The Netherlands Win at Libraries. Again.

I recently posted about the Centrale Bibliotheek in Amsterdam, a truly innovative library which functions as a public space, cafe, theater, research center, (etc. etc.) and also has these awesome little study pods which I’d happily nestle down in for the winter. As it turns out, the Dutch have all sorts of creative (and well funded) ideas about reaching patrons, wherever they are. Such as the 5th largest airport in Europe: Schiphol, in The Netherlands.

According to a recent article in The New York Times, The Schiphol Airport Library “has 1,200 books in more than two dozen languages, all by Dutch authors or on subjects relating to the country’s history and culture.”

The library plans to offer e-books and music by Dutch artists and composers that can be downloaded, free, to a laptop or cellphone. The library also is equipped with nine Apple iPads loaded with multimedia content, including photos and videos, that is likewise devoted to the theme of Dutch culture. A digital guest book invites visitors to jot down their musings or leave messages for wayward companions.

It bears mentioning that the library is entirely staffed by volunteers and has no special security on the books in the collection, but since its opening this summer, only about a dozen books have been stolen. And apparently, there is talk of opening a similar library in the central train station in Haarlem. Perhaps they’ll need a full time librarian?

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2 thoughts on “The Netherlands Win at Libraries. Again.

  1. Wow, some great public library! Opens up a discussion about what is a public library. What should it be and how operate?

    And staffed by volunteers? What happened to the librarians? Can you have a library without them? Should it be called a “library” if it’s really only meant to be an outlet for or advertisement for, the local culture, Dutch, in this case?

    Thanks!

  2. You’re right that this raises questions about the role of librarians. For the record, I do think we are still very necessary, although that doesn’t mean that all libraries have to be staffed. What I love about the idea of this particular one is that it is a library which exists solely for its own sake, or more accurately–for the sake of its patrons. It generates no funds, does not serve a particular, easily-identifiable community, and–given that many of the visitors will either be on their way out of the country or never actually leave the airport to visit The Netherlands–the collection’s cultural outreach won’t necessarily translate into a greater tourism industry.

    But they saw an opportunity to provide information and resources to a large constituency, and took that as an impetus to be innovative. Books, of course, (in over a dozen languages), but also iPads, and music, and movie downloads, etc. It’s phenomenally progressive while still reflecting, I think, a very simple, long-standing motive of libraries.

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