The future of the Dutch public library: ten years on

Translation of "De openbare bibliotheek tien jaar van nu, de hoofdlijnen"

The future of the Dutch public library
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Frank Huysmans Carlien Hillebrink
Publication date
09 June 2008
libraries, reading, culture
Number of pages

The public library is the biggest cultural institution in the Netherlands, with around 4 million members and 130 million items lent each year. Inspite of this, the library is under pressure: membership numbers and borrowings have been declining steadily for several years. In the last six years the public libraries have been working together with local, provincial and national authorities on a 'library renewal' programme. From an organisation primarily concerned with lending books, the library is being transformed into a cultural centre which is active in five domains: knowledge and information, development and education, arts and culture, reading and literature, and meeting and debate.
Meanwhile, rapid changes have been and are taking place in society and in the world of information and culture. This study describes relevant developments within and outside the Dutch public library sector and relates them to each other. Based on these observations, the report outlines two possible futures for the position of the public library in the Netherlands ten years from now. In the first scenario, trends continue at the same rate and the public library gradually loses support. In the second possible future, the present trends accelerate and the threats are greater. These two future projections are followed by an analysis of the deficiencies that could arise from a social perspective in both cases. In conclusion, a number of suggestions are put forward for action by the sector and the public authorities to counter these deficiencies. The central focus is on the substantive renewal of the library service.

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