425 years university library
The university library in Leiden celebrates 425 years of history, and the future. Apart from a jubilee publication about the oldest public library in The Netherlands, the library organises four lectures about controversial books in the special collections: from Arabian nights to The Praise of Folly.
425 years ago on 31 October, Leiden University opened its first library room in the Academy Building. The first book was the eight volume Polyglot Bible, a gift from William of Orange. Today, the university has six libraries, holds over 4,200,000 books and 1,000,000 e-books, and offers access to another 600 million online articles.
On her anniversary, the library issues a book in close collaboration with Leiden University Press, to share her rich history with you and take a peek at a promising future.
Magna Commoditas. Leiden University's Great Asset. 425 Years of Library Services and Collections by Christiane Berkvens-Stevelinck (available from 31 October 2012)
Arabian nights in Andalusia, the folly as explained by Erasmus, the most beautiful and elaborate atlas from the Golden Age and the spot on student prints by Klikspaan. Leiden University Libraries celebrates the 85th lustrum with a series of public lectures about controversial books. Experts will talk about these works and show them to the audience. Lectures are in Dutch, registration is free. Check our Dutch website for more information on these lectures and registration.
The jubilee edition Magna Commoditas. Leiden University's Great Asset. 425 Years of Library Services and Collections looks back at a rich history, but also gives a glance of the future of the research library. A short preview:
The current University Library at Witte Singel in Leiden is a striking building from the eighties. On the inside the library literally builds its future. As a regular visitor you would almost forget that we can thank William of Orange for this oldest public library in The Netherlands. After Leidens relief from the Spaniards in 1574, it was him who allowed the municipality of Leiden to found a university. A library near the lecture theatres was only a logical result. Janus Dousa, commander of the city garrison and curator at the university, became the first librarian.
The collections quickly outgrew the building and the building’s climate was far from ideal to keep the collections, so the library moved to the Faliede Begijn Church at Rapenburg in 1595. At first the books on the upper floor were chained to the shelves to prevent theft. The library grew with its own acquisitions, but also received regular gifts and bequests. Therefore the university now possesses, amongst others, World famous classic and oriental manuscripts, an impressive collection of (manuscript) maps and atlases, and the most complete public photo collection in The Netherlands, including recent work by Erwin Olaf. Worldwide, the collections are of great cultural historical value, which is why the library regularly exhibits these treasures to a wide audience in collaboration wit Dutch museums. In 2011, UNESCO put the La Galigo manuscript on her World heritage list of documents, an epic myth in the Buginese language that is kept in Leiden.
Because of the ongoing growth of the collections and the changing needs, the library saw one renovation after another to create more space, but after four centuries the Faliede Begijn Church could no longer accommodate the library. Even though the faculties housed their own libraries by then. Architect Bart van Kasteel designed a new library building at the Witte Singel, between other new buildings for the Faculty of Arts, and the library moved in by 1983. He was not allowed to build higher than three floors, so he decided to extend underground by two floors. Today even this is not enough space. However, another move is yet out of the question: with the growing popularity of e-books the space problem will resolve by itself.
In 2010 the centrale Unievrsity Library and the faculty libraries combined their forces back in one library organisation: the expertise centre of Leiden University Libraries. Throughout the past the institute has rejuvenated time and again to adress external influences, buut tpday she might just face the biggest challenges in history. The information society has changed revolutionary over the past two decades. Despite some negative prognoses, University Librarian Kurt De Belder foresees new opportunities for research libraries which help shape this revolution:
“We are transforming our library from a facilitating institution to a partner in research and education. Other parties in the field of finding information, like Google, will overtake us if we do not go further than the e-books and the search system in the cloud that we already offer.”
“We develop specific expertise within this digital world that we can offer as a reliable and independent party to researchers, students and teachers. For example, digitizing a book encompasses more than offering an electronic version if you want to make it useful to research and computerbased analysis. And there are other challenges to digitalization: how to deliver information that you really need in the overwhelming offer? And how do you know which online information is trustworthy? How do you ensure that raw research data do not get lost on a private laptop? In Leiden we are currently examining solutions for such new questions.”“We are, for example, developing Virtual Research Environments. These digital environments are developed especially for researchers to collaborate, to work on publications and to save, share and process their data together. We are currently supporting 12 research groups in Leiden and develop these environments along the way. Furthermore we specialize in the field of research data in collaboration with national data archives, on open access, text mining, publication advice and related subjects like copyright, so that we can support students and researchers with services, courses and tools. We work together with other universities and the National Library to take big steps ahead in digitalization. In 2011 we came to a fantastic result in making a huge amount of late eighteenth century Dutch books digitally available via earlydutchbooksonline.nl. Still there are many obstacles to take in order to make such materials even more accessible electronically for research.”