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.