Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen



Case: DOK Library Concept Center, Delft


At the heart of Delft, an old Dutch city with about 100,000 inhabitants, a library has been constructed, which opened in 2007. The library building does not have the same iconic character as many other new libraries, but it is located in an easily accessible place, in the middle of the busiest part of Delft with open squares and cafes as its neighbours. The special thing about the library is its consistent endeavours to create a new library concept. The library has re-used an old building volume from a former supermarket, which has been given a new facade section in glass. From the outset, the library was the object of international interest, because its interior design and its communication broke radically with classical book library traditions. The library calls itself a ‘library concept center’ in order to stress this break, which is evident in design and layout as well as in the organisation of the library's activities.

The new library concept

In a design context, the new concept stands out not least through its re-use and re-interpretation of an old building volume, which has been given air and light by peeling off a facade against the street and instead creating a five-storey glass section. In fact, light plays a key role in the new library design. The light from the atrium roof across the entire length of the building is in dialogue with the light from the facade's large glass section. Another very clear design approach is the use of strong colours and light to mark out different areas and offers across the library. Furthermore, the library uses a new and radical design of all furniture and equipment throughout the building.

When it comes to rethinking its services, the library makes a point of involving visitors actively in the building by creating play places for children, by allowing visitors to choose music, by inviting people to use interactive media, by involving them actively in creating new stories, and by having very diverse offers for the users, including Tank U, where people can upload media files to their smartphones.

Finally, the library has been consistent from the very beginning in its efforts to create a new library life with free WiFi, good coffee and a large amount of often quite untraditional events and activities, as well as an innovative use of new technology with big screens in the rooms, interactive screens and digital communication wherever possible.

The diverse library

The library is divided into three sections; ‘DOK Arts’, ‘DOK Music and Film’, and ‘DOK Library’. The three sections combine to form an interacting library, while at the same time they each have their own independent profile. The arts section contains a large collection of modern art, and it serves as both an exhibition place and an arts communication centre. The music and film section is also an offer that can be used on the spot, with pleasant possibilities of watching and listening to new and older media, including LPs, and the chance to borrow from the collection. In fact, the entire library is characterised by a fine interplay between thematised interior design solutions and adaptation of the design to suit different users' needs. Thus, there are many sub-divisions with different spaces within the spaces, while a greater integrated correlation is retained.

‘The world's most modern library’

The library works on creating programmes and activities of great diversity and with communication that focuses on the story – in every media. The goal is to bring people from every walk of life together, and the library works systematically on using media and getting people to use media actively with this goal in mind. The library puts it like this on its English website:

‘DOK is on a mission to become the world’s most modern library. In order to do this we believe we need to have the best communication with our users possible. Therefore we are working very hard on innovations. Not the usual run-of-the-mill stuff, but suggestions that broaden one’s horizon and get the user in touch with all the beautiful things the library has to offer.

Dialogue and co-creation

The library's endeavours to create a new relation to the local users are evident, for instance, in some of its inclusive communication projects. The basic concept for the communication is storytelling, both from the library to the users and people-to-people. One of the library's experiments with this is DOK-Agora, which consists in setting up a number of ‘storytelling stations’ with video recorders in booths where citizens can tell stories they want to share with others. The stories are shown on a big screen wall. A sort of open, local Facebook. Another example is the Delft Cultural Heritage browser. The project is a type of living archive where citizens can contribute photos, postcards, video films, sound recordings – anything that can be digitised and shown in the room, primarily on multi-touch tables.

18. Sep 2017 at. 13:29


In this video, a staff member at DOK Library Concept Center describes the library's app, which allows users to ‘browse’ the local photo archive in Delft, based on their library membership card's zip code. In a split second, they can access presentations of historical and more recent photos from their street, or simply choose a street in the city randomly via the interactive table with the same result. Searches can be pre-defined in accordance with the user's age and by themes. In this way, 25,000 photos are made accessible to DOK's users.


Watch the video here

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