5.4.5: 1910 - heden - Institutional libraries

The beginning of the twentieth century saw the arrival of the modern library business. Its organisation and professionalisation depended greatly on the establishment in 1912 of the Nederlandse Vereniging van Bibliothecarissen (Netherlands Association of Librarians, NVB), which published the journal Bibliotheekleven (Library life). The diversification within the library business took shape in the increase in the number and size of scholarly libraries, company libraries, institutions and organisation and the establishment of the new-style public library. This was a library for everyone, subsidised - albeit at first to a limited extent - separately from the existing charity popular libraries.

With the appointment of P.C. Molhuysen as librarian of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in 1922, this library began to manifest itself as a national library, especially due to the organisation of the national union catalogue. At Molhuysen's initiative, the government set up the National Committee regarding the Library Business, an advisory body, that was to remain in existence until 1972.

The 'reading room movement' ensured a strong increase in the number of public libraries up to the years of the economic crisis. There were around 80 in total. However, they reached no more than about 5% of the population and with their relatively strict policy regarding the collections, there was a lot of competition from the popular libraries and shop libraries which mainly offered light reading.

In the years of the German occupation between 1940 and 1945, the Germans took the Jewish libraries - the most prominent being the Bibliotheca Rosenthalia - to Germany and many other important collections such as that of the International Institute of Social History were stolen. The majority of the stolen books, however, were recovered. The Koninklijke Bibliotheek - called the National Library in the war -and the academic libraries were not interfered with much by the Germans. The public library business, so well organised by the CV (Central Association for Public Libraries and Reading Rooms) did suffer, however. Many books, for instance all the books by Jewish authors, were banned and locked away.

Automation began to have an effect on the library business in the late sixties. The Koninklijke Bibliotheek, with Dr C. Reedijk as its librarian, and the PICA organisation played an important role in this. A Royal Decree of 7 September 1982 formally appointed the Koninklijke Bibliotheek as the national library. It actually already fulfilled that role, for instance in maintaining the national catalogues, the national bibliography and acting as the national deposit library.

In the sixties and seventies, the public library business, no longer compartmentalised, experienced an impressive growth. The number of libraries grew rapidly; in the year 2000 around 25% of the population were members. Besides the public libraries, there were provincial library centres which served the rural areas, for instance with mobile libraries and services to municipalities with less than 30,000 inhabitants. This development also meant the end of the popular libraries and the shop libraries. Commercialism and computerisation drastically changed the nature of the academic and special libraries. They developed into 'virtual libraries' in which the physical possession of books became less important and greater value was set on connections through networks.

Professional journals had names such as Informatie professional: magazijn voor informatiewerkers (Information Professional: journal for information workers) (since 1997); before that Open (for academic and special libraries) Bibliotheek (Library) (previously Bibliotheek en Samenleving (Library and Society) for the public libraries. The Nederlandse Vereniging van Bibliothecarissen, Documentalisten en Literatuuronderzoekers (Dutch Association of Librarians, Documentalists and Literature Researchers, NVB) changed its name in 1999 to the Nederlandse Vereniging voor Beroepsbeoefenaren in de bibliotheek-, informatie- en kennissector.

author: P. Schneiders

Institutional libraries