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Modern look . . . Waitaki district libraries manager Philip van Zijl at the Oamaru Library, the subject of a blog recently posted on a European website. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

One of the last places you would expect to read about the Oamaru Library is on a European-based blog.

So thought Waitaki district libraries manager Philip van Zijl t – until recently.

Several weeks ago he was asked to write a piece for online Danish company Princh, which specialises in cloud-based printing solutions for the library, education, hospitality and retail sectors, about the planning and execution of the Oamaru Library refurbishment that was completed in 2017.

Last week, it was published on the website’s blog, dedicated to innovations and goings-on at libraries around the world.

Mr van Zijl said the approach “came out of the blue”, and largely as a result of the library’s social media posts related to the project.

“It focused on the changes we have introduced here, the philosophy behind it and what was driving it.

“The fact was we were in a 40-year-old building that was way past its use-by date.”

That included its layout, facilities and staffing structure.

The floor layout was redesigned, new fittings installed and radio frequency identification tags fixed to books so library customers could self-issue and return books at the library’s modern kiosks.

Staff were also trained in the use of more modern technology to assist with public inquiries.

As a result, Mr van Zijl said the library had moved away from being a “transactional” service, where staff simply issued books.

In the blog, he wrote about the business case he put forward to the Waitaki District Council, which was unanimously approved, and the inspiration which led to the library space as it is now.

Mr van Zijl attended a library design conference in Sydney, where library designer and author Rachel van Reil spoke on the benefits of “user-centred library layout and design”.

The library was now split into areas that catered specifically for the needs of different groups, such as children and youth, tourists, and conventional library users.

Mr van Zijl said the model had proved successful.

The library’s social media posts on the project, and now the blog, had gained worldwide attention.

“I’ve had a lot of acknowledgment from peers and a lot of colleagues,” he said.

“As far as I’m aware, it’s the first time a New Zealand article has been featured.

“There has been a lot of Twitter tweets and re-tweets internationally .. it doesn’t matter where it is around the world, it has been shared.”