The Dutch beach library
IJmuiden beach library, just northwest of Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Courtesy of Bibliotheek Velsen)
In this age of the Internet and e-books, libraries worldwide have been forced to come up with inventive ways to lure back readers.
In the Netherlands, that increasingly means going to where the people are instead of waiting for them to visit the local branch. Hence the recently opened Schiphol airport library (the world’s first), and, just for the summer, the beach library (or strandbibliotheek).
“We have to re-invent ourselves,” said Maaike Cortlever, an activities coordinator at IJmuiden’s Velsen Library. “We have a big beach here with lots of summer homes, so people can get their books on the beach.”
Some 3,325 did so last summer in Ĳmuiden, a port town about 21km northwest of Amsterdam. But there have been beach libraries dotting the Dutch coast of the North Sea for six years now, including branches in Katwijk, Makkum and Kijkduin. And they’re not just for locals: tourists, too, can peruse and check out from the library’s (admittedly small) selection of English-language books, magazines and newspapers. No membership is required.
“We do it the old-fashioned way, working on the good faith that people will bring them back,” said Cortlever. How refreshing that some things remain the same.
The beach library in IJmuiden is open from 23 July to 4 Sept.