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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Study: Book loans on the wane while more Qatar residents watch movies

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For illustrative purposes only

The number of people borrowing books from Qatar’s public libraries has fallen by more than a fifth in two years, while the nation’s movie-going audience appears to be growing stronger than ever, according to official figures.

Despite Qatar’s ongoing population boom, the total number of books checked out of the seven state-run libraries in the country dropped 30 percent between 2011 and 2013 (from 61,888 to 43,090).

The number of borrowers using the facilities also fell by 22 percent over the same period, statistics from the Ministry of Development, Planning and Statistics29th edition of Qatar in Figures show.

Meanwhile, the country’s cinema audience has increased from 1.59 million people in 2011 to 2.43 million in 2013, up 41 percent in just two years. This is almost twice the growth of Qatar’s population, which was up nearly 20 percent over the same period.

And it is despite a decline in the number of cinema screens (down from 38 to 31 over the two years) and fewer movies, particularly Arabic-language films.

According to the report, there were 140 Arabic and 1,140 foreign movies in 2011, while by 2013 this had fallen to just 51 Arabic and 817 foreign movies.

The report does not explore any reasons for the trends. However, the drop in library use could in part be due to a lack of publicity for and awareness of the existence of the facilities.

Reading heritage

In fact, Doha is home to what was the Gulf region’s first national library, Dar Al Khuttub, which opened in 1962.

Situated in the old downtown, in an area currently undergoing extensive redevelopment, the site will be replaced with a new purpose-built Qatar National Library in Education City designed by architect Rem Koolhaas.

Qatar National Library

The new facility was due to open by the end of last year, but is still under construction. Once complete, it will serve academic researchers and the general public with 1.2 million books, 500 e-books and a children’s section, among other features.

Although there are several stores selling reading material in Doha, bookworms here often bemoan a lack of stock, with most focusing on populist titles.

Meanwhile, booksellers say they struggle with Qatar’s opaque censorship rules, sometimes finding difficulties getting imported books approved by the Ministry of Culture.

Last year, a book set in Qatar and written by a Doha resident was banned by the government from being sold here, without any reason given.

Love-Comes-Later

Author Mohana Rajakumar was told by her distributor that her novel Love Comes Later was rejected by the Ministry of Culture.

While Qatar has not historically had a strong culture of reading, several grass-roots initiatives have sprung up in recent years in a bid to get more people picking up a book.

A free, used book library was launched at Katara Cultural Village at the end of October last year, relying on donations from members of the public.

The mini-library of English and Arabic titles focuses on educational books, although it also has some fiction and operates from Katara esplanade during weekends until April this year.

A book club was set up last year by a Qatari-French couple, with the aim of encouraging more locals and expats to read as well as also breaking down cultural and social barriers.

While the annual Doha International Book Fair is usually a good chance to pick up new titles, more and more residents use e-readers to access their reading material, particularly if the book in unavailable in Qatar in its printed form.

Cinema troubles

Meanwhile, despite increasing demand for affordable cinema seats from Qatar’s burgeoning, low-income population, two of its most popular movie theaters have recently shut their doors.Gulf Cinema

Gulf Cinema, Qatar’s oldest standalone movie theater, closed its doors on C-Ring Road without notice early in 2013. In the summer of last year, Ali Ishaq Hussain al-Ishaq – the CEO of Qatar Cinema and Film Distribution Co. – voiced hopes that the theater would be refurbished and opened “within months.” However, it remains shut.

West End Park Cinema in Qatar’s Industrial Area is also currently closed, despite having only opened its doors for the first time a year ago.

The complex, which is geared towards the country’s South Asian population, had two screens with a capacity of 500. However it shut abruptly earlier last month, following a change in management.

While the closure is expected to be temporary while new paperwork is drawn up, no date has yet been given for its reopening.

Thoughts?

27 COMMENTS

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Aussiegirl
Aussiegirl
6 years ago

One reason may be the advent of technology, people download books and read them that way rather than having to fight the traffic to get to a library.

Osama Alassiry AlMaadeed
Reply to  Aussiegirl

I tend to buy books to read (physical and kindle)… I don’t think I would ever lend a book from a public library.

zoeval
zoeval
6 years ago

Not everybody can afford to do this, which is why public libraries are such a crucial part of any society.

Sarah010
Sarah010
6 years ago
Reply to  Aussiegirl

Yes! Georgetown has an amazing collection. But it’s too far from my home, it’s much easier to download the books

AEC
AEC
6 years ago
Reply to  Sarah010

VCUQ has some great kids books.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago

There are seven state run libraries ?

terracotta
terracotta
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Never knew there were 7.

MrJames
MrJames
6 years ago
Reply to  terracotta

same here. I had no idea. I love reading

Michael L
Michael L
6 years ago

What is the point of censoring books when Kindles are becoming ever cheaper or you can read books on your mobile ?

ASH
ASH
6 years ago

which are these seven libraries? I heard about only one Library that is QNL which is under construction for sometime. But they have an online library. Which provides free access to many other e-libraries..I use it extensively..It is very good.

terracotta
terracotta
6 years ago
Reply to  ASH

There is a national library near Ghanem Qadeem. Dont know whether its closed now or not. Rest no idea.

terracotta
terracotta
6 years ago
Reply to  ASH

There is a national library near Ghanem Qadeem. Dont know whether its closed now or not. Rest no idea.

Steve
Steve
6 years ago

If the author would care to tell me where to find all these public library branches, I’d be happy to go to one of them.

Amber
Amber
6 years ago

With kindle and iBooks there is no need to go the library. And you don’t even need a kindle to get kindle books just the app.

AEC
AEC
6 years ago
Reply to  Amber

Depends on the type of book. Our kids like both but they still really like to be able to touch them.

yesjay
yesjay
6 years ago

“A picture is worth a thousand words”, but a movie may be more than that, in a hectic life style of today’s world if people often find it difficult to spend time on books it comes as a least surprise. In my personal experience some people even find it difficult to read and concentrate on e-books compared to that of old (golden) times.

AEC
AEC
6 years ago
Reply to  yesjay

There’s evidence to suggest this true – i.e. it’s easier to concentrate longer on a print book. There’s also increasing evidence there are merits in doing so. That doesn’t mean people will though..

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

I don’t think they watch movies more text their way through the film…..

I love books but many I want to read are either banned or censored here so I bring them in when on business trips.

Misha
Misha
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

I wish they texted! Instead of disrupting the rest of the audience with cinema trysts, laser pointers or talking during a movie.

Reem M
Reem M
6 years ago

are there even libraries in Qatar ????

AEC
AEC
6 years ago
Reply to  Reem M

Quite a few. And some of them will even lend to you.

zoeval
zoeval
6 years ago

Yes, please – more information on these seven libraries! And if Dar Al Khuttub was the first library in the Gulf, let’s hope there are some plans to conserve its history.

AEC
AEC
6 years ago
Reply to  zoeval

They ain’t pretty but I suspect that will change over time.

Bo
Bo
6 years ago

Whats a book….

Read
Read
6 years ago

WHERE ARE YOU AUTHOR OF THE ARTICLE. TELL US ABOUT THE SEVEN LIBRARIES PLEEEEEASE

Jaded
Jaded
6 years ago

Weird to link reduced book borrowing to cinemas. How about looking at increasing eBook prevalence, which is not only more convenient but also often cheaper than buying physical books and now also offered in subscription form. I think this sentence sums it up well:

“The report does not explore any reasons for the trends.”

TheInformant
TheInformant
6 years ago

They need to re-think about where to put those libraries. Seriously it is extremely difficult to find a library and worst of all the only method of transportation of getting there is by car! Plus, Libraries here are not ‘Advertised’ so basically for expats they don’t know whether the public library in Qatar has English/Trending books or just pure Arabic.

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