A visionary chief librarian

Interview with Liv Sæteren, chief librarian, Deichman Library

The vision of a new library is nothing new. Liv Sæteren, chief librarian at the Deichman Library in Oslo, has been working for many years on the idea of a different and more modern library.

“Many pieces still need to fall into place, but we are in the process of constructing the outlines of something which will fit into the framework available to us. There are many elements to be taken into consideration when planning a new library and we have therefore made this a separate project: The New Deichman Library. The decision was taken to appoint a special project manager to co-ordinate the work and also to contribute with his own expertise.”

Liv Sæteren points out that the present- day library building has serious limitations, making it difficult to obtain maximum benefit from the professional skills of the library staff. “Thoughts and ideas about a modern library already exist in the minds of our staff and certain elements are already operative. The type of library we have today, however, is not designed for users to study, work and meet in a social setting. Consequently the role of the librarians is reduced mainly to one of lending out and collecting books. Visitors arrive first at the reception desk and proceed from there into a world of bookshelves. The library is a place where users hand in books previously loaned, ‘graze’ around among the shelves, find new books and leave again.

The challenge is to tear down these features and rebuild them in accordance with the requirements of our users.We cannot continue to use the same old system which has formed the basis for all library buildings up to the present day.”

The new library will offer visitors a huge area of 10,000 square meters. Liv Sæteren is well aware of the problems this will pose, not only those of a practical and technological nature but also with regard to creating the right atmosphere.

“Visual communication must be so varied as to meet the requirements of all the different types of library users. The new library must present itself to the public in a scenic manner in order to emphasise the multiplicity of choice on offer. This will require close cooperation with the architects when we reach that stage. “

Translated by Eric Deverill

Journalist for the periodical Bok og Samfunn.