March 19, 2008

Visiting the Most Modern Library in the World

front of DOK Ear­lier this month I had the incred­i­ble good for­tune to visit DOK in Delft, Hol­land. Nor­mally I would call it the Delft Pub­lic Library, but it just goes by the name “DOK” and the sign on the door says it’s a “library con­cept cen­ter.” The staff did this on pur­pose to get away from the tra­di­tional stereo­types of the pub­lic library, because the insti­tu­tion they’ve cre­ated is about as far away as you can get from the con­no­ta­tion of a 1950s build­ing, filled with quiet peo­ple, all of them sit­ting alone, in a rel­a­tively dreary build­ing, being shushed by an old lady with a bun.

wonderfully-colorful circulation desk Instead, it is eas­ily the most col­or­ful and aesthetically-pleasing library I have ever seen. Granted, I’ve seen a very small per­cent­age of the world’s libraries, but the use of a diverse palette of bright and unusual col­ors was a very stark con­trast to every other library I have seen in per­son or in pictures.

Even more impres­sive (and truly strik­ing) is the amount of rad­i­cal trust the staff has placed in its patrons. Some of the stark con­trast with Amer­i­can libraries is due in part to the liti­gious nature of our soci­ety. Every­where I went in Delft and in DOK, I found exam­ples of things we could never do in the U.S. out of fear of being sued out of exis­tence. In some cases, it’s as sim­ple as hav­ing some of the shelves for chil­drens books and dis­play cases on wheels so that they can be moved around as needed to cre­ate pro­gram or play space. The kids can even stand on the book­shelves (as can adults). There’s a room that’s tucked away on the side that truly is built for chil­dren, with low benches for sit­ting and light­ing under­neath them for lit­tle ones who want to read or play on the floor. In another case, it’s the open lis­ten­ing sta­tion pods. When I was there, I could hear music drift­ing through the build­ing from one of them. Some kids would put on an album and let it run while they were else­where on the floor talk­ing or play­ing videogames. It wasn’t over­whelm­ing, though, and there were other places where I couldn’t hear it at all and could sit in silence if I wanted to.

it's okay to stand on the furniture! everything in this part of the kids' area is on wheels the music pods - totally awesome experience

The small design touches every­where are stun­ning, but that’s not sur­pris­ing giv­ing the Dutch aes­thetic. DOK eas­ily has the coolest, most com­fort­able chairs of any library. As I walked around, I kept sit­ting in them just because I could and wanted to. Some of them are even prac­ti­cal. Recently, I was in a pub­lic library in the U.S. where I had trou­ble find­ing a com­fort­able place to sit. My only choice as an adult was the stan­dard box cush­ion chair with wood arms. Com­pared to DOK, fur­ni­ture used in Amer­i­can libraries is at best cor­po­rate and at worst unwel­com­ing. They also use nat­ural lan­guage names for sec­tions of the col­lec­tion (psy­chol­ogy, com­put­ers and inter­net, etc.), not Dewey num­bers, and the graph­ics for the ban­ners are col­or­ful and eye-catching. They are clearly done by a pro­fes­sional, and they don’t all look the same. Also note the lack of steel shelves that make the library look like a ware­house. Instead, they used flex­i­ble shelv­ing made from recy­clable mate­ri­als (also done for some gor­geous tables and desks).

the coolest chairs in a library kids relaxing down on the multimedia floor books and their signage

second floor, from the top of the stairs You walk into DOK and you imme­di­ately feel wel­come into a place you know you can spend hours at if you want to. DOK is what I’ve always wanted libraries to be in terms of the “expe­ri­ence” that hap­pens around books, infor­ma­tion, con­tent, media, and peo­ple. You can’t help but smile when you’re inside, and you just feel hap­pier in gen­eral. A cou­ple of years ago, I heard a speaker at a Min­nesota Library Asso­ci­a­tion con­fer­ence say that the clas­sic mis­take libraries make is that we focus too much on how we want peo­ple to feel about the library when they walk in. His the­ory was that we need to focus on how peo­ple feel about them­selves when they walk in, and DOK illus­trates that the­ory in prac­tice. Each time I entered the build­ing, the bright, nat­ural light from the glass ceil­ing had an effect on me. If I feel bet­ter about myself there, I will feel bet­ter about the library and enjoy my expe­ri­ence more.

Eppo, the Director of DOK DOK’s Direc­tor, Eppo, told us that “libraries are (for the most part) all about not hav­ing fun.” At DOK, they delib­er­ately turned this stereo­type on its head. Instead, their the­ory is that “life is all about hav­ing more fun than you can think of, and it starts at the library.” So they have videogames, lis­ten­ing sta­tions, com­fort­able chairs, a café, a cir­cu­lat­ing art col­lec­tion, pro­grams through­out the build­ing (not just hid­den away in a room in the base­ment), a piano, toys for kids to play with, a brightly-lit room devoted to graphic nov­els, an entire room (done in red) devoted to romance nov­els, and more.

information system that runs off Wiis When you walk in the build­ing for the first time, if your cell­phone is dis­cov­er­able via blue­tooth, you’ll receive a text mes­sage from DOK that says, “Wel­come to the most mod­ern library in the world,” a claim well-lived up to. There’s an RFID sys­tem for both library cards and books (with no pri­vacy prob­lems to date). There’s a sys­tem of LCD screens mounted around the build­ing for nav­i­ga­tion and infor­ma­tion which runs off Nin­tendo Wiis. The dis­play is a Flash appli­ca­tion of a Wii chan­nel and the top bar’s infor­ma­tion and color changes based on your loca­tion in the library. Staff can log in to a web­site to change what shows on the dis­play in order to update mes­sages for the pub­lic (about pro­grams, clos­ings, etc.). The afore-mentioned lis­ten­ing sta­tion pods are truly amaz­ing, and I now have to find a way to fund one for my home. Plans for later this year call for the instal­la­tion of a mul­ti­me­dia cre­ation area for podcasting/vidcasting/etc. and a “genius bar” type of setup for tech­nol­ogy help for the public.

None of which pre­cludes the pro­vi­sion of and help find­ing print mate­ri­als and ref­er­ence help. Staff are smartly sit­u­ated through­out the build­ing, and books are every­where. Mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers are eas­ily acces­si­ble, housed in a bril­liant design of cubes that makes the most cur­rent edi­tion vis­i­ble and recent issues avail­able with­out staff inter­ven­tion. While there are fly­ers and hand­outs on top of var­i­ous shelv­ing, the walls are not plas­tered with hand­made signs of rules and nav­i­ga­tion. Of course, there isn’t a sin­gle “no cell phones” sign to be found since they actu­ally com­mu­ni­cate with patrons via mobile devices.

looking down on the new books area from the staff floor magazines are very smartly stored Grab the world at DOK!

I could go on all day about how DOK gets the big things and the details right, but you can see some of this for your­self in my Flickr set. It is every­thing the big, fancy Amer­i­can libraries want to be but just miss. If your library is plan­ning a new build­ing or a ren­o­va­tion, I highly rec­om­mend you talk to the peo­ple at DOK and if at all pos­si­ble, visit this amaz­ing library. You will be amazed at how much bet­ter than a book­store a library can be at mer­chan­dis­ing and aes­thet­ics, let alone the social experience.

Adden­dum: Even bet­ter pic­tures from the DOK folks them­selves here, and an arti­cle in Mar­ket­ing Library Ser­vices about inno­va­tion at DOK here.

Be Socia­ble, Share!


  1. It’s an IKEA-brary!
    And I mean that in a very good way.
    There are a lot of fan­tas­tic ideas here, thank you for sharing!

    Comment by Grace — March 19, 2008 @ 10:20 am

  2. how amaz­ing! Thank you for post­ing this. They are build­ing a new library for our school and it looks noth­ing like this…but it would be amaz­ing if it did.

    Comment by anna — March 19, 2008 @ 10:29 am

  3. […] mil­i­tant librar­ian, video gamer and fixer of things in the Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion, has vis­ited the pub­lic library in Delft, Hol­land. Or, as it calls itself, […]

    Pingback by A building every community should have at Silversprite — March 19, 2008 @ 10:31 am

  4. Amaz­ing look­ing. I love those iMac pod sta­tions. Sadly it would look really out of place in my house.

    Comment by Jamie — March 19, 2008 @ 11:29 am

  5. Nice write up…looks really cool, com­fort­able and given to cre­at­ing an experience…or two. I built an Expe­ri­ence Library in Cer­ri­tos, California…take a look at it when you get a chance and read the arti­cles writ­ten about it…Goggle “waynn pear­son”. I am always pleased to see oth­ers using their imag­i­na­tion. I am retired now…however many dif­fer­ent groups have vis­ited Cerritos…lots from the Nether­lands. I am par­tial to using sto­ry­lines in design­ing libraries…not sure what DOK’s sto­ry­line might be…maybe just wel­come. peace

    Comment by waynn pearson — March 19, 2008 @ 12:03 pm

  6. Many U.S. libraries buy uncom­fort­able seat­ing on pur­pose. The sad truth is that if the chairs are com­fort­able for sit­ting for long peri­ods, they will be monop­o­lized by the home­less, who will treat the area as a flop­house. Fur­ther­more, if you do find comfy chairs in a major U.S. library, don’t sit in them unless you want to sub­ject your­self to lice, tuber­cu­lo­sis, etc.

    Comment by rick — March 19, 2008 @ 12:24 pm

  7. I was there recently too, an amaz­ing place!

    Comment by Fiona — March 19, 2008 @ 12:39 pm

  8. Estab­lish­ing the library as a desir­able PLACE to BE is the design chal­lenge for tomorrow’s library buildings.

    With the pro­lif­er­a­tion of dig­i­tal infor­ma­tion access por­tals chal­lang­ing the very notion of a library with a phys­i­cal pres­ence, this library facil­ity is a viable pro­to­type for future libraries if they are to sur­vive as relevent phys­i­cal places in our communities.

    Comment by Jeff Hoover — March 19, 2008 @ 12:51 pm

  9. It looks very nice, but if cus­tomers have to pay fees to use it, it’s not really a pub­lic library is it?

    Comment by Bruce Farrar — March 19, 2008 @ 3:31 pm

  10. Fab piece Jenny. I am very proud of our Library Con­cept Cen­ter you know that, but you made me even more proud. I do think the place looked bet­ter with you in it though. Can not wait to See you in Washington.

    Comment by erik boekesteijn — March 19, 2008 @ 3:33 pm

  11. Mr Far­rar I can guar­an­tee you that DOK is indeed a pub­lic library and is vis­ited by over 80% of the pop­u­la­tion of Delft. The sys­tem with taxes and fees are a bit dif­fer­ent over here, but that obvi­ously does not stop peo­ple from using this inspir­ing place as meet­ing point and place to get aquainted with new tech­nol­ogy and new means of shar­ing sto­ries and information.

    Comment by erik boekesteijn — March 19, 2008 @ 3:49 pm

  12. […] was actu­ally get­ting to me — the fact that we can just walk out into wher­ever …www.canada.comVisiting the Most Mod­ern Library in the World Ear­lier this month I had the incred­i­ble good for­tune to visit DOK in Delft, Hol­land. Nor­mally I […]

    Pingback by walk out basement — March 19, 2008 @ 4:04 pm

  13. This can be done in libraries in this coun­try. We just should move away from tra­di­tional library ven­dors. If you look at even the most robust of library fur­ni­ture ven­dors, they are not much dif­fer­ent than school or office fur­ni­ture. When you build a new library, the open up some of the cool stuff (not like shown here though). I think library ven­dors wouldn’t get enough demand to pro­vide it. How­ever, if an inno­v­a­tive library or city would cre­ate a deal with Ikea (or some­thing sim­i­lar) it would be very easy to pro­cure the fur­ni­ture for the library. A library would have to bud­get for it and bud­get to replace the fur­ni­ture each year when it becomes damaged(also if using Ikea may not last as long as other fur­ni­ture). Sort of treat it the same way you would books or com­put­ers, once they get dam­aged or destroyed have a piece of the bud­get carved out to replace it. It isn’t as far out there as one might think. It can be done.

    Comment by Jeff — March 19, 2008 @ 4:52 pm

  14. […] Most Mod­ern Library in the World The Twisted Librar­ian has posted a piece about a visit to a cutting-edge library in Delfe, Hol­land, which refers to itself not as a library […]

    Pingback by The Most Modern Library in the World « UW-Madison SLISIT — March 19, 2008 @ 8:01 pm

  15. […]   Have you vis­ited Jenny Levine’s “Shifted Librar­ian” blog and seen the DOK? We would call it the Delft (Nether­lands) Pub­lic Library, but Levine writes that those who manage […]

    Pingback by “Most Modern Library in the World” « The Monkey Speaks — March 21, 2008 @ 4:10 pm

  16. Re: “…the sign on the door says it’s a ‘library con­cept cen­ter.’ The staff did this on pur­pose to get away from the tra­di­tional stereo­types of the pub­lic library…”

    How are we to ever get peo­ple to real­ize that libraries are not like the stereo­type if every­time we break the stereo­type we give it another name!?!

    Comment by Matthew Thomas — March 21, 2008 @ 8:11 pm

  17. Jenny– I was so bummed out that I missed the tour and read­ing this just makes me think I just have to visit them!!!

    Comment by Nancy Dowd — March 23, 2008 @ 9:54 am

  18. For every­one who’d like to learn even more about DOK — and who can’t read it in Dutch on their web site — you’ll enjoy the new cover story from the Mar­ket­ing Library Ser­vices newslet­ter! You can read it at

    Comment by Kathy Dempsey — March 25, 2008 @ 4:22 pm

  19. […] Delft Pub­lic Library which goes by the name DOK. She describes her per­cep­tions of the library @…  I want to apply so many of the con­cepts to my school library and can­not wait to share the images […]

    Pingback by Delft Public Library « Schu’s Blog of Lit and More — March 26, 2008 @ 10:26 pm

  20. […] well worth shar­ing is this blog from the Shifted Librar­ian about the pub­lic library in Delft, Hol­land. It really is an amazing […]

    Pingback by Sintoblog: The most modern (public) library in the world. — March 27, 2008 @ 10:55 am

  21. […] rédac­trice du blog The Shifted Librar­ian (”Le Bib­lio­thé­caire Décalé”), nous pro­pose de décou­vrir la médiathèque DOK dans la ville de Delft, en Hol­lande, avec quelques pho­tos en prime. Cette médiathèque se pro­pose d’être la plus mod­erne de sa […]

    Pingback by CDI-EpinayVilletaneuse93 » La bibliothèque selon Delft — March 27, 2008 @ 2:25 pm

  22. […] bib­lioteką, a niek­tóre fotele same w sobie mogłyby przy­ciągnąć nowych czytel­ników. Zdaniem Jenny Levine, autorki bloga „Shifted Librar­ian”, ktoś kto przekracza próg DOK, czuje się […]

    Pingback by Holenderski pomysł na bibliotekę : Biblioteka 2.0 — March 28, 2008 @ 8:45 am

  23. frankly, i can not under­stand all the hype, might be due to being ger­man, but this library looks dated to me and there are many libraries like this or even bet­ter, in ger­many, here in france (where i live) or in europe in general!

    Comment by andrea delumeau — April 1, 2008 @ 11:30 am

  24. Can you pro­vide more details and point­ers for these libraries, andrea? Would love to see pic­tures and exam­ples of inno­va­tion in Ger­man and French libraries.

    Comment by jenny — April 1, 2008 @ 11:36 am

  25. Hi Andrea,
    If there are other libraries out there that rival DOK, I’d love to know about them. Are they blog­ging or Flick­ring or pub­lish­ing arti­cles about their sites & ser­vices? I’ve been to a num­ber of Euro libs and have never seen any­thing else like DOK. please share more info!

    Comment by Kathy Dempsey — April 1, 2008 @ 11:47 am

  26. […] og agi­ta­tion for his­to­riefortællinger. Selv har han ambi­tioner om at udvikle  bib­lioteket til ver­dens mest mod­erne, hvilket fik mig til at overveje, om mod­erne, er det  vi aller­helst vil […]

    Pingback by Elsebeth Tank » Blog Archive » Biblioteks berättelser — April 6, 2008 @ 9:02 am

  27. […] Nether­lands Since I’ve never been here, I’m rely­ing on the descrip­tion pro­vided by Jenny Levine. I love, love, love the video gam­ing kiosks. The signs using images from pop­u­lar cul­ture are pretty […]

    Pingback by The 3rd Place « Laura Dowler, Librarian — May 21, 2008 @ 4:27 pm

  28. […] with com­mu­nity resources? The Shanachies in the Nether­lands intend to build a giant screen in the DOK Library Con­cept Cen­ter where res­i­dents can post their own sto­ries and pic­tures. Imag­ine com­bin­ing that with library cards […]

    Pingback by The Shifted Librarian » Mashing Up Content in the Library (Thinkering Spaces II) — July 30, 2008 @ 8:35 am

  29. […] library news library design tasmanlibrary-staff 4:43 pm… […]

    Pingback by Delft Public library on a mission to be the most modern in the world « Staff - TDC Libraries — August 27, 2008 @ 9:43 pm

  30. […] an amaz­ing year of travel for me, includ­ing spe­cial trips to the Nether­lands (and the won­der­ful DOK), south­east Asia, and Lon­don. I know how lucky I am to be invited to speak in these places, and […]

    Pingback by The Shifted Librarian » Hello and Happy New Year! — December 31, 2008 @ 5:37 pm

  31. Music Pods! what, where and how? searched the inter­net but to no avail. would appre­ci­ate some infor­ma­tion. con­grats on your fab pub­lic space. deborah

    Comment by deborah washington — January 29, 2009 @ 3:00 pm

  32. […] Shifted Librar­ian 在去年(2008) 就曾以 Vis­it­ing the Most Mod­ern Library in the World 一文報導過,而 Mar­ket­ing Library Ser­vices (March/April 2008) 也有一篇 DOK 的專文 […]

    Pingback by Library Views 圖書館觀點 » Microsoft Surface 在圖書館的應用 — July 28, 2009 @ 4:58 pm

  33. […] A librarian’s visit to DOK, an amaz­ing library con­cept cen­ter in Hol­land. (Thanks Elisa!) […]

    Pingback by Links for 04.01.08 (no fooling guarantee) « books, the universe, and everything — October 18, 2009 @ 2:03 pm

  34. […] DOK on the shifted librarian […]

    Pingback by The DOK Library Concept Center « — December 13, 2009 @ 11:55 pm

  35. […] in the world”, with both tech­no­log­i­cal con­nec­tiv­ity and com­fort­able chairs (accord­ing to The Shifted Librar­ian) but the Delft Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy has one of the most beau­ti­ful libraries in the world with a […]

    Pingback by Too cool for school libraries « book coasters — May 10, 2010 @ 9:16 pm

  36. […] the DOK Library really is impressive–he offered a slide of a tweet from Shifted Librar­ian Jenny Levine, say­ing DOK was every­thing the much-touted Cen­tral Library of the Seat­tle Pub­lic Library wanted to […]

    Pingback by ALA 2010: Behind an Inspiring Librarian, Two Complications « LJ Insider — June 27, 2010 @ 4:39 pm

  37. […] To see pic­tures of the library, as well as get another librar­i­ans view of it, please visit The Shifted Librarian. […]

    Pingback by MSLIS Monday: The World’s Most Modern Library « Amanda's Athenæum — August 19, 2010 @ 9:31 am

  38. […] and be iden­ti­fied with the most mod­ern of stuff. This photo set (linked to her blog titled “Vis­it­ing the Most Mod­ern Library in the World“) was posted 2 years ago, but we could only wish we’ll have this kind of library in […]

    Pingback by The Library of the Future « Laughrarian — November 15, 2010 @ 8:24 pm

  39. […] came from the DOK’s pho­to­stream on Flickr.  The Shifted Librar­ian vis­ited the library and wrote about her expe­ri­ence.  Info Today did a cover story about the library as well. This entry was […]

    Pingback by DOK | — January 19, 2011 @ 5:55 pm

  40. […] This week I’ve vis­ited the pub­lic library of Delft, DOK. In 2008 the shifted librar­ian called it the world’s most mod­ern library. Three years later, the “library con­cept cen­ter” still made a tremen­dous impres­sion on […]

    Pingback by The Museum of the Future » DOK Delft, inspirational library concepts — January 22, 2011 @ 11:11 am

  41. This amaz­ing views and nat­ural feel­ings the library set has pre­vented the end of library.

    Comment by Gani Fuad — April 9, 2011 @ 6:57 pm

  42. […] media to serve their local pop­u­la­tions. Since you asked for actual libraries, check out the DOK (Delft Pub*lic Library in Hol­land) which some con­sider one of the most mod­ern libraries in the […]

    Pingback by Wow, even more taxes for city residents! - Page 6 - City-Data Forum — July 28, 2011 @ 6:16 pm

  43. […] was a speaker at the Ugame-Ulearn con­fer­ence of which DOK was one of the organ­is­ers. On her weblog, The Shifted Librar­ian there is a detailed descrip­tion of the won­der­ful world that is […]

    Pingback by DOK | DutchLibraries — September 7, 2011 @ 9:12 am

  44. […] across that make a good fit for a “house­clean­ing” post like this one)… “10 Great Libraries” – cho­sen by Nancy Pearl of Librar­ian Action Hero fig­ure fame.  “20 Things […]

    Pingback by Head Tale - Randomness from the ALA e-newsletter and elsewhere — August 24, 2012 @ 2:57 pm

  45. […] The Shifted Librar­ian. (2008). Vis­it­ing the most mod­ern library in the world. Retrieved from… […]

    Pingback by Creating spaces for youth in libraries… | Youth, Pop Culture and more... — October 30, 2013 @ 7:28 am

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