Several weeks ago, before I was hospitalized, I had the chance to visit this recently renovated library in South Jakarta. As the name suggests, the place is actually a library—only that it’s in the same building as the Netherlands’ cultural center building.
I first heard about the library from my Twitter feed. With a very eye-catching thumbnail, it’s hard to miss the announcement. I hadn’t been to the place yet—not even to the cultural center—but I had heard good things about it. In fact, one of my friends used to take a language course there, in preparation for her studies abroad.
Being the bibliophile that I am, and being somewhat desperate in search of a new writing spot, the place instantly caught my interest.
Fortunately, one of my friends was also inclined to check the place out.
Erasmus Huis, as well as the library, is located in Kuningan area. Since I live in the West Jakarta district, this means the place isn’t exactly in my neighborhood. Fortunately, I brought my friend along with me, which means we could share the trip fare using a cab to get to the place.
If your travel option is limited, I highly suggest using either the Transjakarta, the closest bus stop being the Kuningan Timur bus stop. You could reach the place using the Commuter Line trains, but I believe the nearest station is Manggarai Station, which is still quite far from the place.
In any case, once you reach the building, you actually have to go through a rather strict security check. Make sure to follow the staff’s instructions, and you’ll be fine. Just to be safe, please also refrain from taking pictures in front of the building, as I’ve seen oblivious tourists being reprimanded for it.
Once you get inside, quickly turn left and enter the building just ahead of you. The library will be to your left, behind the glass walls.
If you ask the security, they might tell you that the library access is member-exclusive. If you are denied access to the library because you don’t have a membership yet, just tell the officer politely that you’ve come to register as a new member.
Registration is still done using pen and paper, but my experience was quite painless, to say the least. You are required to pay a membership fee of 30,000 IDR annually, but that’s ridiculously affordable, so I didn’t mind it at all. Please keep in mind that you need to pay the membership fee in advance, and in cash. So please prepare your cash beforehand.
Once you’ve gotten all the registration thing out of the way, you are free to explore the library! I’d suggest finding a seat first, preferably somewhere with decent lighting, but you’re really free to sit anywhere you want.
Writing Spot Review
The library is quite small, but it has this quaint charm in it that just made me feel at home. The first floor has one large table at the center of the room—the table itself was sturdy and at the perfect height for me. It wasn’t too low that I had to slouch to read, and it wasn’t too high to feel uncomfortably stuffy either. I also really appreciated the lighting design in the room—almost everywhere was adequately illuminated.
The library does have a mezzanine floor which is accessible from two sets of staircases; one to the right of the entrance, and another to the far left, past the librarian desk. There are no tables or chairs on the mezzanine level.
The ground floor has an extensive collection of Dutch books. I should have expected this, but I was sorely disappointed that I couldn’t find anything I could read. It was my fault for not doing any kind of research prior to my visit, and I was there to write anyway, but I sure hoped I could find something, too.
Fortunately, the librarian in charge was more than happy to show me where to find all the non-Dutch collections in the library, which in fact, is housed on the mezzanine level. To my delight, there was an impressive collection of tomes in bahasa Indonesia and English. Most of them are studies regarding Dutch colonialism in Indonesia, and the diplomatic relationships the two countries had built in the past century. However, I also spotted some fiction books mixed in.
The librarian told me that they are still expecting books shipments in the near future. This is evident by the fact that almost all of the mezzanine’s left wing was still empty. I’m sure they’ll fill the shelves up in no time, though.
Overall, I like the atmosphere of the library. The air conditioning was great, most likely because of the recent renovation. If you’re like me and come here early in the morning, you’re likely to find yourself the only visitor around. This, of course, means that the room can get quite chilly. So please bring your own cold gear as deemed fit.
I noticed more and more people came after 11 AM. We went there on Saturday, so I had expected crowds in the first place, but as far as I was concerned, most of them just came to take selfies in front of the bookshelves, and leave without even reading a single book.
(Or they’ll pick up several books as a prop, and just leave the books on the floor after use, much to the librarian’s and my dismay)
One thing to keep in mind about the library is that it doesn’t have a dedicated return counter. This means for each book you’ve taken off the shelf, you need to return them exactly to where you had taken them from. Failing in doing so will just incur the librarian’s wrath. No kidding.
I brought my modest notebook and pen here to write. With the bright lighting, cool room temperature, and generally quiet surroundings, I managed to handwrite almost 9 pages worth of manuscript in just 1 hour. The only time I laid down my pen was when I took pictures of the place.
If you’re bringing your laptops, there are plenty of power sockets for everyone. But if you want to be 100% safe, just bring your own electric branch (or whatever that’s called) so you can share the socket with someone else.
It was really a great place for writing. And suffice to say, a great productivity-inducing place overall.
With all being said, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit here. And since I am already a member myself, I’m planning to make use of my membership throughout the year.
Contact & Opening Hours
Jalan HR Rasuna Said Kav. S-3
Kuningan, Jakarta 12950, Indonesia
Monday until Thursday: 08.00 – 16.00 hrs.
Friday: 08.00 – 14.00 hrs.
*and during evening and weekend performances in the Erasmus Huis.
Monday until Thursday: 09.00 – 16.00 hrs.
Friday: 09.00 – 14.00 hrs.
Saturday: 10.00 – 13.00 hrs
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