Looking for a personal leadership style? Head to the Grand Nord

I was very excited to meet Marianne this winter as she shares a lot of the same values that we believe in at The Library; empowering entrepreneurs, Nordic work-life balance and achieving sustainable growth. We asked her a few questions to get to know her better.

What is your main area of work?

Leadership development through training and coaching for individuals and organizations. My passion and ambition is to support future leaders in finding a sustainable and personal leadership style. To support organizations in growing and keeping talents (especially women) in their organization and to be a partner and sounding board for entrepreneurs. My experience is from international organizations and I really enjoy working with different cultures and languages.


You have travelled a lot and lived and worked abroad for many years. How do you find working in Belgium, compared to the other countries you’ve lived in?

I am new in the Belgian work environment at the same time as I am new to the life of an entrepreneur. But so far, I do find Brussels open and people eager to help and find solutions. I love the international atmosphere, it is exactly as Geneva where I used to live and work but more relaxed and down to earth.


What brought you to The Library?

I was looking around for meeting rooms to have somewhere to meet clients. Visiting the Library Europe, it was love at first sight. Anne-Sofie kept inviting me to events at Ambiorix and Ixelles and after a few months I just could not resist even though I was quite happy to work from home. I was amazed by Anne-Sofie’s networking skills and the positive and friendly energy in the buildings. I am now in the co-working at Ixelles since a couple of weeks and just amazed what I can get done in a day. Starting the day with a clear desk, being outside my home and around inspiring people.

You can learn more about Marianne and what she can offer here: http://www.grandnord.se/en/start/

Welcome to the embassy of Hygge

HYGGE (”Heu-Gah”)

The art of building sanctuary and community, of inviting closeness and paying attention to what makes us feel open-hearted and alive. To create well-being, connection and warmth. A feeling of belonging to the moment and to each other. Celebrating the everyday.


Five years ago, I was looking for a place to work in Brussels that would be as cosy and friendly as my home, but with the added bonus of other people and office infrastructure. I wanted it to be a place, where you would feel personally welcomed, where you could snack on something homemade, where people had obviously made an effort before your visit and where your shoulders would drop to a normal level and you would catch yourself humming for no good reason. Sum up all of that and you get the essence of ’hygge’.


Over the years, the word hygge (I’ll drop the ’’ now that you get the idea) has become more and more widespread and has even made it into the Collins English Dictionary topping the list of new words in 2016 – right after Brexit. Which funnily enough is exactly the opposite of hygge, but that’s another subject. It’s even become well known in Belgium, although the actual definition seems somewhat hazy to people. Some think it’s like a sport you practice – Nordic mindfulness if you will. Some think it’s mainly about cakes. A journalist even called me recently to interview me about how to add hygge to an evaluation meeting with your boss. Which, for the record, you can’t really do. It’s not a magic wand, people. Lighting a candle, pouring tea, smiling and each other and then discussing lack of performance just doesn’t mix all that well.


Anyway, I thought I’d make an un-prioritised list of moments of hygge that you can cross-reference with your Library experience at your leisure:


  • Friends invite you over for dinner. When you arrive, there is music playing, the table has been set, there is something cooking in the kitchen. Glasses and snacks are already on the table. Your friends sit you down and ask how you are, like really are. Do you see the effort and attention that went into this? It means you are all set for a hyggelig evening.
  • It’s been a long week and you are a bit edgy and stressed out, but some of your coworkers ask you along for Friday drinks and you end up talking and joking for an hour or two, while having a few drinks. When you leave you feel a bit lighter and ready to start the weekend (you’d be surprised by how much drinking goes on at Danish workplaces).
  • It’s raining outside, you light some candles and tell the kids to come help you make pancakes. The togetherness mixed with sugar and jam contrasted with the cold, dark outdoors makes this super hygge. (It works best with some dark, Nordic winter outside, maybe also some trees swaying in a storm).
  • Your colleague has a birthday coming up, so you conspire with your coworkers to get a cake (homemade or bought, it doesn’t matter, it’s the thought that counts) and you all sit down to enjoy it together, leaving emails, phone calls and bosses be for half an hour to enjoy making somebody else’s day.
  • Surroundings: You can create hygge by adding personality to your home or office, such as adding artwork that means something to you, incorporating textiles and smaller lamps rather than overhead lighting, making sure it smells nice everywhere and that you are not too stressed out by clutter.

I think you see a trend here that hygge is about making a small effort for somebody else or for yourself to make your day just a little better. I hope that this is what you feel when you step into The Library, even if you didn’t know that it had a weird, unpronounceable name.




The glorious and strenuous art of networking: Tips and tricks from the field

When I first started considering The Library Group five years ago, these were the facts:


  • I knew only a handful of people in Brussels, none of which were potential clients
  • The concept was not easy to understand and needed personal explaining/pitching
  • I had no money for advertising, so promotion had to be done by word of mouth

So it seemed clear that my only choice was to get out there and meet more people. People who could become clients, people who could tell their friends about The Library, people who could be employees or suppliers. And since I didn’t know that many people (I think my initial loneliness in Brussels is clear to the reader now), I would have to do it ALL ALONE. Like seriously on my own. Like showing up to places knowing NOBODY. I have to use caps lock to underline the effort this took.

So night after night, I forced myself out of my cosy home to go meet strangers in contexts that were often less than ideal. Based on this hard-earned experience, I’ve put together a few points for networkers and networking organisers.

Networking Tops & Tricks

You are a networker:

  • If you show up to an event and discover that there is not one single familiar face in the crowd, resist the urge to pull out your phone. It makes you completely unapproachable to stare at your screen. Find the organiser and ask them bluntly to introduce you to somebody. Once you know one person, you’ll be okay.
  • Listen more than you talk. If you strike up a conversation with somebody new, ask questions. You are bound to have at least one thing in common. The more you ask, the more the other person will feel seen and heard and will remember you fondly.
  • If you make two contacts in one evening, then you’ve done great. Don’t expect to walk away with a list of clients or connections. Just two is fine. Some of my most loyal clients and best friends came from chance encounters. Quantity is not a goal here.
  • Giving is the new getting. Be generous with your contacts – people remember helpfulness (sadly because there is not enough of it going around). So connect people as much as you can, even if there is no immediate gain for you. Example: Since I launched The Library Group, we’ve been sponsoring events for the Leadarise organisation. At almost any networking event in Brussels, there is at least one Leadariser, who I can hang out with.

You are a networking organiser:

  • You wanted people to show up to your event, now make it worth their while: Start introducing them to each other. Prepare beforehand by mentally summing up what you know about your guests on an individual basis. Do you not know them at all? Look them up at LinkedIn.
  • Don’t spend time with your friends or colleagues during the event. Circulate like a fidget spinner in the hands of a toddler, but make sure to dispense useful introductions as you work the room à la: ‘Hey Anna, you should meet Eric, you both travelled Iceland this summer!’. Or: ‘Monique, please meet Tom, who is looking for a graphic designer, I’ve told him all about your work’. And then spin out of there again, so people can talk. All they need is an opener…
  • Think about what food you are serving. It should be light enough to take the edge off after-work low blood sugar, but not so substantial that everybody is standing around stuffing their faces instead of talking. Also, wine is good. Really good.

Networking opened so many doors for me and got me enough clients to make it out of the early start-up years alive. And also networking is just a very un-charming word for meeting people. And meeting people is the basis of love, understanding and evolution, so you if you can learn to thrive on it, then you’ve done well for yourself already.



Meet Enkhzül

All smiles and Mongolian friendliness

When Marcela, Yasmine, Robert and I first met Enkhzül, we were blown away by her positivity and easy laugh. She has now been working for The Library Group for a little more than a month and it’s time to get to know her a little better. So here are a few Q&As with this exotic beauty from Mongolia.


Where did you grow up and what do you miss from there?

“I grew up in different places from Ulaanbaator in Mongolia and East Berlin to Kiev, but I spent the most time in Ulaanbaator before I came to Brussels, when I was 20.

I miss mostly Ulaanbaator; it is my hometown. Of course I miss my parents and my high school friends – especially all the small talk in Russian. I also miss the Mongolian cold winter and hot summer and the steppe with its unlimited blue sky, where you will see millions of stars on summer nights”.


What do you like the most about Brussels?

“What I like the most is the international society, the old European buildings and the Belgian fries”.


Now, you’ve worked at The Library for a month, what are your impressions so far?

“I find The Library to be welcoming, friendly and interesting. The trust of The Library team and the easy conversations with the members is so fantastic. I am really happy with my choice of new workplace”.

If you need Enkhzül’s help, just contact her at eo@thelibrarygroup.be 

P.S.  If your tongue has some trouble with Enkhzül’s name, she says to please call her Zula…


PPS. To read more about Enkhzül’s hometown, visit: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/mongolia/ulaanbaatar

The Library : More like home

Article from Together Magazine June 2017.


Gemma Rose met up with the founder of The Library, a woman that defies the conventional office.

If there was an ‘ugliest office’ title, mine would hold it. I have what appears to be a cross between a cubicle and an office. It’s an office because I have four walls and a door, but it’s a cubicle because the walls are flimsy and detachable. The walls are dull; the linoleum floor is dull; the fluorescent beams are blinding; and the furniture is bland, uncomfortable and sterile. To top it off, my office is adjacent to a heavy, secure exit, since it’s located on the main thoroughfare of the building. The door is pulled open and slammed shut about a hundred times a day. After four months of enduring this, my ears hurt.

“Why should we accept a work place being so ugly?” asks Anne-Sofie van den Born Rehfeld, the founder of the Brussels-based co-working space, The Library. “Why should we buy ‘office’ lamps – which are usually ugly – for the office, just because they are called so? An office doesn’t have to look like an office.”

This reasoning sums up The Library quite perfectly. The Library’s members can opt for co-working spaces, private offices and meeting rooms, in prime locations in Brussels. Its aim is to make the office feel more like home. “I decorate it like I would my own home, and the members treat it well because they see the effort that I’ve put into it. They appreciate it and therefore feel protective of it,” explains Anne-Sofie.

She shows me around the Ambiorix premises: a stone’s throw away from the art nouveau curiosity, La Maison Saint-Cyr. The Library is a converted maison de maître, with high ceilings and luminous spaces (“Danish people believe it’s a human right for places to be well lit,” she remarks). Each room – whether it is a meeting room, office or bathroom – is tastefully, thoughtfully and personally furnished, with light touches of humour here and there. She uses Nordic colours: calming whites, blues and greys to create this cosy sanctuary. Plus, less is definitely more: no clutter or clunky furniture, just simple, mostly custom-made pieces, with usually block colours. The wooden meeting-room, coffee and dining tables are made in Denmark; and the lights are designed by up-and-coming Danish designers. Sustainability, authenticity and ingenuity are key components to Anne-Sofie’s furnishings – for example, in a corner stands her great-grandmother’s stove, which her mum retiled into a side-table.

Seven years ago, when Anne-Sofie first arrived in Brussels from Copenhagen, she was lonely. “I was working from home as a consultant, married, with a six-month year old daughter,” she says. “You don’t meet people when you work from home.” At her daughter’s crèche, she met another Danish mother in a similar set-up. To stave off the loneliness, they decided to work at each other’s houses. Anne-Sofie had toyed with the idea of signing up to co-working spaces, but she found them too corporate. “I missed getting dressed in the morning and meeting people. But I also wanted to work in a place that felt like home but still had an office infrastructure.”.

There are 100 members in total and each house is almost at full capacity. The Library runs many social events and workshops to support its members, from krav maga to managing one’s finances.

Setting up the business was not smooth sailing. “When I first started describing the idea of The Library, all the people you need to start a business – accountants, estate agents – just didn’t get it,” she says. Not only did she have the challenge of conceptualising her idea to get people on board, she also had to find the right house to rent. She invested all her savings into the idea. The nights were sleepless, and even today, they still can be. Nonetheless, the factors that keep Anne-Sofie going are self-belief, the acceptance that risk is uncomfortable and delayed gratification. “The harsh reality of what I have to pay out every month is pretty scary,” she notes. “But, if you want to build something, it doesn’t come without risk. This is where being good at delayed gratification comes in, because at one point, I know I will be comfortable.”

The gamble is paying off. The old days of filing cabinets, dreary offices and tiny cubicles are opening up to space, light and comfort. Even for the innovative players, like Google and Coca Cola, the ‘office as a play pen’ concept is becoming outdated and rather, the trend is moving towards the ‘office as a home’. Design publication The Spaces, which explores new ways to live and work, writes: “Today’s best co-working spaces are conceived as just that – places people would happily live in. And it’s the little touches of domesticity that make the difference.” As Anne-Sofie recognizes, work and home life is becoming more fluid, and consequently she hopes that The Library helps to “win some of your life back”.

Designing office space in such a way makes the business itself more attractive. “Outstanding!” beams a member, Jacqueline, who runs a small consultancy firm. “The Library inspires you to come to work. Everyone here is really welcoming, and it has a nice balance in that it pleases our more corporate clients while not putting off the smaller ones.”

According to the book Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplaceby Nikil Saval, the workplace began with the rise of the factory in the 19th century and then of modern business (accounts, insurance, shipping, banking). Imagine dimly lit cubby holes by candlelight at the beginning. Then, the 1920s office was characterised by rows and rows of steel desks, with piles of paperwork. In 1968, the workstation was introduced, made up of three sides with interlocking, adjustable walls, joining at 120 degree angles; bright-coloured storage units; a desk and a chair. Soon enough, the angles became right angles and the workspace smaller, which led to the creation of the dreaded cubicle. Thankfully, Saval believes that the cubicle will soon die out as a new way of working emerges. Whatever the future of the workplace will be, one thing is clear, people need community, company and companionship. These needs are what encouraged Anne-Sofie to fulfil her dream.

The Library’s namesake is thanks to the library of Anne-Sofie’s childhood in Denmark, where her mum was a librarian. She remembers it as a cosy, warm and friendly place. Her mum also played a key role in setting up the business. “My mum is such an inspiration,” she says, “she is very brave, and she must have given me that belief in myself.” After an afternoon at The Library, I come away with a deep admiration of Anne-Sofie’s achievement. I also come to the conclusion that The Library is an allegory for generosity and bravery, as well as being an homage to her mum.



Copenhagen City Guide

So you’ve become used to the ambience of ‘hygge’ (well-being and cosyness) at The Library. You’re enjoying the Danish lamps in coworking and in your private offices. Or you’ve tasted the cakes during your day in our meeting rooms. And you are wondering if it might be time to tap into the source of Danish happiness and visit Copenhagen. Here is my very personal and thoroughly tested once and for all Copenhagen City Guide.

Where to stay

Book a stay via Airbnb.com. Look around the lively area of Nørrebro, slightly posher Østerbro or gritty and hip Vesterbro.

Bonus info: I can promise you that you will not find naked light bulbs or horrendous kitchens anywhere. Danish people treat interior decoration like a religion: Something to revere, cherish and spend a lot of money on.

Or why not check out the small Danish chain of design hotels: http://www.brochner-hotels.dk

Bonus info: Both my sisters work there!

For a stay in 100% luxury and magic, check into Nimb Hotel in the Tivoli Gardens: http://www.nimb.dk

Bonus info: They put fresh flowers in their müsli and live peacocks entertain you if you eat on the terrace.

Where to eat

As you might know by now, I love porcelain. Probably from my time working for Royal Copenhagen. If you also prefer your coffee in crispy white porcelain with hand painted illustrations, then head for The Royal Café on the main shopping street of Strøget. Hidden away in a courtyard between the Royal Copenhagen and the Georg Jensen shops, you can enjoy cakes and Danish open-faced sandwiches in beautiful surroundings. http://www.royalsmushicafe.dk

In general, Copenhagen is full of great places to eat. Oh and the bakeries…be sure to try fresh bread or kanelboller (scrumptious cinnamon buns). Here are a few of my favourites:

Danish specialities, from Claus Meyer (co-founder of Noma): http://www.meyersmad.dk/spis-ude/deli/gl.-kongevej/

Chain of restaurants with THE BEST SUSHI and fantastic menus and entertainment for kids: http://www.sushi.dk

Madklubben litereally means ‘the food club’ and their slogan is ‘honesty has the best taste’, you can’t disagree with that…http://madklubben.dk

For a Paleo-style lunch, a quick ginger shot, some lumpfish roe or regional cheeses, candy or even soap products, take a stroll through the covered market of Torvehallerne…https://torvehallernekbh.dk

Amazing restaurants all of them, tremendous, the best! http://cofoco.dk

You know I like baked goods…: http://mirabelle-bakery.dk and http://lagkagehuset.dk

Where to shop

Where to not, I ask you. Here are some more of my favourites: For design classics, head to the mothership: https://www.illumsbolighus.com

Forget Inno, in Copenhagen the department stores rock: http://www.magasin.dk and http://illum.dk

For more unique pieces and little illustrations or art works, visit the tiny shops of http://www.anneblack.dk or http://vaerkstedet.getshopflow.com or Handcraftedcph (a Facebook profile, but no homepage). I also like the Danish brands Ganni, Designers Remix, Malene Birger, Baum & Pferdgarten and many more.

What to do

There is so much to see and do in Copenhagen that I don’t know where to start. Did you know that there is an enormous beach? And you can swim in the harbour? Take a train up to world famous art museum Louisiana? Admire architecture and bridges all day long? Rent a bike (don’t worry, many of them are electrical) and visit all the lakes of Christianshavn? Admire the cutest little castle and the crown jewels in the middle of the city? Browse antique shops and find new treasures on Nørrebro?

I can’t even pick a favourite neighbourhood, because I’ve lived all over the city and every area holds memories for me. But check out events and suggestions here: http://www.visitcopenhagen.com/copenhagen-tourist?_ga=1.198520751.1260462050.1433677102 or here http://www.visitdenmark.com/denmark/tourist-frontpage or here http://www.aok.dk/english


What to say

Hello =             Hej

Good-bye =                    Hej, hej (easy, right?)

Thank you =                  Tak

See you =                       Vi ses

Now you are ready! Enjoy your trip to Denmark.


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