The distinctive vision and curriculum of the European School The Hague (ESH) in the Netherlands provides a unique opportunity for the establishment of a multilingual school library. Though other European school libraries exist, no formal library standards have yet been established for this environment.  This article chronicles the organization of the new multilingual school library of the ESH and its sustainable collaboration with teacher community.

School Library Environment

The ESH is a young, successful [1]Dutch school that is an officially accredited European School. It provides a multilingual and multicultural education based on the curriculum of the European schools. This curriculum distinguishing feature is the fact that in addition to their main section language, students study subjects such as history, geography, and human science in their second language from the third year of secondary school. Additionally, students choose a third language and may opt for a fourth one[2].  Ultimately, the goal of the curriculum is to prepare the students for European Baccalaureate (EB), a demanding exam where students are tested in a minimum of ten subjects in order to gain entry for Higher Education in all European Union countries as well as internationally.

The School Library at the European School at The Hague

The School Library at the European School at the Hague c by S. Zunic

The ESH Primary School opened in August 2012, while the ESH Secondary School began its first cycle in August 2014. In 2019, the ESH students will take the EB for the first time in the school history. From the beginning, the ESH management ensured the development of a viable library by providing a librarian and a large, centrally located room in the school building with regular opening hours ranging from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The initial collection totaled 500 books in October 2014. Three and a half years later, the collection now features 6,000 records in the languages taught in the Secondary program—English, Deutsch, Español, Italiano, Français, Nederlands—and Latin.[3]

Classification of the Collection

The European School curriculum does not mandate particular formal library standards when establishing a new library. Therefore the librarian consulted the nearby European School Bergen and five other international schools when developing the classification of the collection in order to meet ESH teacher and student needs.

When organizing the collection on the shelves, one goal is to assist users in easily locating desired resources. Teenage and young adult fiction books are therefore organized according to language codes (EN, FR, IT, ES, DE, etc.) and suitable age. Dewey decimal classification is used for nonfiction and classics. Information books are therefore organized according to topic and language via an efficient color coding system. This way, students and teachers from different school backgrounds can easily find their way and they are gradually introduced to Dewey, a classification used in most University libraries in Europe and in the world.

A special section known as “easy language” is dedicated to books written for young people learning a language. These graded reading books include easy fiction stories, classics rewritten, graphic novels, reluctant readers’ series and audiobooks. When relevant, the Common European Framework of Languages level[4] is indicated on the book cover. In the ESH library, this “easy language” section is located in the middle of the library with book cover frontal display. This placement allows easy access and visibility for users and this section provides even low-level readers with a sense of satisfaction of being able to read a book adapted to their skills. In this way, the ESH library is not only a support to European curriculum but also a differentiated learning tool[5]

In addition, thanks to efficient library software that enables the quick import of bibliographic data from national library catalogues[6] and relieves the cataloguing tasks for librarian, teachers and students can also access book metadata in the appropriate original language. 

Development and Selection of the Collection  

Librarian/Teacher Collaboration

When it comes to the development of the collection, collaboration with individual teachers is sometimes essential. The teachers give shape to an official curriculum. Literacy teachers offer guidance on key authors relevant to particular nations and can provide established bibliographies. Language teachers can recommend publishers or specific collections that correspond to teaching topics in a second language.  Human and Integrated Science teachers provide assistance with relevant nonfiction works and various online resources with adaptive data relevant to their students.

Role of Librarian in Selection

  • Investigating possible translation of quality non-fiction series in other languages
  • Identifying popular teen and young adult series from key European authors typically translated in the six languages
  • Promoting national literacy via National European Days  and translations (i.e., Madame Bovary in English, Don Quixote in Dutch, Romeo and Juliet in Spanish) 
  • Analyzing student circulation to aid in selection process of the collection, etc

Librarian/Users Collaboration

Students also contribute to the library development. The ESH student body is composed of an interesting, active and voluble multicultural population, and most students transfer to the ESH from a foreign country, another international school in The Hague, or a Dutch school[7]. Due to their diverse backgrounds, the variety of student input and book suggestions are vital to the building of the collection. Many make suggestions from their own first language. Their suggestions reflect their passions, their favorite genres, or even recent Netflix series adapted from a novel! Because students are invested in the building of the library collection, it has resulted in enthusiasm about the library itself. Many students are ‘’library helpers’’ and use their free time to provide practical help like stamping, labeling, covering and shelving books.

Promotion of the Collection

Various types of collaboration with teachers are also vital for library promotion. Of course, there is the traditional ‘’visit to the library’’ for each of the classes with their ‘’mentors’’ at the beginning of the school year. These visits are mainly focused on the library rules. Additionally, other events (both routine and unique) that have sparked library interest and usage include:

  • Scheduled weekly/bi-weekly reading sessions in the library

In these sessions, students and their teacher choose a book, sit and free-read from the collection. Some teachers allow non-fiction readings, while others prefer fiction only. These regular sessions are also an opportunity for the librarian to present new books in a certain language. They are relevant to Year One or Year Two students in their first or second language lessons. They contribute to keep encouraging reading in the continuation of primary years where these students had weekly visits to the library with their class teachers.

  • Ad hoc library visits to check out a book  for a class assignment

In these visits, students have to select and check out a book to be read and reported on later in class. These visits can be relevant with older students, or with third and fourth language students who would not regularly come to the library and check out a book. 


  • Ad hoc library visits to check out a book similar to a curriculum reading    

These visits require important preliminary work from teacher and librarian in order to pre select books similar in genre or topic to the one studied in class.  These mandatory readings are more relevant to exam year students or students in the exam class.


  • Pleasure reading class visits before short breaks and summer holidays

During these visits, students are allowed to check out as many books as they wish to read during the break. If lost or damaged, a book has to be replaced (the student has to buy a new one with the same ISBN).

  • Reading Clubs featuring winners of reading awards, such as CILIP Carnegie Award[8] or Les Incorruptibles[9]
  • Innovative or Interactive activities


Some student favorites include Harry Potter quizzes in three languages, a cross-curriculum book and article display to celebrate the 100th anniversary of World War I, or students recording creative messages about their favorite books. 


  • Connecting students with resources outside the library

Teachers may select and check out books on specific curricular topics to display and use in classrooms for specific projects. Utilizing technology, from a Twitter feed for the library to online encyclopedias made available from any device in school or at home, allows students and even their family members to access library resources.


Summary and Vision

Various factors shaped the ESH library, from the curriculum itself, management support, to frequent input from teachers and students feed-back. Currently, the librarian and teachers work in ‘’cooperation[10] ’’ on common projects. It is on a good way towards ‘’library curriculum’’ collaboration where the library is integrated into the school curriculum. It is the case in some international or American schools.

In conclusion, at ESH and in general, the role of librarian gradually evolves into an “Information Specialist.’’ This expanded role will feature an emphasis in digital resource expansion in time  and in budget. Currently, no network of accredited European School libraries exists. In the future, this network of peer collaboration would allow sharing of information and good practice, negotiating of group rates for acquiring new collection resources (cheaper licenses for cataloguing or online subscription fees), and eventually, offering capabilities for resource sharing through a European School-Interlibrary Loan system.

Author: Violaine Pellerin



[1] Current enrollment totals approximately 1,000 students.

[2] See also and ‘Secondary School Guide’ for more details about the curriculum.

[3] The library also accepts book donations in ‘’extra curricular’’ languages such as Polish, Lithuanian, Romanian, Slovenian, Norwegian, Danish and Finnish.


[5] For instance, Wuthering Eights by C. Brontë can be found in its original text, in an English B2 level version, in a graphic novel, in French and Italian. The Diary of Anne Frank, originally written in Dutch, can also be read in the 6 ESH languages original text, and in B1 European level in English, German and Dutch. Easy English biographies such as Usborne series and movies with various language subtitles complete the collection.

[6] See Z cataloguing module of Softlink library system. It is a quick an easy way to import Marc records from other national libraries and to create bibliographic records in local languages.

[7] Some Dutch pupils are eligible to receive international education when they have already leaved abroad


[10] See A. Tilke ‘The Teacher Librarian as Curriculum and Instructional Practitioner and Leader’’ in: The Many Faces of School Library Leadership, 2010.