A new outlook on knowledge

Dr Claudia Lux is at the forefront of an initiative that will benefit the Qatari population for many years to come. The new Qatar National Library project, officially announced during a ceremony on 19 November 2012 by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation, will be a crucial round-the-clock resource as Qatar moves toward a knowledge-based economy. Dr Lux, the Project Director, discusses the importance of libraries in the digital age.

Q: The Qatar National Library will have the latest digital services, as well as the capacity for a staggering 1.2 million books, 500,000 e-books, periodicals, newspapers, special collections and full text databases. What are the main benefits of building such a substantial library?
A: The heart of a world-class library system in any country is a strong national library. This library will be for the use of the entire Qatari population, providing services to anyone with an interest in lifelong learning. The benefits over time will be immense, as the library will lead to a book culture among children and young adults. Children will benefit not only in a direct sense, for example, teaching them how to find the information they require on a database, but also on a more profound level by making them more aware of the joys of reading and storytelling.

The library will provide support to researchers and academics in terms of creating unhindered and direct access to knowledge across a variety of mediums. It will also offer a range of educational programs, including digital and print literary development, 300 public computer workstations, digital media production facilities and various other facilities. While we will have a very good collection of books and journals, our strength will be our collection of electronic material. Some of this material is already accessible through our website at www.qnl.qa, and we will continue to add to our virtual library stage by stage.

We are buying books in Arabic and English, but we will cover most of the languages spoken by expatriates in Qatar as well. However, it will take some years to build up that collection. Construction of the building started in September 2011, on a site next to Georgetown University – School of Foreign Service in Qatar, and is due to be finished in autumn 2013. We plan to hold a ‘soft opening’ in the spring or summer of 2014, and then make some adjustments before an official opening at the end of that year.

Q: How do you see the library developing in the next 20 years?
A: The Qatar National Library will develop its full collection during the next decade, and it aims to become the e-hub for easy access to world databases in Qatar. People will have access from their home through mobile services, but they also will love to come to the library to take part in activities introducing new gadgets, mobile knowledge experiences and experimental learning. This will not only be aligned to new material but also to Qatar’s heritage.

QNL will also play an important role in developing and preserving the Qatar heritage collection and will support it with lectures, books and archives from Qatari families. The library will build on the legacy of the Arab and Islamic Heritage Library as well as the traditions of Dar Al Kutub (House of Books), which was established in Doha in 1962 as one of the first public libraries in the Gulf region.

Q: You were formerly the Director General of the Central and Regional Library in Berlin and have served as the President of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). What made you decide to move to Qatar to spearhead a new national library?
A: The Central and Regional Library in Berlin is one of the most significant metropolitan libraries in Germany, and includes a collection of the city’s historical records. I have a background in fields that match what is needed for the development of Qatar National Library.

One of my greatest achievements during my time in Germany was to gain agreement from the Berlin government to build a new metropolitan library, which was always my vision, in order to replace the existing resource divided between two different buildings in East and West Berlin.

So, when I was asked to move to Qatar to head a new national library, I was intrigued. What attracted me most was the vision of Qatar Foundation and its plan for world-class education in Qatar. I saw the design by renowned architect Rem Koolhaas, and was very interested, and then I came to Qatar for the first time and was further convinced. There is a vision here to build something quite new and it is an honor to become part of this vision.