Meeting Grounds Edition One: Eindhoven Public Library
In the form of a mobile trailer, Meeting Grounds operates as an assembly point to collectivity explore, articulate and question the current functions of planned urban space, shared public resources and technological advancements in the city of Eindhoven. In doing so, this year-long programme of meet-ups and events, across four key locations within the city, seeks to activate the social and ethical foundations on the sites in which we enjoy our cultural lives and establish common ground in doing so.
Meeting Grounds’ first designation of activation will be the Eindhoven Public Library. Known locally as the city’s “living room”, the Eindhoven Public Library offers access to shared, communal space that houses a multitude of resources. In turn, the library facilitates the exchange of knowledge and understanding between its diverse users and publics, providing key social infrastructure in the city of Eindhoven. Yet with a mere 579 public libraries currently operating in the Netherlands in comparison to the 1,100 that existed in the early 1990’s, it appears that a combination of restrictive governmental policies, dwindling resources, budget cuts and increasing pressures to productivise, digitalize and essentially, technocratize the way libraries run, means that the ways in which we are able to access such shared spaces and knowledge resources are heavily impacted.
It is clear that public libraries are spaces that serve multiple public interests and needs. The Eindhoven Public Library is no exception in providing such social infrastructure, housing a number of Eindhoven’s community-focused initiatives, such as a delayed coffee service that supports those who would otherwise be unable to afford warm food and drinks alongside delivering Dutch lessons to Expats and reading groups for children and, above all, offering a space for residents from varying neighbourhoods, ages, interests, and backgrounds to meet and talk with one another whilst simultaneously accessing books, magazines, journals, workshops, group sessions, meet-ups, computer services and more, showing the public library to play a vital role in the process of social integration and community building in Eindhoven.
Yet judging by the ongoing budget cuts and restrictive policy measures that libraries across the country face, it appears that such community-focussed initiatives are being looked upon as outdated and unnecessary. Which could suggest why there are now plans in place to rebrand Eindhoven’s Public Library to The House of Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom. Yet what will such a change in the language, vision and identity surrounding the public library mean in terms of accessibility, function and connection to its local surroundings - especially in the ways in which it relates to its users and publics in Eindhoven.
As the Eindhoven Public Library attempts to find a middle ground between the modern and the traditional, between offering a public space for the local community and simultaneously offering access to high-tech, digital technologies, Meeting Grounds intends to unpick and unravel the core functions the public library provides as both a physical and symbolic space within the city. This will be achieved by focusing on two lines of inquiry: the first being the library as a shared social space and the second, the library as a knowledge resource. Throughout this Edition the Meeting Grounds trailer will reside in the Witte Dame area to be used as a base to invite a range of researchers, activists, artists, librarians and more, all with interests and expertise surrounding library-spaces to, together, examine the broad, varied and at times unconventional nature of the library with and amongst its most regular users - the residents of Eindhoven.
Furthermore, we will be hosting the Bootleg library, a shadow library created by Simon Browne as part of a residency within the trailer whilst simultaneously building and maintaining our own temporary library space that will evolve and respond to the needs and interests of those who share the space and the discussions that take place throughout the duration of the Edition.
Through workshops, meet-ups, talks, tours, labs, collective readings sessions and more, we aim to explore the role of Eindhoven’s Public Library both as a communal space and as a knowledge resource. To further understand the library’s function as a public space for community building, collective exchange and social cohesion and preservation within and across the city of Eindhoven.
Join us from February until May 2020 for Meeting Grounds’ First Edition: The Eindhoven Public Library.
 The future of the Dutch public library: ten years on, Frank Huysmans Carlien Hillebrink