Qatar National Library – Ar-Rayyan, Qatar - Atlas Obscura
Our new kids' book is on sale! Shop now.

Ar-Rayyan, Qatar

Qatar National Library

The enormous diamond-shaped building packs a trove of academic and literary treasures into one futuristic space. 

When viewed from its main entrance, this futuristic-looking library takes the shape of an enormous diamond. Huge undulating glass panels cover the vast majority of all the building’s sides, letting natural light in while keeping the heat out. Inside, the building is expansive, with a high sloping ceiling and multi-layered bookshelves that give the feeling of being in an amphitheater stuffed with intriguing titles.

The Qatar National Library (QNL) was designed by renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. The 484,375-square-foot building opened in November 2017 and is now an absolute trove of literary and academic treasures.

QNL is a combination of various collections, which seem to function as their own mini libraries. One collection includes the University and Research Library, which aims to support academic research in all fields of study. Another part holds the works within Metropolitan Public Library, which caters to the general public and includes dedicated mini libraries for children and teens. Lastly, the Heritage Library contains ancient Arabic publications and manuscripts, historical maps, scientific instruments, and early photographs of the region. This particular part is especially dedicated to both preserving and studying these fascinating finds.

Combined, the these three collections contain more than one million books, periodicals, and other items. Interestingly, the design of the building does not separate the distinct collections. Visitors are encouraged to move freely from one section to the other and can drift between the various webs of knowledge with complete fluidity.

Among other innovative features, QNL is equipped with a visible state of the art automatic book sorting system that uses a technology known as overall radio-frequency identification (RFID). This high tech system explains the ubiquity of signs instructing users not to replace books on the shelves, as the library prefers to let machines handle the sorting and stocking to make sure everything’s where it should be.

Know Before You Go

The library is open to the public, and anyone with a Qatari ID can apply and obtain free membership. Besides being able to borrow books, members will also gain access to online international academic databases and specialized journals. In addition to study rooms, computers, and photocopying machines, visitors can make full use of musical instruments and 3D printers.