March 19, 2008

Visiting the Most Modern Library in the World

Filed under: precat — tsladmin @ 9:12 am

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 cafe, 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.


  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. 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

  16. 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

  17. 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

  18. […] 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

  19. […] 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

  20. […] 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

  21. […] bibliotekÄ…, a niektóre fotele same w sobie mogÅ‚yby przyciÄ…gnąć nowych czytelników. Zdaniem Jenny Levine, autorki bloga „Shifted Librarian”, ktoÅ› kto przekracza próg DOK, czuje siÄ™ […]

    Pingback by Holenderski pomysÅ‚ na bibliotekÄ™ : Biblioteka 2.0 — March 28, 2008 @ 8:45 am

  22. 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

  23. 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

  24. 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

  25. […] 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

  26. […] 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

  27. […] 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

  28. […] 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

  29. […] 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

  30. 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

  31. […] 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

  32. […] 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

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

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

  34. […] 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

  35. […] 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

  36. […] 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

  37. […] 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

  38. […] 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

  39. […] 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

  40. 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

  41. […] 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

  42. […] 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

  43. […] 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

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