There is a common misconception among Indonesians that libraries are eerie places, crammed with dusty old books - which is, of course, not the case. The libraries at the Ministry for Education and Culture and the National Library, located in Salemba, Central Jakarta, for instance, boast a large collection of books in various genres and are frequented by students, researchers and professionals alike.
But Jakarta is also home to a number of smaller, low-key libraries, many of which specialize on certain genres or topics - hidden gems that offer a welcome retreat for book lovers. We have compiled a list of libraries you maybe haven’t heard of before but that are definitely worth a visit.
The Book Nook
True to its name, the Book Nook is a small but lovely space located in the Blok M area. Owned by PannaFoto Institute, a non-profit organization that aims to develop photojournalism and documentary photography in Indonesia, the Book Nook features a part of the institute’s collection of photobooks, many of which were donations from the Goethe-Institut Jakarta.
Most of the people who frequent the Book Nook are photographers and photography students, but everybody is welcome to stop by and read the books on the spot. The library also collaborates with universities in their “Pop Up Book Nook” events, where they bring the collection to campuses, festivals and parks, as the people behind PannaFoto Institute believe that there is a great interest among the younger generation in Indonesia in photojournalism and photography in general.
The Book Nook is open every Thursday from 11 AM to 5 PM, but can also be visited on any other day by appointment.
Jl. Melawai IX No. 4
(above Ohana Bistro)
The OMAH library and bookstore is an open library that focuses on knowledge development on all things architecture. It is not only home to a wide range of books, but is also regularly used for discussions, workshops and lectures.
Located in the same building as Indonesian architect Sjarief Realrich’s studio, OMAH library positions itself as an integral part of Jakarta’s architecture communities, often engaging in collaborations with other organizations, universities and individuals, in order to develop lasting partnerships that aim to nurture an interest in architecture especially among the younger generation.
Kompleks Taman Villa Meruya
Taman Amarilis II Blok F2 No. 15
Gudang Ekosistem Sarinah
Founded in 2015 by a group of artist’s collectives from Jakarta, Gudang Ekosistem Sarinah is a cross-disciplinary space that aims to establish and cultivate an integrated support system for creative talents, communities, and various institutions while at the same time fostering collaborations and exchange of knowledge and ideas.
The space also includes a library that boasts a collection of around 5000 books from ruangrupa art collective, mainly catalogues and books in English language about contemporary and visual art, film and photography. As is the case with Book Nook, everybody is welcome to visit and use the books, but since they are valuable and quite rare, one cannot actually borrow them. The library is sponsored by cognac house Martell through its CSR program.
Jl. Pancoran Timur II E No. 4
The Goethe-Institut is the cultural institute of the Federal Republic of Germany with a global reach, promoting knowledge of the German language abroad and fostering international cultural cooperation.
The library of the Goethe-Institut Jakarta provides information about Germany and offers a wide range of books, music, games and films from Germany. Open seven days a week, it is a place to meet people, to study and to discover Germany. The library particularly stands out because of its easy-going atmosphere. It is not only a place for language course participants to learn - instead, everyone who is interested in Germany, its language and culture is welcome to stop by. Some rummage in a broad range of illustrated books or just come to play board games together on Friday afternoons.
Jl. Sam Ratulangi 9-15
Menteng, Central Jakarta
The Reading Room is not a library in the classical sense, but we decided to include it in our list as it has become quite a popular place for bookworms to gather and hang out. The brainchild of Indonesian writer and filmmaker Richard Oh, the Reading Room is a library-inspired lounge and coffee shop that is home to thousands of books, most of which are of Oh’s personal collection, stacked in numerous shelves. Some titles are for sale, while the rest of the books simply wait to be picked up by visitors to engage and inspire.
The Reading Room is the perfect place to visit on a rainy afternoon: get comfortable on one of the sofas, order a hot coffee and some snacks and immerse yourself in the magical universe of literature. As every book lover knows, however, this remedy works every day, no matter the circumstances - be it rainy or sunny, chilly or scorching hot, the world of books is always an inviting and enchanting one.
Jl. Kemang Timur No. 57 AB