- Posted April 14, 2014 by
1310 Broadway, Somerville, Massachusetts
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Your favorite libraries
This is not your (grand)father’s library: The Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam (OBA)
In a digital world where the very concept of library is in flux, what does the library of our time look like, and what role does it play in the city?
The Centrale Bibliotheek of the Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam (OBA) in the Netherlands might very well serve as a model for the library of the future — not merely a repository for books, but a one-stop center of many different functions.
What does this library look like?
Imagine approaching this canal-side library by bicycle, which you can park in one of the 2,000 bike spaces in front of the building. Its exterior is contemporary and elegantly sculptural. It fits well into its rugged harbor setting, where commercial, residential, cultural and industrial uses are often side-by-side from the vantage points of passing boats and ships.
As you ascend the steps into the main hall, you hear a piano played by visitors there. Yes, the hall has an information booth and a book checkout station, but to the right you see a small museum and a prominently located art gallery. To the left of the piano, a balcony overlooks a three-story-high children’s section with circular shelves playfully positioned so groups of children and teachers can sit on the floor, read books and share stories together. The sound of children’s laughter and excitement fills the air.
In the distance are a series of terraced platforms overlooking a multi-story atrium. Beautifully detailed wood shelves and display cases line the walls in a space flooded with natural and artificial light. The shelves exhibit some 2,000 magazines, journals and newspapers from all over Europe and the world, creating a kaleidoscopic splash of color and text in what is mostly a space of white walls and glass.
You can sit in oversized comfortable chairs, or along desks running the length of a long balcony. These prime spots overlook tall spaces that cut through the body of this ten-story library, creating dramatic and dynamic vistas. Everywhere you look, you see people engaged in all kinds of activities: reading, writing, sitting at a computer terminal, meeting in conference rooms, listening to music, or simply watching other people.
A ride up the illuminated glass escalators reveals ten floors of all kinds of interesting spaces with surprising uses. Yes, some floors are devoted to books, while others focus on music and art. There are 5 million books and a state-of-the-art automated book-retrieval system. Wi-Fi and computer access is ubiquitous; more than 600 computers with Internet connection serve visitors twelve hours a day, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Listening booths and stands for enjoying your favorite music or video come in a variety of shapes, including one reminiscent of a NASA space station module. Immersed in this private capsule, you are taken to other places, while you look out uniquely shaped portholes at the library’s reading areas. To your surprise and delight, you discover a theater in the building as well, where you can hear live music, performances or lectures. There are also two radio stations.
Finally you reach the top floor, where you are rewarded with a tasty restaurant and market offering fresh produce and food, along with local specialties. Take a stroll to the restaurant’s outdoor terrace and you are offered an expansive view of Amsterdam and its harbor. You look down and see your bike parked along the canal, as you look forward to riding home after an enriching visit to the library.
The OBA was built in 2007 for 80 million Euros and was designed by Jo Coenen.