What impact does winning the Public Library of the Year Award have?
In 2018 our Public Library, School 7 in Den Helder, the Netherlands, was awarded Public Library of the Year 2018 during the IFLA congress in Kuala Lumpur. As a proud director, I received the Award. We were overwhelmed; we did not think we would win it. We had to compete against large libraries from Singapore, Brazil and the US. What would be the deciding factor for the jury? We had no idea. But we decided to turn it into an adventure and, regardless of the outcome, enjoy the moment when we could present ourselves to an international audience. Great to show School 7 to colleagues from all over the world. When the chairman of the jury delivered the outcome, we could hardly comprehend that School 7 had really won the Public Library Award 2018!
School 7 stayed in the spotlight, to this day visitors from home and abroad come to Den Helder because they have heard about the prize. The library agenda is still full of tours. We have since welcomed colleagues from South Korea, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Saba, Estonia and France. The guestbook is full of beautiful compliments and enthusiastic responses. From “ordinary” visitors, but also from the minister and from Prince Carnival, who came to celebrate School 7 with his entourage.
These visits also provided something for the city. People go for lunch or coffee. They might also spend the night in Den Helder. With this Award we have put the city on the map. The library as city marketing, how beautiful is that?
The Public Library of the Year Award is a prize that opens doors. For example, I was invited by King Willem Alexander and Queen Máxima to have lunch at Noordeinde Palace, along with a few other Dutch people who have delivered an exceptional performance. And I was also invited by the king and queen to the traditional New Year’s meeting in the palace in Amsterdam.
Suddenly magazines and other media include School 7 in their content. For example, we were part of a documentary series on national television, I was interviewed several times by foreign magazines and School 7 serves as a location for photo shoots and film recordings for other parties.
Winning such an important prize also ensures reinforcement in society. We notice that the inhabitants of the city and the politicians are proud of us. When the councilor suggested a few months ago to involve the library in the municipal spending cuts, this was rejected by the nearly full city council. “It is simply unthinkable for you to receive international guests and we will cut your budget!” Said the party leader of the largest political party.
At the construction site opposite School 7 the contractor has attached a long canvas to the scaffolding around the new building. It says: “Our library is the best in the world!” This reflects the pride of the population at the library. And that pride has been cashed in by the Award.
Text and photos Jacinta Krimp, director School 7 (translation by Sander van Kempen, member of SCPL)