https://librariestaskforce.blog.gov.uk/2017/09/04/from-idea-to-initiative-empowering-library-innovation-on-demand/

From idea to initiative: empowering library innovation on demand

My story of Storyhouse

[Editors note: this post was written by Erik Boekesteijn, Senior Advisor at the National Library at the Netherlands and DOK Delft, who was involved in preparatory work as the new Storyhouse in Chester (formally opened in May 2017) was developed]

For me, as ’Best Librarian of the Netherlands 2015’, it is an honour to share a word here on my involvement in the amazing Storyhouse project in Chester and to tell you more about my work for libraries in the Netherlands and around the world.

International experience

In my work in the Netherlands I have been involved in the building of DOK, the library concept center in Delft. I've also had the pleasure of working on the design of services and interiors of libraries with great architects such as Mecanoo, Zaha Hadid and Stewart & Hollenstein.

From advice on the KAPSARC project in Riyadh to different libraries by Mecanoo, to Green Square Library and Plaza in Sydney, Australia it became obvious that the change in library services and buildings as well as the attitude towards the ways of the designing process have been tremendous.

The role of the libraries as the People’s Palace as Francine Houben of Mecanoo Architects puts it, or as an Urban Living Room as they call it in Sydney all comes back in most of the new libraries that have just opened their doors such as Aarhus, Denmark or the Calgary Public Library that is still under construction.

Today I am working most of my time for the National Library of the Netherlands. This treasure for both academic and public libraries allows me to sit at the tables of libraries all over the Netherlands to help them to bring their innovative ideas to a successful conclusion.

Working with the team in Chester

After a presentation for the Society of Chief Librarians annual conference in 2015 I was introduced by Ciara Eastell to a small team of great minds and vision, who were looking for ways to make their dream come true in Chester. Graham Lister, Andrew Bentley, Alex Clifton and Rachel Foster together with Simon Erridge of Bennets Associates invited me to share my ideas on what the library in Chester could look like and how this combination of a library, a theatre, a cinema and a great cafe/restaurant could merge into one great destination for the people of Chester.

Art deco style roof of the former cinema.
Art deco style roof of the former cinema, looking towards the new theatre from the library balcony. Photo credit: Julia Chandler/Libraries Taskforce

The library staff were, at first, a bit uncertain what to expect of the future and the role of the library in Storyhouse, but together with Katie Pekacar I tried to visualise the whole institute and building as a sort of interface for people with the librarians and the other staff as ‘curators of curiosity’. People of the whole region of Chester would see this building as a destination to keep, share and make stories. Whether they book a show at the theatre, go to see a movie, have a wonderful breakfast on Sunday morning or a drink in the evening, there is always the library and the librarians to help them.

Cafe tables among the shelves at Storyhouse.
Cafe tables among the shelves at Storyhouse. Photo credit: Julia Chandler/Libraries Taskforce

One month after the opening 80,000 visitors had passed through the doors; 10,000 books loaned, 1,000 new members subscribed; 29,000 theatre tickets and 9,900 cups of coffee were sold and 21 core members of staff are exhausted, but very proud and happy.

Storyhouse. Photo credit: Erik Boekesteijn
Storyhouse. Photo credit: Erik Boekesteijn

I expect many librarians from all over the world will come to visit Storyhouse and will be inspired. I myself will be among that group and will be bringing a group of the finest librarians of the Netherlands in October 2017.

To keep up to date with Erik, follow him on twitter (he tweets in English and Dutch). And to find out more about DokLab, they too are on twitter.

And to find out what is going on in Storyhouse, look at their programme of events or follow them on twitter.
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Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of DCMS or the Libraries Taskforce

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