects."

The Qatar National Library aims to create an open space for learning. So while someone may, for example, be drawn to the library’s Innovation Station to pick up an instrument or even record a podcast, the hope is that they will also be inspired to pick up a book and learn more about the theory behind it.

The Heritage Library

Designed by renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, Qatar National Library opened its doors in 2018. At the heart of the QNL, you’ll find the Heritage library. It resembles an archaeological site and is home to maps, manuscripts and photos documenting the region’s rich history.

"The exhibition is focused not only on Arab history," says Tour & Exhibition Officer Ikhlas Ahmed. "It's focused on Islamic history, in general, Islamic civilization. How for example the manuscripts travelled from area to area until the people started to exchange their knowledge."

That knowledge transfer is symbolic of the concept of the national library. As Qatar moves from an oil-based to a knowledge-based economy, the QNL provides a platform to share knowledge both physically and digitally.

"It's very important to read about the region from the other perspective, the travellers’ record," says Ahmed. "Because they were the pioneers I would say, since the 15th, since the 16th century. They came to the region with different purposes. With their diaries, we can read the past of that time."

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The library has one of the earliest references to Napoleon Bonaparte's expedition to Egypt in the 18th and 19th centuries.

"It's considered the first illustration of Egypt at that time," says Ahmed. "Because many scientists, many historians, many scholars documented every part during that expedition. It’s one of the important primary resources to see how life was over there, from different perspectives."

The heritage library is also home to the first printed map, dating back to the 15th century, that ever mentions modern-day Qatar - identified in Latin as Catara, with a C.

Digitising the collection

The next step is to digitise those ancient materials, to preserve them for generations to come. The library’s digitisation specialists can convert 2,000 to 2,500 pages per day. Hany A Elsawy Abdellatifi is Head of Digitisation Services at Qatar National Library.

"We started in 2015," he says. "Until now we reached more than 14 million pages between books, manuscripts, periodicals, posters, maps, photographs and much more. We’re focusing on the language of Arabic. So, we’re trying just to enrich the content of Arabic and to enable it online for researchers, educators and even simple users. So, anyone, from anywhere, anytime can access the collection."

And while heritage works may sound like niche material, that’s not necessarily the case. In 2021, the library says more than 2.5 million people used its electronic resources.

"I think it clearly proves that heritage material, when it is put online and is freely accessible to everyone, as we do, really has a lot of potential," says Marcin Werla, Director of Digital Content & Engagement at Qatar National Library. "It’s something that’s of interest to a lot of people. Not only specifically from the country but really, from the region, from the whole world. We get online visitors from the whole world."

"Aside from digitising our own collection," says Tan Huism, Executive Director at Qatar National Library. "We’re also working with different partnerships, for example, our partnership with the British Library to digitise materials about the Gulf in their archives for the world to see and be made accessible to everyone. So, that’s a very important part of our role as being the guardian for the region and Qatar’s documentary heritage."

Preserving the country’s rich heritage, in an ultra-modern library, one book at a time.

Preservation and conservation department

QNL is home to more than one million books. Readers can choose to relax anywhere in the 42,000 square-metre seating area. And while it has all the things you might expect from a library, including a café, children’s section and restaurant, what perhaps makes it most unique is the preservation and conservation department.


Compared with all other Arab countries, we definitely have the best-developed centre for heritage conservation, restoration and protection.

Stephane Ipert

Director of Distinctive Collections, Qatar National Library

The IFLA Preservation and Conservation Regional Center, or PAC, is beyond the section of the library that’s open to the public, down in the basement. Its mandate is simple: help protect books and manuscripts from across the Arab region.

"There are millions of Arabic and Islamic manuscripts in the region, and there's not the means to preserve and conserve all of them," says Stephane Ipert, Director of Distinctive Collections at Qatar National Library. "So, we can't be stand-ins for everyone and save all the heritage, but we can train people. So, here we have a technical assistance department where we provide training, technical advice, and we also host people here for training, on all issues concerning conservation and preservation, whether it be manuscripts, newspapers, maps… In this way, we can provide what we call ‘capacity building’ to help people improve and take better care of their collections."

Conservation Technologist Fareed AlShishani specialises in inorganic materials. His role at QNL is all about the prevention of damage, conservation, and risk management. Fareed and other members of the team look after all the items in the Heritage library, as well as books, maps and manuscripts. It’s a varied job – for example going as far as assessing the metals in an astrolabe.

"We have a system for monitoring temperature and humidity that works remotely connected by Wi-Fi," he says. "So, just looking at the computer, I can check the temperature and humidity in storage areas and in the exhibition. And also if we have objects on loan, this system allows us to connect to any Wi-Fi in the world and we monitor it remotely from our computers and actually our smartphones."

In 2022, QNL opened the first mass deacidification plant in the region. Books or newspapers produced after the 1850s have more issues than older manuscripts – as the materials or wood pulp used are more likely to be acidic.

"This deacidification plant is a system that uses a material called magnesium oxide that is suspended in a solution," explains AlShishani. "The thing that makes the system special is that it treats in mass so we don't treat just one item or, or like ten items. We can treat up to like 50 items per day. And then when we finish the treatment, we put them in the dryers, and that takes all the liquid that was used, and that is remaining in the materials. It takes it back and puts it back in the system so it recycles the material somehow. And so, it's cost-effective, environmentally friendly."

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Tackling Smuggling

The PAC Center’s mandate of book protection extends beyond conservation. Experts here are focused on training and tackling a widespread and growing problem: smuggling.

The trafficking of historical records and other archive materials has been rising in the MENA region due to the number of countries experiencing conflict and upheaval.

But books and literature are much less likely to be protected by national legislation than other artefacts. That’s why the PAC Centre training sessions on the laws surrounding smuggling and looting are so important.

"We financed the travel of Yemeni experts to come here and participate with us in training," says Ipert. "To have them meet with international experts, the police, customs officers… who may be can't get to Yemen very easily at the moment. We explain procedures to them and the legal framework, because you have to understand the legal framework to be able to better tackle trafficking. We explain the restitution process to them. And we have developed here with the Qatar Foundation's other IT departments a unit which automatically monitors social networks day and night to try to identify posts that might be linked to trafficking. So, every morning, our experts get lists of posts and by checking a sale against library databases they see whether it's legitimate or whether it could be related to smuggling. So, it's a lot of work, but it's really important to keep the legacy of the Islamic world alive."

Criminals are coming up with increasingly ingenious ways of smuggling and using technology to help them do so.

"Manuscripts are quite small compared to archaeological artefacts," he says. "So, in practical terms, they travel even more easily, they're easy to export and then sell on the European markets. So, over the past three years, we've developed in cooperation with Interpol, with the international customs union and with other experts a program to fight very specifically against the trafficking of Islamic manuscripts. So, we have a team here that monitors sales: at auction, but also sales on social networks, because there's an important change now where people are doing this kind of traffic more and more on the Dark Web and on social networks. It's less easy to control by the police. So, we're monitoring all these activities."

Whether it’s the modern techniques used to safeguard the library’s personal collection, or the training and workshops being run to prevent the smuggling of priceless manuscripts across the entire region, it’s clear that preservation and conservation are two very important aims of the PAC Center and the whole of the Qatar National Library.

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How many books can we borrow from Qatar National Library? ›

The institutional membership allows its members to borrow up to 20 books for 21 days, with two renewals. Visiting researchers who are not residents of Qatar may apply for a temporary membership, which will let them borrow books from the Library and use its services.

How do I get into Qatar National Library? ›

IV. Policy
  1. To be eligible for a free Library membership, you must provide a Qatar ID or RP.
  2. Driver's licenses, health cards and other forms of identification are not valid for Library membership.
  3. Cardholders may use the Library services within the limitations and guidelines set out by this and other Library policies.

How many books does Qatar National Library have? ›

In addition to full-text online resources, the Library currently has more than one million books in its collections, along with more than 500,000 ebooks, periodicals and newspapers, and special collections. Our qualified librarians are experts in teaching, research skills, literacy, programs and knowledge management.

Who made Qatar National Library? ›

World-renowned architect Rem Koolhaas's design resembles two pieces of paper that are pulled apart and folded diagonally at the corners to create a shell-like structure, enclosing the open-plan interior.

Can tourists go to Qatar National Library? ›

Qatar National Library welcomes all citizens, residents and visitors of Qatar, and is dedicated to providing free and equal access to information, knowledge sharing, independent learning opportunities and the pursuit of the joy of reading for the entire community.

Is food allowed in Qatar National Library? ›

Snacks and drinks are permitted, in accordance with the Library's Code of Conduct.

Is Qatar National Library membership free? ›

Membership is free. Upon registration, the membership with the library remains valid as long as the Qatar ID or residency permit is valid. The member can apply again upon renewal of the QID or RP.

How wealthy is Doha? ›

Did you know that Qatar ranks among the top 5 wealthiest countries in the World? With almost $100, 000 USD gross national income per capita and a significant number of ultra-rich households, Qatar is by far superior when it comes to finances and wealth.

Are children allowed in Qatar National Library? ›

Children and their parents, caregivers and teachers, are invited to enjoy exploring and learning in the Children's and Young Adults' Library.

Who has the largest private library in the world? ›

Location: London, UK | Items: 170 – 200 million | Annual budget: £142 million. The national library of the UK includes artefacts from every age of written civilisation, from 3,000 year old engraved Shang dynasty Chinese bones to today's newspapers. The vast British Library is the biggest library in the world.

Which is the largest library in world !? ›

The Library of Congress, founded in 1800, is a book lover's dream. With 164 million items and 1,350 kilometers of bookshelves, it's the world's largest library.

What is the most complete library in the world? ›

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world with more than 173 million items.

What is the concept of Qatar National Library? ›

The public library houses over a million books and space for thousands of readers over an area of 42,000 m2. The library is part of the Education City, a new academic campus which hosts satellite campuses from leading universities and institutions from around the world.

Who is the owner of National Library? ›

The National Library is under Ministry of Culture, Government of India.

What are the 5 national libraries? ›

There are, however, five libraries that are recognized as being national in scope:
  • Library of Congress (de facto, but has not been authorized as an official National Library)
  • National Agricultural Library.
  • National Library of Education.
  • National Library of Medicine.
  • National Transportation Library.
Mar 13, 2015

Can Egyptians travel to Qatar? ›

Citizens of Egypt wishing to travel to Qatar

Holders of diplomatic or regular passports are required to apply for a visit visa, which must be issued from the nearest embassy of Qatar (before departure).

What is the dress code in Qatar? ›

AdvertisementVisitors are not required or expected to wear the traditional Qatari attire or be fully covered. While there is no specific dress code for foreigners, everyone is encouraged to wear modest and conservative attire that is comfortable while not being too revealing.

How much is entry to Qatar National Museum? ›

Adults who are non-residents of Qatar entry: QR50. Students who are non-residents of Qatar entry: QR25. Free entry for adults, children (aged 0-16) and students who are residents of Qatar as well as children (aged 0-16) who are non-residents of Qatar.

Can I wear a skirt in Qatar? ›

Non-Qatari women are not required to wear the abaya (a long, black robe that covers the entire body) or cover their hair. As long as you cover your shoulders and wear skirts, dresses, or pants past your knees, you'll be fine. In resorts and hotels, you can dress exactly as you would at home.

What Cannot bring into Qatar? ›

Importing drugs, alcohol, pornography, pork products and religious books and material into Qatar is illegal. All luggage is scanned at Hamad International Airport Arrivals Hall. DVDs and videos may be examined, censored and confiscated.

What items Cannot be sent to Qatar? ›

Prohibited items
  • Weapons, firearms and ammunition.
  • Alcoholic beverages.
  • Pork products.
  • Narcotic drugs.
Jan 10, 2023

What are some benefits to having a Library membership? ›

5 Reasons Everyone Should Have a Library Card
  • Free books galore. ...
  • Movies, music, magazines, and more. ...
  • Access to databases and courses. ...
  • Big savings on museums and cultural attractions. ...
  • Supporting access to information for all.
Sep 1, 2020

How to get QNL membership? ›

Becoming a Member of Qatar National Library

Send a copy of your valid Qatari ID or RP (both sides) to Your barcode and PIN number will be sent to your registered email. Bring your valid Qatar ID or RP to the User Services Desk at the Library to pick up your membership card.

Are Library cards free? ›

Any person who lives, works, attends school or pays property taxes in New York State is eligible to receive a New York Public Library card free of charge.

Why are people in Qatar so rich? ›

Today, Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world, thanks to oil and natural gas.

Who is richer Qatar or USA? ›

Qatar, a major oil-exporting world center, is the world's third richest country. The resource-rich land with the world's biggest economy, the United States ranks 8th on the list.

Is there poverty in Qatar? ›

At least one in ten Qatari households lives in “relative poverty” as usually defined.

How old do you have to be to buy condoms in Qatar? ›

You don't need a marriage certificate and there are no age restrictions. Condoms are also available at stores. It is estimated that about 36.7% of Qatari women use some form of modern contraception and 19.2% have unmet family planning needs.

What you Cannot do in Library? ›

Readers should not mark, underline, dog-ear, write, tear pages or otherwise damage the library documents. Newspapers, magazines and journals must be read only in the library on specific tables and should not be taken to any other reading areas. No library material can be taken out of the library without permission.

What age is a minor in Qatar? ›

- An individual is presumed to be legally capacitated by his reaching the age of legal majority. This age is determined to be the period of eighteen (18) full calendar years, except where otherwise prescribed differently by the law.

What US city has the largest public library? ›

Top 25 public libraries by holdings
RankLibrary NameTotal Collection
1New York Public Library, NY25,271,223
2Public Library of Cincinnati And Hamilton County, OH11,721,430
3Boston Public Library, MA8,197,010
4Los Angeles Public Library, CA6,735,561
21 more rows
Jun 29, 2022

Who has the biggest library in the US? ›

ALA Library Fact Sheet 22
NumberSourceLibrary Name
1LLibrary of Congress
2P+ABoston Public Library (Branches + Research Collections)
3AHarvard University
4P+ANew York Public Library (Branches + Research Collections)
114 more rows

Where is the US largest library? ›

With over 161 million items in over and research materials in over 470 languages, the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. is the world's largest library and the oldest federal cultural Institution in the United States.

Where is the oldest library in the Americas? ›

PUEBLA, Mexico — It is, according to UNESCO, the oldest public library in the Americas, tucked away from the street front at a cultural center in the historic heart of this Mexican city.

What library did the Mongols burn? ›

On February 13, 1258, the Mongols entered the city of the caliphs, starting a full week of pillage and destruction. Along with all other libraries in Baghdad, the House of Wisdom was destroyed by Hulagu's army during the Siege of Baghdad.

How many times can you borrow a book from open library? ›

You can borrow ten books at a time from Open Library. Loans are for one hour for browsing and/or 14 days if the book is fully borrowable. When loans expire the books will be disabled on your device.

How many books can I borrow from VPL? ›

Loan periods, limits and renewals

Materials with an asterisk (*) have no item type limits, but the maximum card limits apply. You may have a maximum of 50 library items on loan at one time. If you have had your card for less than 91 days, you may only borrow 10 items at one time.

How many books qualify as a library? ›

Byers cited a common belief that 1,000 is the minimum in any self-respecting home library. Then he quickly divided that number in half. Five hundred books ensure that a room “will begin to feel like a library,” he said.

How many books can I borrow on my Kindle? ›

Use your Amazon account to borrow up to 20 eligible Kindle Unlimited titles at a time. Kindle Unlimited titles display a badge in the Kindle Store for easy identification. Access borrowed titles from your Amazon device or Kindle reading app, even while traveling.


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