Libro Futuro

Innovation and the future. The library I would like! Mario Coffa interviews Erik Boekesteijn  

Intervista in italiano 

Erik Boekesteijn Senior Advisor at the National Library at the Netherlands (KB). Board member StoryHouse, Chester,UK. SLIS Fellow, USA. Consultant Public Libraries 2020, and founding father of Public Libraries 2030. Facilitator and consultant for IFLA. Owner of Shanachie Media and producer of This Week in Libraries and ShanachieTours, Global Library Motivator. Musician and Author. LJ’s Mover and Shaker of the Library world 2009 and Best Librarian in the Netherlands 2015.

As a first question I would like you to briefly tell us about your splendid work at the Storyhouse in Chester. Library, theater, cinema, restaurant and bar. In short, a 360-degree cultural center. 

I was invited to come over to Chester in the beginning phase of bringing organisations together. As you may know Storyhouse is a combination of a theatre, a cinema, a cafe restaurant and a library. These were all different organisations and the library and the librarians had to come under the management of two great theatre producers Alex Clifton and Andrew Bentley. So quite a change that also meant  different opening hours and a lot of insecurity. Most of the librarians thought they had a pretty decent library at that time and were afraid of making the big step into a different form of management and services.

My work was mostly about showing opportunity an possibility of what this new organisation in this new building could be to the people of Chester. I think mostly the role of the librarian as a curator of curiosity And the name Storyhouse triggered their interest and motivated them to take that leap. I did maybe like eight workshops and I showed them the old library and also pointed out that within the new library, that literally runs all through the building and three organisations, that there is also a possibility of creating new and different collections. The House of stories of, for and by the people and partners within the region of Chester in a beautifully designed building has become an example to many and there are quite a few requests on my desk of other organizations who want a similar model as SoryHouse in different countries.

In 2015 he was awarded as the best librarian in the Netherlands and in 2018 in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen. What did these awards mean to you?

 Indeed I was awarded the best librarian award in the NetherI walands in 2015 and earlier in 2009 I was the first European Mover and Shaker of the library world by library journal. Indeed I had the pleasure and honour of a lunch with the king in queen of the Netherlands and I was at the opening of StoryHouse in the presence of the Queen and the Duchess of Sussex.

Well what does this mean to me. I think awards and appreciation are always very flattering And motivate you to proceed in what you do. More important for me is the appreciation and happy faces of librarians that really feel energised and see new opportunities in the way they work.

Given your work experience at Doklab, what do you think about the digital revolution that is affecting libraries and which, in my opinion, has accelerated strongly (perhaps more for need) especially after the tragic period of the pandemic?

In my work at doklab and to DOK, the library concept centre in the city of Delft in the Netherlands before as well as in my work today for the National Library of the Netherlands, digital transformation as I like to call it has always been important. But it’s mostly just a tool, a tool that helps to give people access to stories, to information, to express themselves and to share. I I like to see the library as a place where people keep stories, where people share stories and where people can make new stories. The library facilitates all that. So digital can really help and can really be an added value to storytelling, story keeping and new ways of expressing yourself. After the pandemic indeed I think we have seen an increase in the use of digital services and in one way that is very good because it accelerated the transformation. On the other hand it showed that physical contact and and talking face to face is something that we humans really need. So in my view there will always be a need for the physical building of the library as the physical place where people come together. At the same time the access to the digital online world makes it a lot easier to have a 24/7 access to all that there is to share.

It is clear that your vision of the library goes beyond simple book collections and collections and approaches the concept of innovation, an innovation that adapts to the times and which in my opinion is more appropriate to our era and which invests in the future. it’s correct?

 When we were building DOK, the library in delft that I mentioned earlier, we always said that the most important collection of the library is the people. The people make the library. Without the people there cannot be a library. So we always have to be very good listeners. I always say  we have to listen to what the people need and what the people want so we can best facilitate them to own the space.Tto own the programming, to be the library themselves. If you do that Well and if you focus on as I said storytelling and keeping stories and sharing stories then there will always be a future for libraries cause there will always be a need for stories. Innovation in that sense means listening mostly, creative adapting to changing circumstances always. I once read the library is a revolution and will always be a revolution so it never stops. Our work is never done and that makes it one of the most exciting jobs in the world

 You are an exceptional character and for this reason one fine day Giulio comes to you and asks you: “Dear Erik, when I grow up I would like to be a librarian!” What would you recommend him?

 I would say thank you Giulio to please, please proceed and be that librarian.To be the best possible librarian I think you have to be out there with people, talking and listening, sharing stories and thinking always of what is the best way that I can help people to tell their stories. To learn and to be there to give and find information. To be curious all the time and to love questions more than answers. libraries are about people as I said earlier and you have to be a people person to be a good librarian. Warm friendly, open minded and always open for change if you can do that you will have the best job in the world.






Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa archivista e bibliotecario, laureato in Conservazione dei Beni Culturali presso l’Università degli Studi di Perugia (2005) e diplomato in Archivistica e Paleografia presso la Scuola di Archivistica dell’Archivio Segreto Vaticano (2010). Dal 2010 Lavora per CAeB (Cooperativa Archivistica e Bibliotecaria) presso le biblioteche dell’Università di Perugia come bibliotecario e come archivista presso l'Archivio Storico del Comune di Gubbio. Si occupa di Biblioteche Digitali e formazione in ambito di biblioteconomia digitale. Nel 2014 membro del Comitato Esecutivo Regionale dell’Associazione Italiana Biblioteche (AIB) sezione Umbria, membro del gruppo AIB sul portfolio professionale e nel triennio 2017-2020 Presidente eletto di AIB Umbria. Dal 2020 membro dell'Osservatorio Formazione dell'Associazione Italiana Biblioteche. Autore di diversi articoli e interviste per Insula Europea sul tema degli archivi, delle biblioteche e del digital lending.


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