- Nita Bajoria
A Mecca of Words
I had just completed my first novel’s second editing and was utterly exhausted. Hence I took my daughter and flew to my sis-in-laws place in Doha for a quick and short vacation. But a writer is a reader first. So, the moment I got settled at my sis in law’s house after an overnight flight, a sound sleep on the arrival day and a trip to the souk for a sumptuous dinner of Lebanese platter and avocado juice I thought of finding a decent library.
The very next day I was dropped at the entrance of a grand building at the Education City by my brother-in-law. The broad angular concrete structure looked like an architectural masterpiece, and I wondered if it was really a simple library filled with books. I was right. The Qatar National Library was not only about books. It had ideas, state of the art systems, a welcoming environment, a wide space that lets every reader, introvert, extrovert or ambivert to find a cosy place to loosen themselves in their world of books and thoughts.
I was completely taken aback as I witnessed in front of me three large terraces stacked with three hundred open door bookshelves. Books on your left, right, behind above and even below. Yes, there was also a maze-like Heritage section below the level that had a rare collection of historical globes, rare manuscripts and a fine array of instruments and tools used by travellers, explorers, navigators, surveyors and cartographers of the 18th and 19th centuries. Unfortunately, it was closed, and I could only get a view from above.
Each book was covered in a thin transparent plastic sheet and the name of the library printed on its sides rested peacefully on smart, open racks waiting to be picked and read and believed in. As I walked along the book alleys feasting my eyes on the paperbacks and hardcovers of fiction, encyclopedias, world history, medicine, agriculture, music, fine arts, periodicals, and audiovisual I felt just at the right place to be in.
Huge … no dearth of places to read, write, think… no one to ask if you are a member or not …. Anyone and everyone is welcome to immerse in the world of knowledge and joy. You can choose from Numerous comfortable seats, bean bags, sofas, bubble chairs to settle with your favourite books. If you are looking for quiet spaces, look for one of the study carrels for individual study or if you want to study with your friends, occupy the group study rooms. There are event spaces, innovation centres, children’s libraries, digitization centres, preservation and conservation laboratories and what not.
It took me nearly a half-hour to tour the entire place and then I picked up a book of short stories by Roald Dahl and went straight to the cafeteria to quench my thirst and fill my hungry stomach. Ordering a Zataar Makina and a hot chocolate I travelled places with Mr. Dahl and his fantastic sense of humour. Occasionally I also looked around and across the glass wall towards the children’s section. It was heartwarming to see many parents spending time with their kids there. And that made me think.
It’s fab to crib about the dying interest of teens in books. But what do we do to expose them to books? Take them to movies and malls and restaurants? Imagine if we can provide such harmonious spaces to know better and get friendly with the words and paper I am sure their interest in reading could be easily survived. I agree that 45000 Square meters is no joke, but Instead of multistoried malls coming up every month, if each country can plan at least one library even one-twentieth in size in each of the states then the world can be a better place in no time. Anyone listening?