Reading

Libraries will open again soon! (Or: Probably… Hopefully…)

The news outlets reported some really good news last night. During the corona debate, the prime minister agreed that it was unfair that you could buy a book from a bookstore but not loan one from a library. Bookstores reopened under step 1 of the re-opening plan, but libraries were not scheduled to open until step 3. That step is tentatively scheduled for 9 June. Therefore the government agreed that if the numbers allow it, libraries could also open next week in step 2.

The Hague’s library system confirmed that they would open from Thursday, May 20 if step 2 is allowed to go ahead:

I am just hoping to be able to check out books (in an appropriate socially distanced manner, of course) but I am sure a lot of patrons are hoping that they would be able to go to the library to study. This was a possibility before the libraries closed in December, if you had a reservation in advance.

Read more at the library’s website (in Dutch).

In other news: The Hague’s football team ADO Den Haag has officially been relegated to a lower classification next year after losing their game to Willem II. They were in the top Dutch league for 13 years. See also: Skirmishes in The Hague with ADO relegation; Vaccination site closed as precaution from dutchnews.nl.

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Books and coffee (Or: 5 months later)

More than 5 months after the Netherlands went into a lockdown in mid-December (government.nl, in English) I was finally able to return the two books that I still had on my account when the lockdown was suddenly announced. Well, perhaps I can’t describe it as sudden – you felt it coming as the shopping crowds just kept building after Black Friday. (Yes, the Netherlands celebrates that as a shopping holiday now as well.)

At the end of November and the first two weeks of December I started to return each book as soon as I finished it, just in case. That left only two books that I wasn’t done with yet. One was Stephen King’s The Outsider in English and the other was a Japanese novel translated into Dutch, Nakano’s handel in oude rommel (=The Nakano Thrift Shop). Since Monday, 19 April patrons have been allowed to return library books at any library in The Hague, 12:00-17:00 Monday through Saturday (link in Dutch). Patrons also have the option of requesting a bag of five books in a specific genre (this option has been available for the last few months).

Speaking of books: Prominent Dutch authors to reopen country’s bookstores on April 28 from nltimes.nl. There will be at least one author present in each province.

Starbucks in the city centre, waiting in line

Random photo above from the interior of the Starbucks in The Hague city centre. I haven’t had Starbucks in a few years, but on a whim Marco and I decided to grab a drink. I went for a vanilla Frappuccino. That was also on a whim; I spent most of my time in line thinking I was going for a caramel Frappuccino. Let me tell you: I don’t regret my change of heart. Or taste buds.

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The Central Library (Or: At least stuffed animals can visit)

The Central Library of The Hague (English website) is currently closed due to the lockdown. They are a bit more pragmatic than my hairdressers – they at least use terms like “closed until further notice” and “you can no longer visit until at least 9 February 2021”. Pragmatic because who knows when libraries will open again, and pragmatic because at least they don’t need to update the website again and again as the lockdown is extended. On the other side of the spectrum my hairdresser emailed to say “We are open from 10 February!” although they did also say all appointments would be cancelled automatically if they had to stay closed, so there was no risk to you.

This afternoon I requested a few hours leave. Marco and I took a walk – probably the first decent walk together in at least a month – and I snapped this photo of the central library café:

As you can see a few stuffed animals were allowed to enter the library even if humans can’t. I can imagine they were waiting for cups of chocolate milk. The character on the right is Nijntje (in English her name is Miffy, see also the English Wikipedia article). She also has her own official website: miffy.com. The character in the middle is a stork, which appears in a lot of The Hague imagery, including in its coat of arms (English Wikipedia). I assume the stuffed animal on the left is simply a rabbit, but who knows. Maybe that is a famous character as well.

Opsteker voor boekverkopers na oproep tot steuntje in de rug tijdens lockdown from nos.nl in Dutch. Translated: Boost for booksellers after call for support during lockdown. There was even a hashtag #steunjeboekhandel, or support your book store.

Happy Friday everyone. Maybe I will go read one of the books I have lying around shortly…

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Library services during the lockdown (Or: Delivery and pickup)

The Hague’s library system has limited options for alternative service during the lockdown which will last until (at least) 19 January.

Patrons who are aged 70 or older can request a one-off delivery of up to 6 chosen titles (including up to 1 DVD). The books will come from the Central Library and the patron can also request a genre instead of specific titles or write ‘no preference’ in the title field. There is a message in fine print saying the library understands that filling out a form online is not always the easiest thing for this age group to do, but they hope that relatives might be able to help out with filling in the form.

All library patrons can fill out a form to request a bag of 5 books. In this case it is based on genre, not specific titles. Perhaps you might find an unexpectedly awesome book this way. The patron can then pick up the bag at one of the neighborhood libraries (but not at the Central Library). The books will come from the same library where the pickup will occur.

The library also offers some online activities via a service called Bieb070@Home. (Bieb = Library. 070 = area code for The Hague.) The list of upcoming events includes a video of an online Christmas concert by the group “On The Jazz”, an interview in January with the city’s archeologist (yes, we have an archeologist) and more.

The Hague’s library system has also been heavily promoting the option of checking out e-books and audio books as well via their recently renewed Online Bibliotheek or “Online library” app. The only downside is that most of the books are in Dutch, but I found it pretty easy to use when I looked at it a few months back.

I can’t believe we’re almost at Christmas already… insane!

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Standing before closed doors (Or: The Hague library in corona times)

Libraries (and museums, theaters, cinemas, etc.) are currently closed in the Netherlands. It is part of an additional set of corona measures that the Dutch government has taken to lower the number of hospitalizations. (The government did provide an exception for libraries to be open for picking up reservations and book deliveries, but The Hague has chosen not to do this.)

I decided to take a photo of the sign at The Hague’s Central Library (Unfortunately we are temporarily closed). Boo!

But I am nothing if not prepared (having heard the rumors of an impending closure on Sunday evening):

Partially because I told myself that if I thought another library closure was coming I would check out additional books. And partially because I don’t expect these extra measures to be lifted after two weeks – even though the prime minister said it would automatically be lifted after that time.

Unfortunately the balance of Dutch versus English books is a bit skewed (1 novel in Dutch versus 4 novels in English). But that happens when you go to the library during a work break and some of the books you wanted to check out aren’t on the shelf. I had to quickly grab some backups after consulting my Goodreads list.

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Dwarsligger? (Or: I call them mini books)

Here is something I don’t think you find often in America: mini books with the text parallel to the spine instead of perpendicular. The Dutch call them dwarsliggers, which the English Wikipedia article says translates to “crossbeam” or “sleeper”. Perhaps it is related to trains? Google translate says it could also be “railway sleeper”.

ARGH! Why is the book on the left upside down? Why didn’t I notice that when taking this picture and fix it?

And in case you can’t visualize what I mean with parellel to the spine, here’s an image from Wikimedia Commons, taken by user Pienfie.

Nederland, Amsterdam, Promotiemateriaal Ambo Anthos/ Jongbloed-Dwarsligger, Foto: Mark Kohn

So yeah, a mini book. You can hold it in one hand. Good if you’re standing in the train – hold the railing with one hand and hold the book with the other. I suppose if you have really good coordination you can turn the page with your thumb. I don’t think my coordination is that good, especially not while standing in a moving train.

Oh, and the Dutch zoo’s panda cub was named after Vincent Van Gogh, receiving the Chinese name Fan Xing. “Fan” refers back to Van Gogh (Fan Goa in Chinese) and Xing refer’s to the panda’s father, Xing Ya. Xing also means “star” in Chinese, which, if you want to take it that far, could refer to Van Gogh’s Starry Night painting.

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Bring out your gold (Or: Inspection house in the Binnenhof)

One or the lesser known sites of the Binnenhof is the Goudsmids Keurhuis, which is a fancy way of saying Goldsmith inspection house.

The building was built in the first part of the 17th century (Dutch Wikipedia). All that remains is the facade you see in the photo; behind is office spaces. There is a bit of an embarrassment from centuries ago: the gold text has a typo. it reads t’ Goutsmits Keur Huys but even back then the apostrophe should come before the t, as an abbreviation for het or “the”. If you look at the photo on the linked Wikipedia page you can see just how cramped this building is, surrounded by buildings constructed in the 20th century.

In other news: if all goes well there will be a brief feeling of sun on your skin this weekend. Temperatures on Thursday, Friday and Saturday will be between 25-29C or 77-84F. I know, I know, that sounds positively cool compared to some cities out there. But we take what we can get.

I also received an email from the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (the National Library) that they have released a beta version of their new e-book/audio book app. Some of the main improvements over the old app are:

  • you can check out a book directly from within the app
  • the same app is contains both e-books and audio books
  • other advantages are listed on their website (note: page is in Dutch)

Google Play link: online Bibliotheek BETA

Apple app store link: online Bibliotheek

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Time to return those library books (Or: No more garbage bins)

It seems as more time goes by that the coronavirus restrictions are being relaxed. The same is true of the Centraal library here in The Hague – you no longer need a pass to enter the library, although you do need a pass if you want to stay and study.

The last time I visited the huge garbage bins were gone, thankfully. You had to throw (or gently place) your returned library books into them. Once full they would remain unopened for four days in case any of the books were infected. Still, there’s something weird about throwing library books into a huge garbage bin so I am glad to see them gone.

In its place, the checkin point is back in service!

terugbrengen = to bring back

In other news:

  • Head of security council protests for right to chant at football matches from dutchnews.nl. I can see his point – there are some fanatical fans here in The Netherlands. The government’s theory is that less screaming and chanting would also mean less potential coronavirus particles in the air. But who knows, maybe I will be surprised. I suspect it will be harder for people to follow this rule as the months go by.
  • Long-distance relationship exempted from Netherlands travel ban from nltimes.nl. Are you in a long-distance relationship with a Dutch citizen or someone here who holds a non-temporary residency permit? Then you can visit for up to 90 days (provided you meet a few other criteria as well), even if you’re from a country that is not currently on the “safe” list, like the United States.
  • Are you in the Netherlands and you’re itching to taste some kruidnoten? Well, they are coming. The first photo of kruidnoten has been posted on Reddit on the /thenetherlands page. (This treat is generally consumed around the Sinterklaas holiday, which falls on 5 December each year. The earliest I’ve seen it so far is the first of August.)
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Stillness (Or: The reopening of libraries across The Netherlands)

During the national press conference on 6 May, Prime Minister Rutte said that libraries would be able to re-open from 11 May provided visitors follow social distancing rules and limit the number of visitors at one time. This was welcome news since the original ruling was that libraries would be closed until (at least) 25 May.

The Hague libraries are now open under the following rules: you can lend books, pick up reservations and get help at the customer service desk. However, you can’t work or study at the library, you can’t use the computers or printers and the bathroom facilities are closed. Last week the central library in the city centre was also only open for returning books and picking up (existing) reservations, unlike other branches which were immediately open for lending books as well. However, since this week it is also possible to lend books at the central library. I visited on Tuesday to turn in the four books I had and to check out more.

If you’re just there to return books or DVDs, you can actually turn them in outside. I don’t have a photo of it, but you actually turn them in by placing them in a large garbage container (Oh, the horror! putting books in a garbage container! It’s obviously clean, though.) The books are then kept in the container for three days before they are disinfected as much as possible and returned to circulation. On the fourth day you can check and make sure that the books disappeared from your account. Which means I can check my account on Saturday to make sure they are gone.

If you want to check out books, you can get into line to go inside. While practicing social distancing of course. You enter through the side door, which is normally used for patrons who can’t enter through the revolving door. When you exit you do use the revolving door to leave.

But very cool: when you enter you get a huge bookmark. That’s how the library is able to control how many patrons are inside. I love the theming.

The giant bookmark says: Welcome, we are happy to see you! Our doors are opened for limited services. Please return this bookmark (boekenlegger) when you leave the library.

I checked out two books which have been on my to read list for a long time: Oracle Night by Paul Auster in English and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King in Dutch. They have been on my to read list since September and December 2018 respectively.

I was pretty impressed by everything that the library staff had done to prepare for the re-opening – there were signs everywhere. I wasn’t prepared for how quiet everything was, though. No one studying, no one talking. There were less people using the escalators which meant they were mostly inactive and making less noise. There were people around, of course. But it wasn’t the same.

As noted, studying and using the computers or printers isn’t allowed at the moment so there was a lot of furniture stacked along the sides, covered in caution tape.

I believe this computer was not in use because it is too close to the self-checkout computer shown in the background. These computers are used for searching the library catalog. There were still a few available to use, though.

I must admit part of me wanted to keep the bookmark as a souvenir of these crazy times. I did not, however. You turn it in right before exiting through the revolving doors, handing it over to a staff member who meticulously disinfects it before handing it back to the staff at the entrance. And then the next person is allowed in, happy to check out some new reading material.

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A look at how my mind works (Or: Spoiler–it gets confusing)

So last week you had this article at omroepwest.nl:

The first time I saw this article I translated it as ‘Two men attack each other with knife and cow foot after fight’.

Cow foot? Okay, that’s strange, but that’s what it says: koevoet. Koe for cow, voet for foot. Maybe it was a frozen cow foot from the butcher?

Repeat a few days later when I see the article again: oh, that fight with a knife and a cow foot, okay. I figure it’s really not that, but it’s too fun picturing a man wielding a cow foot so I decide not to consult the translating friend of Google.

Repeat last night, when I see the article again. But this time Marco is around to ask. I let him know I have a “Dutch” question, as I like to put it. I repeat the article title and then translate it to English.

I’m barely finished when he tells me that a koevoet is a crowbar.

Awww. That’s logical…

But a part of me is disappointed none the less. Can’t you picture a man running down the street, screaming and wildly brandishing a frozen cow foot?

I can.

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