29 October, 2008

100th post - the Delft Library

This is the 100th post on the blog - and it seems a fitting thing that I should devote it to the most amazing library - DOK - the Delft Public Library in the Netherlands.

Service desk, DOK
Delft is a one hour train trip from Amsterdam. The library is in the centre of town, in what was formerly a warehouse. The architecture is of the exposed concrete school, with bright primary colours throughout. There is a dominant staircase leading to the upstairs area where a coffee shop does great business next to the large AV area. The overwhelming feeling is of a bright, vibrant, happening space - and this is supported by a wide variety of programs and services.

Entrance to DOK
The Director of Delft Library, Eppo van Nispen tot Sevenaer, was formerly the CEO of a tv station in the Netherlands. A couple of years ago he wanted to give something back to society and recognised public institutions as very important and libraries as treasures. He has very strong ideas about what libraries can be - and he says that life is about having fun, but most libraries are about not having fun. Their theory is that “life is all about having more fun than you can think of, and it starts at the library." Eppo told us that annually, visitors to public libraries are dropping 6% in the Netherlands, yet librarians seemed unconcerned about this - in any other industry, people would be very worried about losing this market share.
Eppo described the Library Concept Centre as like Ikea where people can test things. They are working with companies and public broadcasters to engage with the users. He says there is nothing more beautiful than a beautiful story; but we must remember its about the story not the media. This was a continuing emphasis during the tour - that it is the "word" or the "story" its not about whether it is a book or a dvd or online. Books are not the future, people are. And books aren't dead, they are going digital. He talked about the added value that libraries can offer - letting people find / try something new.

We heard about the series of philosophy lectures that attracted 250 people. We heard about the summer camp, where library staff take 150 kids aged 6 - 12 away and teach them how to do tv shows; they take their mobile studio, theatre and music. They work closely with schools to encourage more use of the library by young people.
Chair for listening to music

DOK is truly a library of the future, and has been described as the most modern library in the world. There is content everywhere - books, cds, dvds, magazines. There are screens and playstations and chairs where you can listen to music. It is a beautiful story.

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