Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen



Case: Bibliotheek De Tweede Verdieping, Nieuwegein


The new culture centre and city hall in Nieuwegein, which was designed by 3XN, has cohesion and transparency in the local community as its principal objectives. Nieuwegein calls itself a ‘digital town’, and digital transparency, including the library's service, is a part of the concept. Emphasis is placed on eye level encounters and on making the atmosphere inviting, avoiding an authoritarian character. For this reason, a clear connection has been created between culture centre and administration, not only by building a communal building, but also by pursuing transparency and openness in design principles and atmosphere.

Library and town hall at eye level

The new combined culture centre and town hall has cohesion and transparency in the local community as its principal objectives. The building opens up from a central atrium hall with a sculptural staircase that winds its way up through the building, creating a clear connection between the many different facilities: library, citizen service, culture centre, cafe. It also makes it possible to gain an overview of the busy atrium hall. The five floors are open towards the atrium hall, and a huge window on the fourth floor allows daylight into the building. Daylight is a key element in the attempt at creating a good working environment and openness. It is a basic idea that the building is to create visual contact between town and citizens, and that its different facilities are to create life in the town and strengthen the connection to the commercial and residential areas next to the building.

However, the library's staff point out that despite the ideals about functional cohesion, it is evident that the building houses very different cultures, and that if the concept about cohesion between library and administration is to be implemented completely, the library needs to be visibly present on all floors, not least on the ground floor by the entrance.

The library in Nieuwegein waits on the second floor. The trip starts up the imposing staircase. Photo: Signal Architects.

A culture centre for a new town

Nieuwegein is a neighbouring municipality to Utrecht, created as a modern plan town and initiated in the 1970s to take the load off the rapid growth in Utrecht. The municipality grew fast. From 8,000 to 62,000 inhabitants in 2012. This rapid growth has posed great demands on the social and cultural development of the town.

Bibliotheek Nieuwegein opened as a culture centre in November 2011 as a part of a 27,000 m2 building that also includes a town hall. The challenge for Nieuwegein is to develop the town socially and culturally in step with the fast growth and the new needs that follow. The challenge has led to a new planning of the town centre around the new building, but also in interplay with a theatre, a cinema, a music stage and a doubling of the town's shopping area. The planning goal has been to create a vibrant urban space under the motto ‘the flourishing town’ from morning to evening. They have worked with offset plans and with an opening to the Dooslag Canal's water and islands, which are turned into flowering squares. A special natural stone paving is used in the pavement, which leads citizens to the central places in a self-explanatory way.

Digital innovation at the library in Nieuwegein

The library in Nieuwegein offers a number of interesting integrations of the virtual at the physical library. For instance, the intelligent book return shelf, which – based on RFID tagging (of all the library's lending materials) – links the recently returned title's entire lending history and indicates its physical position at the library to the staff, while at the same time linking the returned title to the latest borrower, automatically updating the borrower's entire borrowing activity, so that the library, if required, can prepare and maintain personalised user profiles and contact borrowers in connection with the acquisition of new, relevant titles that match the borrower's profile. And for the children, the library also has a fairytale grotto where the clever librarian can add a new layer to the reading experience in text and images, activated, for instance, by an intelligent magic wand in augmented reality.

The library as a policy developer

The library and its staff have faced the task of contributing to the social and cultural development of the town head on through their work to develop ‘virtual files’. In dialogue with the local community, important societal issues are identified, which are of particular concern to Nieuwegein's citizens. This can be, for instance, how to separate state and religion – quite a conflict-intensive issue in a Dutch context. The library contributes by accumulating precise knowledge about the issue through own research, anthropological studies in the local area and interviews with key stakeholders. Most often, external experts are also linked to the task. Following this approach, reports, or so-called ‘local files’ are prepared, which deal with the issue based on local surveys, expert knowledge and evidence. Once this is done, local residents are invited to a debate where attitudes are coupled with knowledge and evidence, and people collaborate to create quality forward-looking solutions. A summary of the debate and the work that has gone into phrasing solutions is subsequently included as a part of ‘the local file’.

You can read more here.

18. Sep 2017 at. 13:59


In this article, which has been translated into English, you can read more about how the library in Nieuwegein has worked with the development of its digital platforms.  


Article about Digital Innovation   


With its ‘local files’, the library in Nieuwegein has developed an entirely new concept where the library contributes to creating knowledge-based solutions to societal issues that are of concern to the local community – in close dialogue with the locals. 


PDF about ‘local files’

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