Posts Tagged With: Libraries

A vision for the future (Or: New plans for The Hague’s Central Library)

Plans for redesigning the interior of The Hague’s Central Library made the news recently. The building which houses the library and the city hall celebrated its 25th anniversary last month. it was opened by then Queen Beatrix on 8 September 1995. It’s an interesting building, having been given the nickname Ijspaleis (Ice palace) by locals.

The original architect (American Richard Meier) knew exactly what he wanted and didn’t want any changes at all, which is why a plan to redesign the interior is so surprising. But the architects in charge of this project admit problems with the design – the entrance is hidden and it looks more like an office than a library. I definitely agree with that!

The redesign will focus on the entrance, the café and the children’s area. There will also be a new debate space on the fifth and sixth floors and a rooftop terrace. Actually, I think there is a terrace already but it’s not in use at the moment.

Minder boeken in Haagse bieb van de toekomst (omroepwest.nl, in Dutch)

Mecanoo designs masterplan for The Hague Central Library (mecanoo.nl). Click “View project” at the bottom of the page to see a few additional photos.

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Bagel and beans (Or: Chai latte, anyone?)

Earlier in September, Marco and I visited one of the local Bagels & Beans cafés to enjoy a lunch outside. It was a bit cold, but doable as long as I kept my jacket on. It was probably my first visit in 2020, although admittedly we usually only go a few times a year. Check out our chai lattes:

I always loved these plates, and pretty much forgot about them until I saw our coffees. I also had a bagel with butter and chocolate sprinkles, but I was decidedly not Dutch about it. If you’re Dutch, you spread on the butter and then pour the sprinkles on top. The butter is mainly there to help keep the sprinkles from falling off while you take a bite. I have no interest in butter and chocolate together, so I instead simply alternated which one I put on my bagel. Which did mean I sadly had some chocolate sprinkles left over, but c’est la vie.

It definitely showed that I haven’t been to a Bagels & Beans in a while. I forgot that you need to pay inside. Which worked on in the end, since we were also asked to leave our contact details for corona purposes. Unlike other places (with a QR code you scan) you simply wrote your details in a notebook with a pen.

In other news, The Hague library no longer requires online registration before visiting the library (article in Dutch from the library website). The rule only lasted about two days, but was temporarily required after the press conference last Monday. A few days later the library received status in The Hague’s emergency ordinance as a doorstroomlocatie, or basically a place where people walk through it to experience something or get something (museums, monuments and attraction parks are other examples). This was probably for the best, since the link above mentions that there were long lines outside of people waiting to get in. Face masks are still urgently advised the library, like all public indoor locations in the Netherlands.

Here is your Awww moment for the day. The first color photos of the panda cub born earlier this year in a Dutch zoo are available:

The panda definitely knows how to pose for the camera.

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Face masks and other thoughts (Or: Life in The Hague)

Since 18:00 this evening residents of The Hague have been strongly advised (but not legally required) to wear a face mask when inside a shop. When I went to Albert Heijn this morning I would say about 60% of those I saw in the store were wearing a mask, even though it wasn’t 18:00 yet.

This does put retail in a tough position. Bijenkorf (a high-end department store) has said they will require face masks in the larger cities where the advisory is in place. Most shops have declined to do so at the moment, however. It is asking a lot of workers to also control face mask usage. The stores would prefer that the government adjusts the law so that it is legally required across the country. At the moment the law does not support the government forcing its citizens to wearing a face mask; it can be challenged in court.

Dutch retail groups won’t enforce face masks, ask for national regulations from dutchnews.nl

More and more cabinet members are in favor of requiring face masks across the country, versus the regional measures that are in place now. NOS.nl has this article in Dutch: Steeds meer stemmen in Tweede Kamer voor mondkapjesplicht (More and more politicians in the House of Representatives are in favor of a face mask requirement). I think the government will wait and see what the effects are for the recent measures first before adding new ones, however. It depends on how the country is doing in about 10-14 days.

The Dutch ministry of Health has also released their weekly Covid-19 statistics – see more at rivm.nl in English. It is to be expected. For instance there were 19,326 cases in the last week compared to 13,471 cases in the week before that.

I just read that The Hague’s library system has requested that all visitors wear face masks. They have also requested that you register your visit and answer some health related questions, preferably in advance although at the door is possible as well. In that case you can either scan a QR code to register online or fill out a paper form if the other options aren’t possible. For the moment both links are in Dutch; it’s not available on their English website (yet).

I’m hoping that the events of the last few days lead to face masks because more normalized in Dutch society. Time will tell.

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Good news! (Or: Longer opening hours at the Central Library)

Being the book nerd that I am, I am happy to read that The Hague’s Central Library would go back to its normal opening hours starting tomorrow, 31 August. The library branches in Escamp, Scheveningen and Segbroek will also have their normal opening hours from tomorrow. The rest of the libraries will hopefully go back to their normal opening times in the beginning of October.

Personally, I’m quite happy about this, as I used to make a quick trip to the library after work. But with the corona opening hours being 12:00-17:00 Monday-Saturday, this usually wasn’t possible. And something always came up to prevent me from going on Saturday…

View of the Central Library from Pathé Spui (movie theatre chain), March 2019

And if that does not give you enough of your library fix, the Central Library is also holding their annual book/film/cd sale next Sunday, 6 September from 12:00-17:00, on the 3rd floor. Or the 4th floor, if you’re American (see Wikipedia’s article about floor numbering in different cultures). Heh.

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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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Slightly brown water (Or: Pond by Centraal train station)

Not far from Centraal Station, and before you reach Malieveld, there is a pond. The water is a bit brown, and there may or may not be honking geese around, but it is a slice of nature nonetheless.

It’s also a bit of a reminder that I should take a different path sometimes. Normally I follow this path until it reaches Malieveld, but on the other side of those trees there’s a deer camp that goes by the name of Koekamp (Dutch Wikipedia). Of course Koekamp translates to cow camp, not deer camp, but okay. The Wikipedia page mentions that this used to be a hunting area full of bovine, with the earliest reference dating back to 1316. The deer took over sometime in the 17th century.

Interesting story I forgot to mention yesterday: I walked past the central library just before 12:00 and was surprised to see four or five people waiting in line by the library entrance. In these corona times the library is closed on Sundays, hence my surprise. I wonder if there was an event going on, but I don’t think so. More likely the first person stood in line and then others walked past, saw the line and thought the library was about to open so they joined too. I hope they weren’t waiting in line for too long!

In other news:

  • Rutte wants to continue as PM but still uncertain; Relaxing Covid rules was “terrifying” from nltimes.nl. That’s Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister. I had not realized there was any doubt that he would run for re-election next March. It also talks about the death of his mother in a nursing home a few months ago during the height of the corona crisis. The strict visitation rules and his workload prevented him from visiting her in her final days. Her death did not leak to the press until two weeks after the fact; he kept it secret so that it would not be a distraction.
  • Beach pavilions cannot operate this winter but can stay standing: Minister from nltimes.nl. The government has struck a compromise with beach pavilion owners: to prevent unnecessary costs pavilions do not need to be dismantled during the winter, although they cannot open to customers. The reason pavilions are normally dismantled is due to winter storms. Any costs due to storms or vandalism would still need to be covered by pavilion owners.
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On a dreary, wet day (Or: Where did the weekend go?)

Rain, rain go away

Come again another day

I think the morning and early afternoon were relatively dry, but how would I know? Work kept me inside sadly. By the time everything got sorted in the late afternoon, the sky was a dark grey and rain was looming. But Marco and I both needed fresh air, so we did not let that stop us. And sure, we got rained on, but at least we got our fresh air…

But in the spirit of that, I’ll share a photo of the Palace Gardens which I took last week:

Lovely blue skies, great temperatures, all you could want without ever having to leave your hometown.

Although that one stray tree branch in the top middle of the photo does look a bit out of place. Anyone have a ladder and a tree cutter?

In other news, The Hague libraries will be opening up a bit more starting tomorrow (1 July), as the Dutch government has relaxed some of the corona measures. Unfortunately it is still only open 12:00-17:00 Monday through Saturday. But you can go there to study, read newspapers, visit the café for coffee and snacks, etc. You can also use library computers for up to 60 minutes per day. See more (in Dutch) at Studeren, uw krantje lezen en meer: veel kan weer!

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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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What do you miss most? (Or: An ode to libraries)

As mentioned in a previous post, the “intelligent lockdown” rules have been extended through 20 May, with a few exceptions for children. Unfortunately this means that The Hague public libraries have extended their closure date through Sunday, 24 May with a hopeful reopening on Monday, 25 May. Good news: the free-even-for-non-members app “ThuisBieb” (Home Library) with around 100 e-books can now be used through 1 June. Read away!

I also mentioned in a previous post that I love the online library service (onlinebibliotheek.nl) and have already used their E-books app for one book, The Traveling Cat Chronicles (review from theguardian.com). I have since moved on to another book, Where’d you go, Bernadette, which is a completely different type of book, and not just because of the subject matter. The book is made up of emails, invoices, memos, letters – written by different characters that know Bernadette. It’s good, although work is a bit more taxing the last few days so I haven’t been reading as much as I could be at night.

Online is good, but there’s something to be said about the feel of printed pages and the random things you find which could loosely be labelled as “bookmarks”. In my case the last “bookmark” I found was a pressed purple flower. Or I think about browsing through the stacks, having a coffee downstairs in the café…

If anyone from the library world is reading this, just know that I’m taking good care of the four books I have in my possession until I can return them again. (And seriously, if I had known I would have checked out another five at least!)

You never know what you miss until you don’t have it anymore. What are you missing because of this current situation?

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Onlinebibliotheek.nl (Or: The library is open! Virtually)

As one might (unfortunately) expect, all of the public libraries in The Hague are closed. Libraries are something you definitely miss when you don’t have them anymore!

Luckily there is a solution to my current problem, and not just reading the handful of books I have lying around the house already, either. E-books can also be downloaded at onlinebibliotheek.nl and read either on your computer, via an app on your phone or tablet, or via your e-reader. You have three weeks to read the book, after which they are removed from your device and you need to download them again. Note: most titles are in Dutch, although there is a bit of English in the mix.

eBooks app – for members with a Dutch library card number or a subscription to onlinebibliotheek.nl. As noted there is a bit of English titles here, but it is mostly Dutch.

LuisterBieb app – audiobooks; for members with a Dutch library card number or a subscription to onlinebibliotheek.nl. A select number are also available for those without a membership.

ThuisBieb app – this app has about 100 titles for adults and 100 titles for children – it’s free for everyone, but everything is in Dutch.

It was really simple to download my first eBook – I simply entered my library card number on the website to make an account, found a book, downloaded the eBooks app, entered my login details one more time, and started reading.

I chose “The traveling cat chronicles” in Dutch, and just finished it last night. It’s a great story about a cat and his owner going on road trips so that the owner can find a new person to take care of his cat. Each chapter features a different road trip and has a flashback about how the owner met each of these friends during his school years. After the flashback, the chapter returns to present times and you move to the cat’s point of view again for the rest of the chapter.

Warning: a box of tissues is a good thing to have around for this one.

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