Key people: Kees Laban

They are indispensable on campus: cleaners, caretakers, caterers, gardeners, receptionists – the list is long. Resource seeks out these key people. This time, meet Kees Laban (53), a librarian in the Forum.
Photo: Guy Ackermans

‘My mother used to say I should go to sea because I was such a free spirit. But I also spent a lot of time in the library, where reading calmed me down. I’m an extravert type and I do a lot of sport, but with its calm atmosphere and space, the library suits me too – certainly the one in the Forum. After training as a librarian I worked in legal aid for a while, but I found an office too claustrophobic as a workplace.

To me the library is anything but dull – in fact it’s very lively, with a lot of people passing through it. My work is dynamic too. I help people with a practical glitch, giving them quick, brief advice. I pass on the more complex problems to our information specialists. The combination of practical and broader knowledge suits me. I have variable shifts too, and I often move around between the back office, the front office and the bookshelves.

I feel a strong bond with students, especially Wageningen students. In general, they are very nice, serious and responsible. Just my types. Some people in service jobs have a much harder time with their clients. Because we’re in a building that’s open to the public, stray people wandering into the library can sometimes be a nuisance. But I don’t find that difficult and I could count the number of times it’s happened on the fingers of one hand.

I found an office too claustrophobic as a workplace

A few years ago, I looked up and saw a lot of water coming down from above. It looked like a waterfall. That was surreal. The sprinkler system had started spouting water. Students helped save as many books as possible, which I thought was so good.

I hope the library can stay open. We’re keeping one and a half metres’ distance here now, and the ventilation is good. So the library might be safer than a student house. It was hard for me when the library had to close in March: this place is the heart of my job. Before the coronavirus, there were 650 work stations in the library. Now there are 220. Actually, it feels more like a library now, and I like that.

I’ve been working here for nearly 30 years and I won’t ever leave. The library goes on developing all the time, but will continue to exist with physical books for the time being. Books meet a deeper emotional need.’

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