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A visitor enjoys reading a book taken from politic bookshelves area beneath a quote of Victor Hugo at Freedom Institute’s library. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)
In Jakarta, reading has become part of recreational activities such that some restaurants and cafes avail books, magazines and comic books as part of their attractions.
Most libraries in the city still fit the stereotype: old and ugly with arrays of dusty bookshelves. But some have tried to lure in urban bookworms with cozy libraries and quite extensive collections. The libraries of the Freedom Institute in Menteng, Central Jakarta, and the Reading Room in Kemang, South Jakarta, are among the few standouts.
The Freedom Institute’s library is part of the institute’s office, which is located in front of the Tugu Proklamasi (Proclamation Monument) complex. Adapted from libraries in US universities, it features high ceilings, high book shelves and a number of cubicles for reading.
A table for discussion in the middle of dining room atmosphere at Reading Room. (JP/Nurhayati)
Inspirational quotations are part of the decor inside and outside the building, with the John Maynard Keynes quotation proudly displayed in front of the institute’s lecture room. Other notable notions from world thinkers like Victor Hugo and Fyodor Dostoyevsky locate inside the library.
Sophistication of knowledge translates into modern and elegant design of the library. Library head Wahyu Budhi Nugroho said the library is one of the institute’s main projects and is aimed at serving students and researchers.
“Many of them visit this place to find some references for their thesis. We have around 10,700 books, 70 percent of which are in English, and 20,000-30,000 articles,” Wahyu said.
Books surround a mini bar in the second floor. (JP/Nurhayati)
Complete sources of knowledge, supported by good interior design, attract young intellectuals as routine visitors here.
Rury, a student from Bekasi, said she loved the library because she always found the books she needed and could read them in a particular corner that said was as her favorite spot.
Ari Risdianto, one of the library’s architects, explains that it was designed to be “homey” for everyone. Using recycled teak and exposed brickwork were ways to achieve that ambience, he said.
Another goal of the building’s design was simplicity. The use of modern and simple geometric shapes and the cool color of concrete for the building’s facade was expected to create a friendly feeling among visitors and those who work in the building.
Bookshelves above the Reading Room café’s kitchen. (JP/Nurhayati)
“Books should become a friendly thing. Warm lighting is needed to conquer cold atmosphere of the building,” said Ari.
Ari said the idea to decorate the walls with famous quotations came from the institute’s executive director, Rizal Mallarangeng.
“They are meant to awaken the spirit of learning among the institute’s visitors. And I think the idea is interesting — even the walls can inspire,” said Ari.
A reading cubicle in the institute’s library. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)
The different kind of homey atmosphere exudes from the Reading Room. Comfortable, living room-style seats are available to sit back with one of the library’s books, which line the nearby shelves. Much like
a living room at home, the Reading Room’s cozy interior helps guests feel warmly welcomed.
The library’s comfortable seating faces its book shelves, to allow guests to peruse the collections as they sit. For those looking for information online, they can turn on their laptop and connect to the Reading Room’s fast Internet connection.
“It’s my third time to come here. I need a fast Internet connection and this is one of the best places with an Internet connection that I recommend,” says Louis, a visitor.
First floor of Reading Room. (JP/Nurhayati)
Embracing a modern concept means having to offer modern facilities, especially nowadays when information does not only come from books. Public places with Internet connections absolutely attract people to come.
More than that, visitors can enjoy the café atmosphere as they take the stairs to the second floor.
On the second floor, they can browse the book collections of Richard Oh, the Reading Room’s owner. His collection, which is not for sale, includes various books on literature, art and history.
Although some corners have softer lighting at night than others, which may make reading a bit difficult, the cozy corners make good spots to have a bite to eat and a chat with friends.
A discussion section inside the institute’s library. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)
“This is more than just a place to increase my knowledge. Here, I can have some snacks and socialize with people like in a café,” said Uwie Balfas, a film producer who usually spends her days at the Reading Room.
Richard Oh said that the mixing of home and café concepts was important to creating an interesting atmosphere. As it is aimed at increasing knowledge in fun way, Reading Room also provides a screening room that can be used to watch selected films.
“The Reading Room is for creative people in any field who need inspiration,” says Richard.
The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post.