Interview: Sohair Wastawy

How can digital information and the QNL contribute to the advancement of knowledge?

SOHAIR WASTAWY: We talk about the new Qatar as a nation guided by knowledge, and libraries are places that make knowledge more accessible. Information, whether provided digitally or through traditional mediums, enables us to better understand ourselves as individuals, as well as our surroundings. QNL is promoting national, Arabic and Islamic identities through digital platforms. We also play a significant role in those communities pursuing cultural, intellectual, and scientific research. QNL serves as a foundational resource of the knowledge necessary for cultural exchange between Arab people in particular, and with other nations in general.

Each nation aspires to an informed citizenry, whose continuous learning assures the knowledge necessary to take on the world’s challenges and become innovators, entrepreneurs, artists and professionals. Information that is available digitally allows people to come together as communities in pursuit of intellectual and mutual understanding.

What opportunities does the QNL offer in terms of partnerships and sponsorships?

WASTAWY: We have hundreds of contracts with publishers, societies and associations for the delivery and licensing of information – both digitally and in print. We also have a great number of partnerships with other cultural institutions, such as the Vatican, the British Library and other national libraries for the exchange of heritage material. We have consortium-like partnerships with a group of libraries and museums – such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and higher learning institutions like Stanford University – to create an international repository: the Digital Library of the Middle East.

Libraries don’t exist in isolation from their societies, they are interwoven in and rely upon the forging of partnerships to achieve their missions. The private sector often underwrites services and actively participates in offering them. The library is a part of its community; it cannot exist without a community that uses and benefits from it.

What progress has the government achieved in developing its cultural attractions?

WASTAWY: One can see the progress of cultural organisations by observing their events and attendance. Museums such as the Museum of Islamic Arts and the Fire Station Museum are often crowded, and many people are looking forward to the opening of both the National Museum of Qatar and the QNL.

As progress is being made, the appetite for visiting these types of cultural institutions is growing in an organic way. We expect that trend will continue, and even increase, when the library opens. We also anticipate the library will attract not only citizens, but also interested international visitors.

How will the QNL support the overall agenda of Qatar National Vision 2030? WASTAWY: This is the first national library of this magnitude in our region. It is certainly an endeavour emblematic of national energy and pride, because it is being built at a time when there is so much information available, and in a country where people are more than capable of buying books with ease.

This shows that a library is never about books alone. Rather, it is a culmination of the content it offers, a place where people aggregate and the services provided by professional subject experts. Those are the three major criterion for the success of any library: you empower people through the content, you assist users in conducting research and you provide this opportunity in an environment that is conducive to learning. Building this library is fundamental to achieving Qatar National Vision 2030.