Thursday, December 9, 2021
banner
Home /  Nation  /  QNL continues mission to preserve the past in a digital world

QNL continues mission to preserve the past in a digital world

QNL continues mission to preserve the past in a digital world

Tribune News Network
Doha
Qatar National Library (QNL) is taking a leading role in preserving the culture and history of Qatar, the Gulf, and the Arab and Islamic worlds. To fulfil this important mission, the library’s facilities are equipped with the resources, technology and infrastructure to provide the highest quality digitisation of heritage items, preserving them and making them accessible to researchers for generations to come, while also making them freely available to the entire world.
Digitisation describes a process where physical materials are converted into digital versions which can be understood and stored by computers. The library has already digitised over 10 million pages from various collections including 5 million Arabic pages from QNL’s Heritage Collection and nearly 2.8 million pages from the Arabic Collection of New York University.
Digital conversion of materials has advanced rapidly in the past few years, with QNL at the forefront of this process in the Middle East and on the world stage. The library digitises information via Optical Character Recognition (OCR), the technical practice of extracting text from images. The process itself is becoming popular in terms of usage and research, as it spans multiple areas of science, including image processing, machine learning, information retrieval and artificial intelligence.
Hany Abdellatif, head of Digitisation Services at QNL, is responsible for overseeing the library’s huge digitisation efforts.
Abdellatif said: “Using OCR images brings the documents to life and allows users to discover every bit of information stored within. At the library, we have mastered multiple techniques and algorithms to capture text; these methods include both human and automated processes.”
The library’s digitisation technicians scan a wide variety of heritage items, including rare manuscripts, books, maps, newspapers, magazines, photos and microfilms. Technicians then go through each individual item to ensure its quality is controlled, performing tasks such as colour curve correction, editing resolution settings, image compression and noise removal.
Nasser Al Ansari, director of IT Operations and Infrastructure at QNL, says the library’s digitisation processes tie in with its overall mission to preserve Islamic history and culture, and technological advances are making this vision become reality.
“The library is committed to the preservation of heritage items not only in our region, but across the entire Islamic world. We have come a long way in building a reliable process to digitise content for the benefit of spreading rich Arabic knowledge, and we are committed to working harder to fulfil that goal. Having access to the latest technology at the library enables us to realise this ambition.”
In addition to ongoing efforts to digitise the library’s collections of rare books, manuscripts, maps and photographs, the library’s Digitisation Center works on digitisation projects with other heritage collections in Qatar and international institutions. These include projects at New York University (NYU) of more than 8,000 Arabic books in NYU library collections, which will also be available on QNL’s online platforms.
Preservation has developed into a critically important part of managing QNL’s most precious assets—its collection. Digitisation is a key cog in this process and the library’s digitisation technicians are acutely aware of the importance of their role.
Hany Abdellatif said: “We also hope to encourage the creation of digital Arabic content, while protecting the original materials by reducing frequent handling during reference use, and maintain important Arab and Islamic heritage and historical materials, preserving our history for many years to come.”

Pages