Quick Guide Qatar National Library

Neel Shah shares ten top ways to explore this massive reading space Discuss this article

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It’s been a while since we’ve seen a piece of architecture as impressive as the Qatar National Library. Designed by world-renowned Rem Koolhas to resemble a folded piece of paper, QNL is a welcome addition to the already eclectic landscape of Education city.

If you’ve had your fill with malls, brunches and beaches and want a quiet day in the air-conditioned confines of a library, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s a quick guide to everything you need to know and can do inside. There’s good news, too (as always) – almost everything is completely free of charge.

Book a workshop/event/study space
An amazing array of workshops are held throughout the year. Previous events have included sessions on starting your own business, learning how to crochet, creative writing, building a robot and much more. There are also concerts and special talks. Check the events calendar for upcoming events. All of these are completely free but can get booked pretty quickly.

Book your next meeting in one of the conference rooms for a really picturesque setting. If you have a presentation with fellow students or colleagues, you can book out one of the group study rooms (if only we were not too old for this). If you are not the social-study-group type, you can conveniently have a silent study room for yourself. Although you will need to get everything finished by 8pm as that’s when the library closes. Life just isn’t that perfect.

Borrow a book or four
QNL is stocked with more than a million books, journals and magazines. Fact. The librarians themselves have also curated lists with their recommendations from the vast collection of fiction and non-fiction. Highlighted books from such literary luminaries such as Alex Ferguson are encased with novelty footballs or other quirky objects. You might need to ask your friendly librarian for some help in locating the genre or category you’re looking for. Taking out a book using the high-tech borrowing machines is also a cool experience. Unfortunately, you can only take out four at a time for 21 days at a stretch, but truly, if you can’t find something to read here, the problem is you, not them.

Check out the children’s library
This beautiful space has more than 100,000 books. That’s a pretty whopping figure already and it doesn’t end there. You can find interactive toys, games and video screens. Additionally, regular story times are held along with other events in the mini theatre. It’s a perfect solution for exhausted parents to keep the kids occupied. If their energy seems to not surprisingly increase, there are mini climbing walls. Teenagers have their own section, too, so they can sneak in a comic book while pretending to have genuine interest in demand-supply economics.

Chill out on the bean bags
There are few things better in life than burying yourself in a good book in a comfortable spot (ignore this if you’re currently vacationing in Bora Bora). QNL cares about your reading comfort, so there are soft cushions and bean bags for you to sink into while reading about a grisly murder, a new curry recipe or 21st century advances in acupuncture. Take the opportunity to borrow a free charger from the front desk before you do. There are also some very futuristic looking hanging pods near the services desk. If this is all too much, there are normal (average) chairs as well.

Explore innovative technology
There’s a custom-designed circulation system which includes self check-in and check-out services and an automated book sorting system using RFID. A people mover system makes the collection accessible to everyone. Check out the assistive technology area with 16 computer stations featuring adjustable leveling, equipped with cutting-edge hardware and software technologies.

Pass by the restaurant

Libraries aren’t normally positioned as gourmet destinations (if you’re even allowed to eat inside at all), but QNL has a great restaurant which serves surprisingly delicious and, even more surprisingly, very reasonably priced food. If there weren’t so many books to distract you, you could happily spend the day just eating everything on the menu. Your vegan and gluten-intolerant friend has options, too. After all that grub, you might need a place to snooze. Just make sure you have the right book in your hand and you’re around the bean bags.

Play around with the infotainment screens
The ten giant black columns in the middle of the library aren’t just to run into and hit your head against. Each of them are interactive touch screens full of useful and some irrelevant (but still interesting) information. Currently, the library has a special display on data visualisation. One of the exhibits is Common Misconceptions. Apparently, goldfish have a memory of three months, bulls are colour-blind and you can swim after eating, after all. You’re welcome.

Practise your DJ skills or innovate
Who said libraries were only full of books? QNL has an innovation station with a fully kitted-out recording studio. Unleash your inner Hendrix or David Guetta and jam away on a variety of instruments and DJ gear. The best part is that even if you are music to no one’s ears, the soundproofed walls will protect the general public from your compositions.

There are videography and photography rooms with iMacs and digital cameras. The Innovation Station is also home to a DIY electronics lab and 3D printing studio. QNL has regular training sessions on how you can use the 3D printers. This is your chance to recreate that T-rex you always dreamed of. Or just build yourself another 3D printer.

Squeeze in a workout

We all know gym membership is not the easiest on our wallets these days. Once you visit QNL, you’ll be able to get your 10,000 steps in for the day. Ascend and descend hundreds of staircases for your cardio and pick up an encyclopedia or three for your weight training. Just ignore the funny looks and raised eyebrows from your fellow library patrons as you’ll have the last laugh with your heavier wallet.

Visit the Heritage Library
A stunning permanent exhibition of hundreds of objects related to Qatari and Gulf heritage is right here. Wander through halls of marble and glass cabinets and surround yourself with the history of these lands. The glass cabinets are adorned with some of the earliest printed books in Arabic, manuscripts, ancient maps and travellers’ tools before the age of GPS. Admire pictures of life in Qatar long before the roadworks and roundabouts (and consequent demolition of them). There are a number of items that are too fragile to be displayed in public, but you can always nicely ask the security staff if they can show you the VIP items. Pretty neat, we think.
● Open Sat-Thu 8am-8pm; Fri 4pm-8pm. Qatar National Library, Education City (4454 0100).

IN NUMBERS
Qatar national library

50,000
historical items are in The Heritage Library

150,000
print books in The Children’s and Young Adults Library

350,000
ebooks in QNL’s online resources

By Neel Shah
Time Out Doha,

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