Libraries for kids are few in Qatar so when Doha Mums announced their latest project book lover and mum Lisa Travell had to have a tour.
When I was a child I loved the library; the anticipation of discovering a new author, the melodic voice of the librarian during story time and the sheer escapism books provided. I accompanied the Famous Five on every one of their adventures, I sailed with Max to Where the Wild Things Are and I rode the giant peach with James. It fuelled my imagination and ignited my love of books, which to this day still burns brightly.
Although there are a few good book shops stocking children’s books, libraries are hard to come by in Qatar. That’s why the new Doha Mums project is set to prove popular when it officially opens this month in an Al Jazi compound in Al Gharrafa.
When I arrive to view the library it’s a hub of activity with numerous members of Doha Mums busy labelling books and filling shelves. Instead of the dark wooden bookcases, grey tables and faintly musty odour from my childhood memories, this library is a beautiful bright space with clean, white bookshelves, interspersed with colourful furniture, rugs and lamps.
Doha Mums member, Lynette Dias Gouveia, has been heavily involved in the library since its inception. She explains that it’s been an ongoing project and one that has moved locations numerous times. ‘The library was originally started at the Kumon Centre, and then it moved to ACS [International School] and then to Doha Players villa. From there we finally got this space, which is now our permanent base.’
Sarah Allen has been in Doha for 18 months and has also been a keen volunteer throughout the project. She tells me how much it has developed in that short time. ‘When I first came it was just boxes shoved under desks in ACS and we had to write out every single book that someone was taking out. If you had four children in a family you could take 20 books out, so it would take us 15 minutes to check one person out of the library!’
It was Doha Mums founder, Roxanne Davis, who decided it was time for change. ‘Roxanne approached me about ten months ago and said she wanted to automate the library,’ explains Sarah. ‘So we did some research on different library software, we wanted it cloud based, so it was easy to move. Then Al Jazi came up as a possibility to become a permanent home, and it became a double project, to automate the library, as well as move it. To watch it grow has been amazing.’
It looks amazing and it’s evident it was professionally designed. Sarah points out that Doha Mums member, Bella Sutton, was the architect. ‘With our suggestions Bella did a 3D design and came up with this, which is just the most beautiful use of space.’
There are already over 4,000 books, which include fiction, non-fiction and even a parenting section. Shelves are labelled with the appropriate age group, for ease of use, and the library is split over two levels, with the top level aimed at older children. Lynette explains the concept, ‘If you look around you will see that the top section has labels for seven to eight, nine to 12 and 13-plus. We want this section to be a research area for the older kids.’
Roxanne is openly thrilled with the library and the enormous amount of work from all the volunteers. ‘It has far exceeded what we ever thought it would be,’ she tells me. ‘It started as such a small, portable library and it’s grown into a massive establishment that’s available to so many women of all nationalities. I’m pleased as punch and so proud of everybody that has put so much work into it. It’s been a massive team effort. We also need to express our profound gratitude to Al Jazi and their sports foundation for hosting the library, as without them, none of this would have been possible.’
In order to use the library you must be a member of Doha Mums. To join, visit www.dohamums.com for details. If you have any donations for the library just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Three to try: kid’s bookstores in Doha
Glass fronted and welcoming, this store holds a multitude of kids’ books from baby board books to young readers. Choices include bestsellers and a great range of young educational kids’ books.
Open Sun-Thu 10am-10pm; Fri 3pm-10pm. 3rd floor City Centre Doha, West Bay, www.ispybookshop.net (4493 4482).
Newly opened, this store was worth waiting for. With a good selection of kids’ books on offer, and even a children’s chart, there’s something for every age here. With the promise of more on the way, it’s set to expand its collection even further.
Open Sun-Wed 9am-10pm; Thu-Sat 9am-11pm, 1st floor Ezdan Mall, Al Gharrafa (4433 2381).
One of the largest and most established bookstores in Qatar, it sports a large collection of kids’ books in a variety of languages, appealing to all ages. There’s also a great non-fiction and educational section and with the added bonus of a Costa Coffee it’s easy to spend an afternoon browsing with your kids.
Open Sat-Thu 9am-10pm; Fri 4pm-10pm, Salwa Road (near Radisson Blu junction), Bin Mahmoud (4444 0212). www.jarirbookstore.com. Other locations: Al Jadeed Road, Al Rayyan (4411 4322).