With the launching on 1. February this year of new Internet-based services and a campaign entitled ‘Namdal in the world – the world in Namdal’, the libraries of the Namdal region have earned a significant place on the Norwegian library map. This initiative represents a landmark in achieving improved library services for the region’s 40,000 inhabitants.
A three-year development project supported by the Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority and the County of North Trøndelag has made it possible for the 14 municipalities of Namdal (www.namdalsbibliotekene. no/) to establish a programme of close cooperation aimed at achieving improved quality and greater access. The result is a new infrastructure for both library competence and technology.
Professional skills and a political anchorage
The professional structure consists of three regional library coordinators (representing overall a 100% full-time post), each responsible for development work in their particular geographical region in cooperation with the county library. In this way the whole Namdal region acquires a higher level of library expertise, together with a greater awareness of the professional skills of the individual head librarians.
Each municipality makes a contribution representing 10% of library staff resources. The head librarians meet regularly on a regional basis in order to exchange ideas and to consider further possible areas of practical cooperation. An important aspect has been the focus given to the fact that all the libraries and all members of staff have their strong points which can be developed to play a role in the new network. The three coordinators combine this project work with their posts as head librarians. A particularly successful aspect of the project lies in its strong political anchorage. The project actually came into being as the result of a proposal made by the political leaders of one of the municipalities, together with one of the regional advisory bodies, representatives of which now sit on the project’s steering committee. This political anchorage has given the library situation a regional-political focus in North Trøndelag and has most probably contributed to a strengthening of the role of the libraries in their own municipalities.
New Internet-based services
Now the inhabitants of Namdal can sit at home or at their office desk and use the Internet to search for and reserve literature in their local library. School children can start their project work by first discovering what books and articles on the topic concerned are available locally. If what you seek cannot be found at your own library, it is easy to establish whether or not it can be obtained from a neighbouring municipality. Although an implicit feature of any modern library, these services until a couple of years ago were a utopian vision for the great majority of libraries in Namdal.
The municipalities concerned have chosen Mikromarc as the system on which to base their digital library ser vices. Tenders were invited and a decision was reached only after comprehensive reviews had been carried out by the libraries, the regional advisers and the municipal authorities. The three regional library coordinators and the county library monitored the selection process, a vital factor being that the new technological infrastructure could also provide a future platform for digital projects in cooperation with other cultural and knowledge-based institutions in the region.
Although the transition to a new system and in some municipalities the combining of catalogues have resulted in improved services, these changes also represent a considerable challenge to library staff. During this phase there is much to be gained from being part of a larger professional network when tackling problems and defining the standards necessary to ensure the quality of services.
The marketing campaign for the 14 libraries involved includes colourful posters with a lively message. Use has also been made of cinema advertising, postcards and bookmarks. The campaign emphasises the role of the library as a multicultural meeting place and a source of global knowledge. The campaign message, created by the coordinating group together with the head librarians, consists of the following aims:
1. To draw attention to the new Internet-based services in the Namdal libraries
2. To create awareness of the public library system’s traditional values by focussing on the following points:
• A meeting place for all.
• A multiplicity of both services and users.
• A network of possibilities. Presentation in the local library
Parallel with the development of new Internet-based services, the project has also paid great attention to the question of actual presentation in the local library. Steps have been taken to improve competence and to cooperate on initiatives in areas shown in the diagram below.
The Namdal project is now in its third and final year, the focus areas for 2007 being cooperation between schools and libraries. information competence, strategies for the digitisation of local and regional material, multicultural questions, multiple search, transport coordination and a common library plan for the period 2008-2014. The Namdal libraries have been constantly ambitious in their aims. With courage and a sense of responsibility, they can now make use of the extended network to achieve their goals.
The challenge of national library reform
Those behind the Namdal library project may indeed feel that they are working in the right direction, when reading last year’s national report Library Reform 2014 (www.abm-utvikling. no/publisert/ABM-skrift/2006/30_ eng_web.pdf). One of the report’s main strategies is to consolidate libraries into larger units with a view to strengthening their professional competence. However, the concept of consolidation remains open to interpretation. In Namdal the model of consolidation adopted, involving close cooperation with the county library, represents an approach different to that described in the proposals for reform.
What will the Namdal libraries gain by working towards a system based on one joint head librarian for each region as opposed to their present structure of coordinators? What will they lose? Several of those participating in the project, together with their municipal authorities, claim that the present strategy ensures an adequate professional network and provides inhabitants with the best possible use of resources.
The Namdal libraries have created a culture based on openness and trust, where head librarians have the opportunity to broaden their authority locally, while still meeting the challenge to take a wider view together with their colleagues. The question of whether the organisation of the Namdal libraries will continue after the end of the project is still open. If to be continued, don’t we have reason to believe that this model of consolidation will ensure the necessary potential for development of future library services in the region?
County of North Trøndelag
kristin.storvig AT ntfk.no
Translated by Eric Deverill
• A model for • Improvement of • Management and literature presentation collections and overall communication in schools library atmosphere • Visits by authors • A summer reading • Exhibition techniques • Fantasy literature campaign • Book talks • User information • Writing competitions • Southern Sami culture • Staff exchange schemes for young people • Local history SPLQ:2 2007 19