Qatar National Library is about to mark one year since its official inauguration, on 16 April 2018. Since its opening, the Library has become a vibrant hub of social engagement and education, and has welcomed hundreds of thousands of community members through its doors.
With more than one million books borrowed by members, a significant element of the Library’s service to the community has been through a wide-ranging, inclusive program of events - from scientific lectures and technology training to cultural performances and creative writing workshops - and the response has been resounding.
One of its most active members is Moza Alhajri, a 15-year-old student who recently won the Education Excellence Award 2019 over hundreds of nominated students, an honor that came with a medal presented by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani. Moza attributes this remarkable achievement to her valuable learning experiences at the Library, which helped her academic performance and her personal development.
“Since the Library opened, I’ve been a regular visitor. I come to study and read on my own, and I also attend many of the workshops and events,” Moza says. “Over time, I’ve seen my academic performance grow, along with my self-development and self-awareness. I believe my experiences at the Library laid the groundwork for me to win the award.”
One of the criteria for the award, given annually by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education to the nation’s top students, researchers and teachers, is public speaking. Alhajri says that the Library’s activities gave her opportunities to improve her presentation skills while exposing her to new ideas and people at the same time.
“I loved the Library’s “Read.Think.Debate” workshop. At my age and as a student, I am surrounded by people who share my culture and beliefs, and this was my first experience exchanging ideas and views with youth from so many different cultures,” she says. “The Library taught me to reconsider some of my long-held opinions and helped me learn the value of understanding other perspectives.”
Moza also found valuable support among the librarians who took the time to help her. “Through the Library, I have met people who have influenced me and left a deep impression,” she says. “I took several workshops with Ahmed Al Malki, Senior Information Services Librarian, who is always around to help me navigate the Library’s many resources. We keep in touch on social media, exchanging ideas and opinions.”
She says her time at the Library helped her better understand people from different backgrounds, as well as offering new perspectives on the region and its history. “I have gotten to know people from different cultures and backgrounds – people I now call friends. I have had interesting discussions with my friends who I happened to meet at the Library and discuss traditions and other social practices,” she says. “When we learned about the Ottoman Empire in social studies, the books I accessed from the Library’s website helped me to connect the facts we get from our school textbooks.”
Moza is especially interested in the older historical texts in the Heritage Library. “It makes me realize that Qatar is doing great work to preserve history, and most importantly, tell the truth,” she says. “I can read the accounts of battles fought by the founder of Qatar and my forefathers— I’d never learn this aspect of my heritage if not for the Library.”
That pride in her heritage is the foundation of her short story, “The Island’s Falcon” (صقر الجزيرة"), a symbolic story about the blockade and its consequences that was published in an anthology in 2018 after she won the second Future Authors Competition.
“It is not only knowledge in books I’ve gained from the Library; I am now more self-aware,” she says. “The general atmosphere in the library boosts my energy and my productivity, and enhances my work ethic, enabling me to write and create.”
“I am very grateful to the Library for its contributions to my country and its people. I believe that everyone who works at the Library should be very proud to be serving the community,” Moza adds. “I’d like to show my gratitude to the Library by giving them my book—the outcome of all of my hard work and achievement. It would be more than wonderful to see my name on the shelves of the Library.”