Library love

I love libraries. So I don’t know why it took me eight whole months to finally haul my ass down to the Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam (OBA), or the Amsterdam Public Library. 
At 28,000 square meters, the Central Library down by Centraal (no, that is not a typo) Station is Europe’s biggest public library. Brace yourselves for a huge photodump, because this is the most photogenic library I have ever seen in my life.

Some quick facts and figures about the OBA:

  • 7 floors
  • 1,375 seats (600 with computers/Internet/MS Office)
  • 110 catalogue terminals and 26 lending machines
  • Underground parking for 2,000 bikes and 1,200 cars
  • 2.5 million users and visitors annually
  • Awarded Amsterdam’s Most Sustainable Public Building in 2008
  • Also houses a theatre, radio station, conference rooms, exhibition spaces, “study pods”, cafe and restaurant
The library is impressive in numbers, but it’s even more so when you actually visit. For a bookworm like me, stepping into the library for the first time was like walking into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, without the impending doom of weight gain.
More than a bookworm’s wonderland, though, this is everything I love about Dutch design. 

Modern details everywhere, even on the couches and the floors.

Standing in the lobby, you can simply look up to see how the library is organized at a glance. It’s a clever and irresistible invitation to explore.

Explore with me, after the jump. 
First order of the day: borrow the assigned reading material for book club. It took me a while to find the catalogue terminals at first. I saw these iMacs all over the place but I simply didn’t think to connect “library catalogue” with “Mac. But that’s exactly what they are.
Love the changing words on the screensavers. (Fietst means bike, as in the verb.)

Love the way the shelves are labeled, too. (Strips mean comics.)

Wandering around the library would probably do wonders for my Dutch vocabulary. I could while away whole afternoons here.
After I found my book, it was time to check it out with mijn pas (my card). 
Love the design of the lending stations. Even if you don’t speak Dutch, the outlines tell you where to place uw pas (your card) and boeken (books) to be scanned for checkout. Simplicity is beauty.
Great design is just everywhere. Even in simple things like coat racks.
More than just being lovely to look at, I also found some details to be quite thoughtful. One of the details I appreciated most was the placement of solitary chairs in front of huge windows. This idea could have only come from a person knows the solitary pleasure of reading, of turning one’s back on the world for a few hours to become absorbed in a book.
On the top floor is a large cafeteria-style restaurant operated by the La Place chain. 

It was a beautiful, clear day so the outdoor terrace was packed.

But we couldn’t leave without checking out the view.

The turquoise building to my right is NEMO, the Science Museum. The rooftop becomes a big urban “beach” in the summer—but of course from experience, I’ve come to learn that urban is simply a euphemism for sandless and unswimmable.

As you can see, tall buildings in Amsterdam are rare. Most of the buildings are old, and are only five, maybe six stories at the most. So this view is pretty special. 

Books in hand and stomachs full, Marlon and I headed back down from the top floor…

… and made one last stop at the multimedia department on our way out.

The whole floor made me nostalgic for the days of Tower Records. 

At the same time, it felt like something all too current and familiar… like an Apple store!

The architects definitely belong to the cult of Mac.

Hello cult-mates!

Isn’t this the coolest librarian’s desk ever?

It’s made entirely from pressed sheets of cardboard. 

Oh, a small aside: in the DVD section, I saw Basic Instinct right next to Horton Hears a Who. Welcome to the Netherlands, folks.

And with that we hop over to the children’s section, which is in the basement.

Love all the fun elements they incorporated into the children’s reading area, like making the shelves into a “fort” you can climb, and the teepee on the right. And of course, those awesome “jackstone” lights. May jackstones din kaya sila dito?

What a great way to make reading fun for kids. Then again, I never needed forts and teepees to make me enjoy reading. An awesome library always helps, though!

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