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Public librariers are cool. They are an institution funded by citizen’s taxes that is useful, peaceful, cultural, educational, (almost) for free, and very often architectural beautiful all at the same time. Recently I visited the probably coolest public library in the world, or at least the biggest, newest and most lit-up one I have come across so far: the main building of the Public Library Amsterdam, or as the Amsterdammer refer to it: de OBA and de OD (de Obenbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam an de Oosterdokseiland). Finished in 2007, this 9-stories building with its roughly 28.000 m² can now claim the title ‘largest public library in Europe’. Together with 27 other branches scattered around the city it hosts more than 1.8 milion items.

What striked me most right after entering was the brightness inside and the spaciousness of the ground floor. It gives way to a semi-basement which hosts the children and youth section that easily turns a library visit into an adventure trip for kids. Above it you can catch up on the latest happenings around the globe in the huge newspaper room which offers a wide range of newspapers from all over the world and has a cozy café attached. The ‘mediatheek’ (media center) on the 1st floor is easily my favorite part of the library, there you will find anything pressed on a disk: music, films, games en masse. On one of the various iMacs spread across the media center I browsed through some of the more than 400.000 records the library stores. This way I got to listen to my recent discovery, Dutch singer/songwriter and sample artist Spinvis. Around 100 iMacs are stationed around the building, ready for browsing through the library’s catalogue, adding nicely to the puristical white interior design.

In no way less inviting are the many reading places in various forms (workplaces with and without pc, chairs, comfy couches) and places, some right at the big panorama windows to the front, which offer a great view over the city and the water. Apropos, the café on the top floor features a terrace which is accesible whenever the weather is nice and turns out as an amazing photo spot. And if you are sitting all cozied up in a chair with a book in your hand, don’t be suprised if you suddenly hear piano sounds emerging out of somewhere. It is probalby brought on by someone sitting down at the piano in the entrance hall practising or showing off their skills, adding some nice background music to your reading.

So whenever you happen to be in Amsterdam or if you already are and have a spare hour, take a stroll (or rather take one of the moving staircases) through the Public Library Amsterdam on your own or join a guided tour. The best thing I haven’t even mentioned yet, the opening hours: daily from 10 am to 10 pm.

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