The Centrale OBA (Amsterdam’s Central Library) is located in the eastern docklands area not far from Central Station. OBA stands for Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam, a network of 26 public libraries around the city.
At 28,000m² spread over 9 levels, Amsterdam Central Library is the 2nd largest public library in Europe* and currently attracts around 1.5 million visitors per year. It is a super place to spend a couple of hours, especially if it’s cold or raining outside – which in Amsterdam happens quite regularly!
The building was designed by noted Dutch architect Jo Coenen and was opened on 7th July 2007, moving from its former location on Amsterdam’s Prinsengracht canal.
As of 2017-18, the Central Library has been undergoing significant renovation to make further improvements but remains open to the public.
In this overview of the Centrale OBA we will discuss the various facilities available, how to join the library and its location/opening hours.
Looking for a place to sit down? There are about 1,000 seats spread all over the Central Library building, from workplaces with computers to comfy seating on the upper floors.
On the ground floor/mezzanine levels you will find the newly opened OBA Café plus the periodicals section. Although mainly Dutch there is a reasonable selection of international newspapers and magazines.
The bottom floor houses the impressive children’s library with rounded book cases, funky seating and play areas. There are a few English children’s books available. Don’t miss the Mouse Mansion (Het Muizenhuis) doll house, an amazingly intricate 3m tall sculpture which inspired a book series.
The Central Library’s upper levels contain the collection of books, CDs, DVDs as follows:
Level 2 – Literature / Comics
Level 3 – Travel / History
Level 4 – Art / Music
Level 5 – Health / Nature
Level 6 – Business / Philosophy
But there’s more to Amsterdam Central Library than its catalogue of books and music. There is a theatre with 260 seats, a children’s theatre, broadcasting studios, exhibition rooms and a study centre. For those who tinkle the ivories well there is a public piano in the main foyer on the ground floor.
There are often free exhibitions and concerts at the library so ask a member of staff what’s going on that day.
The top floor on Level 7 has a café-restaurant (no longer a La Place) and a panoramic terrace with excellent south-facing views of the city. You can also get good views from the windows on Levels 5 and 6.
Toilets can be found on the ground floor and 7th floor. There is also a Vapiano restaurant (pasta and pizza) within the building, access is from a separate entrance outside.
WiFi is available though do note, the Centrale OBA now charges non-members €1 for 30 minutes internet access. Furthermore, OBA no longer accepts payment by cash.
How can you join Amsterdam Library? Firstly you need to be a Dutch resident or at least have an address somewhere in the Netherlands. Libraries in the Netherlands generally work on a subscription model and Amsterdam OBA has various membership options:
OBA PC membership costs €12 per year and allows up to 3 hours per day for computer use and internet at the Central Library (1 hour at other OBA locations). One can also access the PressReader platform with over 6,000 publications from 100 countries in 60+ languages.
OBA Basic Membership costs €32 per year and allows 50 borrowings annually, up to 10 at any one time plus PC access as above.
OBA Total Membership costs €42 per year and allows unlimited borrowings, up to 10 at any one time plus PC access as above.
OBA Junior Membership is free for those aged 0-18 and allows unlimited borrowings, up to 5 items at any one time plus the standard PC access.
It is possible to join at any of the OBA libraries in Amsterdam. You should bring a form of identification and proof of address. You can also join online (Dutch only) but you would still need to visit a library to activate your membership card.
How to get to Amsterdam Central Library – The library is located at the Oosterdokseiland development, around 500m east of Amsterdam Central Station. It is very easy to reach on foot – from the cityside of Central Station head east following signs to Oosterdok. Cross the road and walk past the large DoubleTree Hilton hotel and you soon arrive at the Centrale OBA.
The library is just opposite the Sea Garden floating Chinese restaurant and next-door to the Conservatorium van Amsterdam (University of the Arts faculty). The green ship-like NEMO Science Museum can be seen a bit further on.
There is an underground bike parking facility outside the library with space for 1,000 bicycles. If coming by car there is the large Oosterdok Parking garage at Oosterdoksstraat 150 (1011 DK Amsterdam) which has nearly 1,400 parking spots.
In summary if you need a place to read, study, research, relax, check your email or just escape the elements, the Amsterdam Central Library is a welcome place to hang-out.
OBA Central Library, Oosterdokskade 143, 1011 DL Amsterdam
Opening Hours: Daily 1000-2200, only closed on New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, King’s Day, Pentecost and Christmas Day.
* Library of Birmingham vs Amsterdam Central Library: The largest public library in Europe is the UK’s Library of Birmingham (opened 2013) which at 10 levels and 31,000m² is a little larger than Amsterdam. Ironically it was designed Mecanoo, a Dutch architecture firm based in Delft. Its construction cost was £189million, more than double that of Amsterdam’s €80million. It should be noted that the Library of Birmingham is only open 40 hours per week whereas Amsterdam Central Library is open 84 hours per week.