Wednesday, 19 March 2008

A building every community should have

Jenny Levine, militant librarian, video gamer and fixer of things in the American Library Association, has visited the public library in Delft, Holland. Or, as it calls itself, "DOK". Somehow, incredibly stupidly, I've visited Delft several times but never gone inside this building, instead either paying money to use a cybercafe near the railway station, or waiting to use the terminals in the tourist information office. Not making that mistake again.

Looking out from the CD section

The building summarises what a library should aspire to:

The focal point in a community where every citizen - irrelevant of age or income - and visitor can comfortably socialise, meet, study, learn and freely access a very wide range of information and entertainment media.

Hey look, not a mention of "books" :-) It would be an interesting experiment, if there's any philanthropist out there, to drop one of these into any community, and note the "before" and "after" effects against a wide range of socio-economic criteria. Education levels, access to wellbeing media, low-level street crime, there's a whole range of "stuff" that could be looked at as part of some community-based experiment.

The music pods

Part of Jenny's review: "So they have videogames, listening stations, comfortable chairs, a cafe, a circulating art collection, programs throughout the building (not just hidden away in a room in the basement), a piano, toys for kids to play with, a brightly-lit room devoted to graphic novels, an entire room (done in red) devoted to romance novels, and more.

Xbox kiosk

When you walk in the building for the first time, if your cellphone is discoverable via bluetooth, you'll receive a text message from DOK that says "Welcome to the most modern library in the world" - a claim well-lived up to. There's an RFID system for both library cards and books (with no privacy problems to date). There's a system of LCD screens mounted around the building for navigation and information which runs off Nintendo Wiis.

The staff floor

The display is a Flash application of a Wii channel and the top bar’s information and color changes based on your location in the library. Staff can log in to a website to change what shows on the display in order to update messages for the public (about programs, closings, etc.). The aforementioned listening station pods are truly amazing, and I now have to find a way to fund one for my home. Plans for later this year call for the installation of a multimedia creation area for podcasting/vidcasting/etc. and a “genius bar” type of setup for technology help for the public."

Go read the review and look at the picture set. The nearest major airport to Delft is Schipol, and there's frequent, fast and cheap train travel between the two (dang, yet another thing "Continental Europeans" have got right over "Yankee Britannia").