|Participants welcomed in Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam's |
lecture hall at the very start of the Cycling for Libraries tour
|One of numerous library bars we visited along the route|
1) Public library ≠ free library
This certainly gave me a lot to think about. That's even before you get into the great ebook debate and the fact Holland is also the first country to take publishers to court over not being able to lend ebooks from their public libraries. And good on them too!
2. Branding of libraries
|Loosely translated, chickens can ask questions about their eggs|
...in the library!
|Openbare Dendermonde has an Apple Store-like design |
but with enough creative touches to make it unique
3) Open Data presents opportunities for libraries
There are some great things being done with Open Data and we were lucky enough to hear about some of these along the route. In DOK Delft, DOK Lab technicians have made use of library members' address data to send heritage images and information about their own streets direct to their email. Better yet, inside the library there are multi-touch surface installations give users the chance to delve deeper into archives which are relevant specifically to them.
|A multi-user interactive table in DOK Deflt allows library members to swipe their |
cards to access the history of their personal address through use of Open Data
Whilst the cynic in me noted that some of the things we saw were of questionable use-value (..excepting Pat's example above, obviously!) it is clear that Open Data presents many opportunities for libraries and has the potential to revolutionise users' experiences. Another example we were given in Ghent, for instance, was an award-winning app which lets student's know which is their nearest open pharmacy - illustrating how Open Data mining could even be a potential lifesaver.
4) Libraries should be where people are
The intention is to open libraries in central stations across Holland, allowing users to borrow a book at one station for their journey and then drop this off at another. This reminded me of the beginnings of WHSmith in the UK, which started as a (subscription-based) book-lending service. Its outlets were located at stations to allow travellers to enjoy the newly available innovation of the paperback book during their train ride.
5) Library folk are universally awesome!
Goes without saying really.. but if ever there was a tour which defied librarian stereotypes and preconceptions then this would be it. As you can see from the participants' profiles, we're an eclectic (/eccentric!) bunch. Everyone seemed to have very different interests, backgrounds and reasons for wanting to take part.
Showing solidarity with libraries which find themselves under threat was an important part of the tour too; no less so than on the very first day, with a visit to the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam. Here we lent our support to staff of Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen's (KIT) library whose resource was set to be closed down. Hearing the shocking news that the majority of the 900,000 items comprising this collection were "to be shredded" brought home some of the stark realities which libraries face right now. Whilst we and others tried our best to spread the word about this library (a petition against its closure amassed some 40,000 sigantures) KIT Bibliothek did sadly close, just today in fact - 1st August 2013. On a slightly more positive note, the Institute's website at least states "KIT will make every effort to keep our unique library collection in the future publicly accessible, albeit in a different location". This is of little consolation, however, particularly to those who worked at KIT.
|Cycling for Libraries huddled inside the KIT Library|
|Success! We made it to the Grote-Maarkt in Brussels on Day 9|