How Qatar National Library Served the Community During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The outside world as we know it has changed irrevocably in 2020, as has the role of Qatar National Library’s team of expert librarians, whose roles transformed significantly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Services are gradually returning to what patrons would view as recognizable at the Library’s beautiful building. Members can once again visit the building, albeit currently by appointment only, with restaurant and cafeteria services also open to the public.
Fittingly, the Library recently hosted an international panel discussion examining how library services across the world have changed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Her bread-and-butter role at Qatar National Library is as an information specialist for social sciences, where she provides research services, establishing programs and events for the Qatari community, and conducting research to help academics.
Speaking about how her role at the Library changed since the beginning of the pandemic, Eiman says:
“I think the role changed significantly, with the time I devoted to my research duties increasing, and my feeling of giving better value to our users, who are even more hungry for knowledge.”
What did a normal day for Eiman look like during the pandemic? “My day during lockdown began with my email review, my to-do list review, and the blog in my notebook full of motivational posters. I dedicate half my time to daily tasks and half to working toward the Library’s long-term goals. I also recharge my energy by reading academic articles about libraries and how libraries around the world have changed their practices to serve their patrons during the pandemic.”
During the international panel discussion, which Eiman moderated, the group analyzed these new services libraries have launched in the face of the global pandemic. Changes include giving access to professional training programs, mental health programming and support, and supplemental support for the census, tax forms and elections.
At the Library, the “Ask Our Librarians” service was expanded, allowing patrons to contact experts remotely to enquire about a variety of subjects. Eiman says of the service: “It enabled us to communicate more easily with researchers who needed support, particularly when there might be threats to funding or access to important information is restricted. Our team’s ability to quickly expanded the service was vital to allow the continuation of our services.”
Innovation was key to ensuring the continued success of the Library during the pandemic. Eiman explains how the lockdown allowed the Library to expedite ideas they had harbored for some time: “We are always working to improve our services, regardless of whether we’re able to work in the building itself. We had been discussing the idea of holding online events for years in order to reach the most people possible. The pandemic created an environment where we could throw everything into making sure we could offer the maximum value to our members and the larger community. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Libraries should invest as much time and resources into their information professionals as they do in books, collections and other programs. The best libraries have as much knowledge in the minds of their librarians as they do within the pages of their books.”
Obtaining postgraduate degrees in the field of librarianship enabled Eiman to learn different research methods to study libraries and publishing in the field of knowledge acquisition. In the future, she hopes to establish a research center dedicated to learning and librarianship. “With social and cognitive studies in Qatar, we can draw different scenarios and strategies for developing society, whether COVID-19 is around or not,” she adds.
The current pandemic has been a catalyst for change in library services in Qatar and across the world, and the key role that libraries play in facilitating learning, curating programs and engaging with the public has evolved significantly in a short time. Librarians such as Eiman are still at the very heart of this process, and as curators of knowledge, they continue to evolve as well.
Qatar National Library
Qatar National Library acts as a steward of Qatar’s national heritage by collecting, preserving and making available the country’s recorded history. In its role as a research library with a preeminent heritage library, the Library fosters and promotes greater global insight into the history and culture of the Gulf region. As a public library, we provide equal access for all of Qatar's residents to an environment that supports creativity, independent decision-making, and cultural development. Through all our functions, we provide leadership to the country’s library and cultural heritage sector.