Final Words: Interview with Librarian Niels van Tol


After 16 years, it is time to leave the Peace Palace Library. My colleague Candice Alihusain asked me for an interview but unfortunately, due to lots of work, this did not happen. My current work for Erasmus University Library, extremely interesting and educational as it is, also left me unable to write down something. But one has to do what one has to do and I hereby provide you with a small interview.

What do you think is the proudest achievement of the Peace Palace Library in recent years?

The good work for The Hague Academy, many students have been highly appreciative of the Library this past decennium.

What will you miss most about the Peace Palace Library?

What will be most missed are my good colleagues and the Users of the Peace Palace Library. After 16 years, during which I met many thousands of different people, I can only conclude that the people make the job. Not the location, not the collection, but the people who support you and that rely on you, whether they be colleagues, students, researchers, librarians, judges or whatever group I may have not named here. Being able to do a good job in supporting everyone was a reward in itself as through this, it was possible to make many people happy.

Can you please share an anecdote with us?

Once, a few years ago, a student came to visit the Library and had registered online. The name provided me information as to what kind of person I could expect and at a certain point, not too long after registering, a person which matched this description entered the Library (it does help if you know if someone is there for the first time).

“Welcome <name> ”,  I said.

The student looked at me as if I was pulling a joke. “How do you know who I am?”.
“The Librarian Knows All and the Librarian Sees All.” The student looked unsure whether to laugh, cry or run away. I explained everything and spent the rest of the day helping the student as well as I could to make up for the uncomfortable feeling.

Since that time, if someone asks me; “How do you know this?”, this is my standard reply; “The Librarian Knows All and the Librarian Sees All?

What will the future bring?

For the Peace Palace Library? Change.

All organizations must change, nothing can remain the same forever. The Peace Palace Library must change in the coming years regarding its work for the courts at the Peace Palace, the international legal community in The Hague and the world, and the academics and others using the Library and its collection.

For me personally? Lots of work and lots of learning. I find that I need to learn many new skills and also I need to master more knowledge for my new position. Challenge accepted! Wish me luck!

What do you consider your best memory?

Too many to count. But the continuous appreciation shown by everyone is something I will forever cherish.

Some Final Words ...

I hope to meet you all again, and remember: The Librarian Knows All and the Librarian Sees All !

By Niels van Tol,
October 2019