20 October, 2008

More on overseas libraries

Amsterdam Public Library (OBA)

The trip is now over and I am back at my desk with my head brimming with ideas! We saw some wonderful libraries on our tour, undoubtedbly some of the world's best.

This time last week we visited Amsterdam Public Library (OBA) in the morning and Delft Public Library (DOK) in the afternoon. I will tell you about OBA today and next week about DOK.

The Amsterdam Central Library (OBA) is a magnificent new library in a prominent position, close to the Central Railway Station in Amsterdam. It is the largest public library in Europe, at 28,000 sq m over 10 floors. It was opened on 7th July 2007 after 10 years of planning and building. The concept of the new library is to transform from a lending library to an adventure library. The architect is Jo Coenen, a well known Dutch architect.

The most impressive feature of the library is its size and the quality of its fitout. It is the highest public point in Amsterdam and many visitors come for the view of the city. The escalators lead the visitor up through the building, ensuring that all levels are visible and easily accessible.

There are 2 eating places, a small café near the magazine area and a restaurant. The restaurant "Du Monde" on the 7th floor has a seating capacity of 250 and also takes care of receptions and corporate catering. It is becoming very popular both with users of the library and visitors. The library has a profit sharing arrangement with the restaurant.

The City of Amsterdam recognises that the library needs to be regularly refurbished and renewed. There is a budget for total renewal in 10 years. The AV area will be renewed in 5 years; it has not been fitted out to the same high standard as the other areas to reflect this.

The Children’s library is a magical place of discovery and adventure. It has small storytelling areas, many comfortable seats for sharing stories, and has a craft room that is permanently set up for children to draw, colour and paste.

A Radio station is located in the library, broadcasting in the afternoon and evening to a city and national audience. People are invited to come and have their say about issues of the day in the open studio. This has given the library a high profile.

There is a grid for IT on all floors of the entire building and a wireless network. There are 600 pcs, many of them Apple Macs. Seating for the pcs is comfortable and stylish – there are a number of different configurations throughout the building. There are 8 lending machines (Lendomats) / self-loan desks; 110 OPACs; 50 workplaces with multimedia facilities; 10 print and Xerox facilities and good facilities for payment. All libraries in the Netherlands have RFID and OBA has a book sorting system that delivers the books to each floor.
The Conservatorium is next door to the OBA and students use the library heavily, often playing in the library, and using the music rooms, creating a real cultural space.

The Theater van ’t woord is professionally designed with the latest in light/ sound/ recording technology. It seats 270 (the 10th largest in Amsterdam) and is linked with the library. Nearly everything is possible: film/ music/ lectures and it is also linked to catering and conference rooms. It already hosts 25 performances a month. A smaller children’s theatre seats 40.
Librarians work on the floor, the information desks are designed to consult with the borrower side by side. Increasingly programs are being held on the weekends, requiring more staff to work then. 50 new staffing positions were created for the new building.

There are a number of exhibition spaces within OBA, including 300 m2 of professional exhibitions supplementing what the library offers. The current exhibition features the OBA’s architect, Jo Coenen, with an exhibition called 3 buildings, 7 themes, 1 story.

The OBA costs around 1million Euro per month to operate. The Library Director acknowledges it is a lot of money, but also emphasises to the funders that it is cheap for what they get. The library gives a lot back to the City and is the most popular building in Amsterdam. It is a combination of information, education, culture and meeting place. There is the possibility for everything in the library. It is a tourist attraction as well as a library.

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