Dr. Sohair Wastawy

Executive Director Qatar National Library, Qatar


Plenary Talk: The Challenge of Imagining a New National Library

Abstract: The role of the library in our society continues to evolve. The evolution of public and academic libraries is often discussed, but the changing role of the national library is also crucial to recognize. While a national library’s primary function lies largely in preserving the nation’s intellectual and cultural output, many have been offering users limited browsing collections, and offering associated public library functions. Today, we see many offer a new array of services, gradually allowing for their transformation into entities far more vital than store houses for national collections. The new Qatar National Library is a case in point -it was built to perform the national function but also act as a public and research library. This presentation will illustrate how these functions interact and enrich the nation and its citizens. It will also speak of the challenges of escaping old ways of thinking and creating new ones and how technology, while providing tremendous opportunities, can also present substantial institutional and social challenges. It will discuss the ways the Library is expanding the notion of literacy and stakeholders’ mindsets.

Brief Biography: Dr. Wastawy was appointed as the Executive Director of Qatar National Library in October 2016. Before arriving to Qatar, Dr. Wastawy was the Dean of Libraries at Florida Institute of Technology in Florida, USA. She also served as the Dean of the University Libraries at Illinois State University. From 2004 to 2010, Dr. Wastawy provided leadership for a full range of library and cultural activities as the first chief librarian of the new Library of Alexandria in Egypt where she was instrumental in founding and building the programs the Library of Alexandria offers today. From 1992 to 2004 Dr. Wastawy was the Dean of Libraries at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and was affiliated with IIT since 1988 where she was as a researcher and library director for the Center of the Study of Professional Ethics until 1992. Prior to her work with IIT, Dr. Wastawy worked as a lecturer in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, respectively. Dr. Wastawy serves as member of professional associations boards and is the recipient of many awards and honors including a Fulbright scholarship. She is also an international consultant for library buildings and management. Dr. Wastawy received her BA, MA, and completed work towards her Ph.D. thesis in Linguistics at Cairo University, Egypt. She possesses a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from The Catholic University of America, Washington DC, USA and a Doctorate degree in Library and Information Management from Simmons College, USA.