In the library world, the creators of This Week in Libraries (TWIL) are basically celebrities. Hosts and creators Jaap van de Geer and Erik Boekesteijn have created a unique space to highlight and discuss the latest and greatest happenings in libraries around the globe. Whether they’re chatting with the Smithsonian’s Michael Edson or local librarians who are revolutionizing the industry, this internet video show covers everything from digitization to library design and marketing. They even virtually sat down with our very own Robert Thayer, Mango’s Director of Public Libraries Division (check it out here!) to discuss the role of libraries in education and language learning. We decided to turn the tables on these global library gurus and shine the spotlight on them. We called up Jaap and Eric and chatted with them about TWIL, library advocacy, and the state of language learning on their side of the pond.
Tell us about your personal backgrounds and how you became interested in library advocacy? What prompted you to found TWIL?
E: When we set out on the Shanachietours, the library road trip around the world, we wanted to build the most modern library in the world in Delft, in the Netherlands and knew we had to look beyond our borders to see what was happening in libraries around the world. During these trips we built a great network of library innovators.
J: Technology made it possible to keep in touch with people we met on the road or to meet new innovators online via tools like Skype and Facebook. We toyed around with the idea of an online roundtable for some time, and in 2010 the technology was stable enough to pull it off. Leo Laport of the Twit network was a big inspiration for our show.
How would you describe your collaborative dynamics? How are the responsibilities divided up?
J: We both learned a lot about libraries traveling the world and visiting many. By discussing what they were doing right and wrong, in our opinion, we helped each other in building our vision for libraries. For TWIL, Erik does the heavy lifting for the interviews, and I come in to ask the questions he forgets. We like to call them the difficult questions. After the interview, I do the editing, the publishing online, and the initial postings on social media, and Erik writes the newsletter that we send out with MailChimp.
Who is your audience? How has it changed over time, if at all? And why did you choose this medium to reach your audience?
E: Our show is really watched all over the world. Most of our viewers originally came from the Netherlands, the U.S.,Canada, and Australia, but as time passed, other countries were added to the list.
J: We are watched mostly by information professionals from all walks. Universities, heritage organizations, and public libraries, but also people with an architecture background.
What have been some of the greatest moments, interviews, etc. during your time at TWIL?
J: For me, one of the most inspirational interviews was with Gene Tan, former director of the National Library of Singapore because his solutions are often totally out of the box. But recording an episode at Niagara Falls with Stephen Abram and Jane Dysart was also very special.
E: There have been so many. The guests are almost all people we greatly admire. I remember Michael Edson from The Smithsonian and the episode with Michael Stephens, David Lee King, and Helene Blowers.
What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced?
E: The greatest challenge for me has been time. How to find time beside our day job to find guests, record shows, edit, and put them online
J: Since we often record the shows after a long workday, sometimes it is a challenge to save enough energy for the guests to give them the undivided attention they deserve. Besides that, it is all fun as long as you learn from the interviews yourself and keep improving in your job.
In your many travels to libraries across the world, what have you found to be some of the most apparent differences in library advocacy approaches in the U.S. compared to other nations?
J: At the time we started out in 2006, I think the advocacy in the U.S. was careful compared to our own approach. I think for someone with a European background, sometimes it was hard to understand why something like a library director without a library degree would be a big issue. I think that has changed quite a bit the last few years.
E: In the U.S., we have seen some great marketing work done in and for libraries, and Kathy Dempsey, author of The Accidental Library Marketeer, has laid out some good tools and gives good information. In my opinion, advocacy is never done and continues always, but I think in the Netherlands, we can really learn from you guys.
Could you describe the type and amount of emphasis libraries in the Netherlands place on language-learning resources?
E: Language learning for people that are new to the Netherlands and from all over the world is done in most libraries through official courses and language coaches, but courses for Dutch speakers to learn other languages, not so much. I think there are good opportunities there.
J: As a small country, we are used to adapting to speaking a different language. That said, I have the feeling that the main focus in schools is drifting away from language learning a bit. So it would be very smart for libraries to keep an eye on that development.
What does the future of your involvement in library advocacy look like?
E: At the moment in Doklab, we are working with the Reading & Writing Foundation on a European library tour, Public Libraries 2020, that is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to raise more awareness in the European Parliament in Brussels. We love libraries, and if it is within our realm and line of work at Doklab, we will do our best to tell their stories and make their beautiful work more widely known.
J: Every day is a library advocacy day in one way or another. We are working on a new secret Doklab project that can bring a lot of new eyeballs to what libraries are doing.
There’s always a conversation happening among TWIL followers, so keep up with them on their website, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Check out the latest episodes of TWIL on Vimeo or download audio from past shows on Itunes. We'll see you in the comments section!