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Studying in the new University Library will be an experience. Marloes van Wagtendonk and Robin van Schijndel, both involved in the design and construction of the new University Library, lift a corner of the veil.

How is the University Library involved in the construction and design?

'As the University Library, we have been involved in this project since the very first design. From the architect selection phase onwards, in each phase we determined what we could do with the input of staff and students. As a result, we often sat down with students, lecturers and an architect to brainstorm the design of our own spaces.

At one point, we created an image-based survey that we called "study place Tinder", in which students just had to say "yes" or "no". This gave us a lot of information about what they did and didn’t want in terms of layout. We also travelled around the world to gain inspiration from other libraries. After all, you only get one chance to create the library of the 21st century.'

What are you focusing on in this project?

'From big things down to the smallest details, from the purchase of furniture to the creation of a video wall and a digital floor plan. We are currently working on spatial orientation ("Way Finding") and the location of the waste bins. In August, we will be reviewing and testing the bookcases in a mockup model that is true to size.

In addition, employees are currently preparing the book collection for the move. We aim to create an interesting, stimulating collection, including publications by UvA researchers. In the process, we will be highlighting specific themes that allow us to present the collection beautifully. Finally, on the first floor of the current location, we are displaying constantly changing examples of furniture, images and works of art to keep students enthusiastic about the new University Library.'

What were the highlights of 2021?

'There were three highlights last year. Firstly, we developed new signposting: all the books got their own, fixed place in a room, so that when you search the catalogue you immediately know where to go in the library. It’s great to see that the UvA intends to implement this signposting design in all the university buildings.

A basement was also built under the new building, whereas originally there were rather fragile foundations. In addition, a UvA committee and an architect came up with the idea of printing a line from Martinus Nijhoff's poem "Awater" on the façade screen: "Lees maar, er staat niet wat er staat" (Read on, it does not say what it says), translated into all the languages in which the UvA teaches. Everyone is happy with it, including the municipality and the building conservation office. We’re very proud of it.'

What does the new building mean for users of the library?

'First of all, we consider it very important for students to immediately feel welcome when they arrive. The idea is that they will immediately receive a warm welcome in the atrium and will be immersed in a UvA atmosphere, for example with an exhibition and a lot of fellow students.

The building is a former hospital, and this also lends atmosphere and inspiration. This building will become like a vibrant academic department store, where many generations of UvA students will spend a lot of hours working. We therefore want to give them the space to do things and organise events.

As well as being a workplace, we also consider it important to create a warm academic community, for example by facilitating University Library dinners and a reading club and film club. A cinema is currently being created in the former anatomical theatre. The new University Library will be a great place, one which students will leave with good memories. We just need to wait a little longer...'

This interview is part of the Annual Report 2021 of the UvA/AUAS Library. Curious what else the Library has achieved in 2021? View the entire annual report.