“Sit down for a while.” Maaike and Gerrit de Vries take a break after a walk on a sofa between the books on the top floor of the public library in Emmen. Five kilometers there, soon five kilometers back. “That takes us about an hour,” says Gerrit – the magazine car vision in his hand. It’s not as quiet as a mouse on this floor in the library: other visitors chat at the coffee point.
Gerrit and Maaike are not bothered by the current lockdown. “Christmas was the same as usual. We ate well and went for a walk in the woods,” says Maaike.
In previous lockdowns, libraries were also closed, which then served only as a collection point. This time they were allowed to stay open. Since catering, cinemas, shops and indoor playgrounds are closed, the library is one of the last refuges. Employee Anneke Heidemans, who has a rainbow flag pinned to her waistcoat, sees many visitors seeking help in arranging digital matters – the library is also a ‘digital government’ information point where citizens can go with questions.
Some come in with bags full of papers or notes with usernames and passwords. The library staff can see everything. “Especially older visitors have questions about the DigiD and arranging the booster shot.” But people with a language deficiency also come to ask for help, for example when creating an e-mail address.
Geert Bos, over seventy, says that he regularly comes to the library to use the computer. He is in a group of friends of seven or eight people, who point each other to initiatives such as where they can go for digital support. December and January are lonely months for him because of “personal matters.” He is not happy about this lockdown. “It all happened so quickly. I wanted to buy new clothes, but the shops were closed again the day after the press conference.”
“The library is a party, a wealth,” says Alexandra Klein, in Adidas pants, with sneakers, and a Roald Dahl book in her hand. Her almost six-year-old son Gijs is standing next to her. “The world is more limited for people without a QR code, but the library remains a part of our existence. We come here very regularly.” Even without a QR code or membership, everyone remains welcome in the library, “as long as you are not a nuisance to others and wear a mouth cap”, according to library leader Heidemans.
Chanel Lin (17) sits alone at a table, decorated with colored post-its and notebooks. Lin is doing economics, she is in her senior year. “This lockdown is actually a good thing. Soon we will have exams, now I have all the time to learn. There is nothing to do, so I have no distractions.”
With the open magazines Country life and Northern country Roely Hubert is also on the top floor. Playing with the Christmas balls on the table, she says that she sometimes finds the lockdown difficult. “I work in the ambulance and regularly visit people’s homes. I see a lot of loneliness there. Sometimes people have not seen anyone for a week, except for home care.”
Also read this episode from the series ‘Life in lockdown’: Mom and Dad have to work so grandpa and grandma babysit all week
While hobbies such as singing in the choir or swimming have disappeared, Hubert has gained others in return. “I walk a lot now. Drenthe is beautiful. I often have special conversations while walking. For example, my studying daughters made important choices after such a walk.”
A version of this article also appeared in NRC Handelsblad on 30 December 2021
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of December 30, 2021
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