Libraries can be inspiring places, and not only because of their books. I’ve written about the public library of Amsterdam and its astounding interior design before. This week I’ve visited the public library of Delft, DOK. In 2008 the shifted librarian called it the world’s most modern library. Three years later, the “library concept center” still made a tremendous impression on me.
Five great things about DOK I took home:
1. A good understanding of a library’s future role in society
Libraries are about making information accessible to people. Libraries that are not used by the people, fail their task. Books have become increasingly cheaper and information more easily accessible. To the greater audience there’s hardly a need for the traditional library. There is, however, a need to be guided in the quest for information, to detach from the busy society, to discover new things, to meet people and learn from each other. DOK is more an “information community centre” than a library. They have an art library in the building, organize debates about literature but also finace, … This might very well be the future of more cultural institutions than just libraries.
2. No fear for innovations that are already happening
At DOK they have Spotify stations in the multimedia area. Also, they have Xbox’s with different games to experiment with educational value of games. There are sufficient computers available, seemingly equipped with plenty of useful software. Behind the scenes, they call internally using VOIP and monitor things such as electricity use. Of course, all this we do in our homes, so there’s nothing shocking about it. However, too often I feel like going a couple of years back in time when I enter a library, museum or other institution.
3. Design for doing stuff
In museums I automatically lower my voice. In most libraries I dare not speak at all. In DOK, after a while, I realised I was speaking aloud, walking around purposefully and freely interacting with the environment. The library’s colourful interior seems to encourage interaction. And because people are free to play Xbox, it seems easier to pick up a book as well. At DOK they understand that to increase participation, the entire design should be focused at doing stuff.
4. Embracing change and turning it into a strength
When I started my tour through DOK I immediately stumbled upon a multi-touch table where the RFID technology in patrons’ library cards was used to display archival information relevant to them, coming from other institutions. This was placed centrally in the library. And still in development. Of all things I liked about DOK, I liked this open and direct approach to innovation the best. Why not involve your audience in what you’re developing? Develop in the open. People might help.
5. Free wifi, power outlets and good coffee
Fortunately, ever more institutions understand that opening up your café to people with laptops is the way forward. Especially now coffee bars are limiting the number of flex workers or banning laptops entirely (at least in Holland) a growing independent work force will be happy to land in your institution. And buy coffee, bring friends, discover your programme, …. Unlock those wifi networks and provide electricity. Coffee will be paid for.
Those of you who have got to know me, know I advocate looking beyond your own sector to find inspiration. DOK definitely proved this, providing a lot of tangible solutions for problems we in museums struggle with as well. I’m looking forward to discovering more about DOK!
Header photo by Henk Kosters on Flickr.com
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