Anton Bier drives the UvA/AUAS library book delivery van. Each day, he shuttles between the UvA's central book depository on the AMC campus in Amsterdam-Zuidoost and the libraries located across the city – always with a big smile on his face. His colleague Osman does much the same thing, but limits his trips to the locations on the eastern side of the city. The target delivery time is within 24 hours, so it's hard work.
'I start each day at the depository', Anton tells us. ‘There, I load the crates holding the books that were ordered in the late afternoon or evening of the previous day. Then it's time to start my route. First, I head to Special Collections at the Oude Turfmarkt location; those crates are always completely sealed. After that, I cruise on over to the PC Hoofthuis on the Spui, the Bushuis on the Kloveniersburgwal, the University Library on the Singel, and then back to the depository via the Valckenierstraat and the Roetersstraat. At each stop, I deliver books and pick up the returns. I do this three times a day, always in more or less the same order. My day ends at the depository around five o’clock, where colleagues are waiting for me so they can check in the last returns before closing up shop.’
85 kilometres of material
The depository is unbelievably big: square footage equal to about five football pitches, divided over three storeys and holding around 85 kilometres of material. The logistics here are highly organised; some 250 books are ordered each day. The printers churn out the orders in the form of request tickets. Tickets for books kept on the 1st floor will be printed on that floor's printer, too. During two ‘pick-up rounds’, the books are pulled from the shelves, processed and made ready for transport. While in principle library books are delivered within 24 hours of a request, many times they arrive faster.
Keeping the schedule together
‘The cooperation between colleagues here is really great’, Anton says. ‘Everyone does their part to keep the schedule. The crates are always ready and waiting when I get there, or someone comes out to take delivery from me. And I don't run into many delays en route either. The city centre is quite busy, of course, but I have a key to lower the bollards along my route and a special permit that lets me park on the pavement. Sometimes you get an annoyed look from people if you're momentarily in the way. But for the most part, everyone immediately understands: Oh, that guy just needs to get through with his van.’
So many books
Anton practically beams as he continues, 'This work is a lot of fun. I like driving the van and the independence of the job. Everyone is friendly. And do you know what else is quite interesting to me? All those books! From Marilyn Monroe to the history of Spain, I see it all in my van. When I started this job two years ago, I was surprised by how many books are still being used – I didn't expect that. It's a pity I personally have so little time for reading!’
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