Quill and Quire

Book news

« Back to

World's all-time silliest library expansion

The Literary Saloon linked to a Gulf Times article about one of the loneliest libraries in the world: the Qatar National Library. Despite being the country’s oldest standing library, “not even a quarter of its near-12,000 members set foot inside,” according to the story.

Not that the place is much to look at, as the “yellow walls have lost their fresh paint. The stained nameboard, which reads ‘Al-Kutub al-Qatariyya’ in Arabic, right above the huge wooden door, is a little tilted. And the multicoloured windows have developed a couple of cracks.”

This is a shame, as the library is bursting with plenty of reading material, including 250,000 Arabian titles, plus 50,000 in English. Some haven’t been opened in years, which can most likely be attributed to the fact that “Not many people come here looking for books,” says a QNL official, despite the fact that membership is free and people can take out books for a month at a time. But the plot thickens: one woman who tried to get a membership claimed that, “To become a member of the Qatar National Library, you have to negotiate a maze of paperwork, guarantors and referrals. I was to discover later, there were far more serious concerns to contend with — a clueless librarian and defunct indexing system.”

Apparently, it’s the expats who are doing the reading — and the stealing. The story tells us, “On an average, the library loses about 50 books every year to expatriate members who leave the country and then never return.”

All in all, it does seem strange to house such an apparently moribund library in Qatar’s forthcoming $125-million “state-of-the-art 13-storey building on the Corniche to house the library, which is due to open in 2008.”

Related links:
Check out the Gulf Times story here