Co-operation across boundaries

Library branches have in many places throughout Sweden been integrated with schools, in others they have been discontinued altogether. But there are instances showcasing how library activity can evolve through new approaches of co-operative efforts. Much of it depends on local circumstances. In the small community of Stenstorp in Västergötland a new science centre for young people has been opened. The library branch of Stenstorp has moved into the science centre’s premises and is to a certain degree profiling themselves as a library of technology and the natural sciences. This has initiated an invigorating collaboration.

Stenstorp is a small community with less than 2,000 inhabitants. Its claim to fame rests solely on the fact that the inventor of the AGA Lighthouse, AGA stove etc. and recipient of the Nobel Prize, Gustaf Dalén was born here in 1869. The previous library branch was accommodated in an old and picturesque villa, but totally unsuited to the needs of a library. Lending statistics gradually dropped.

With the appearance of the Dalén Museum in 1996 there were already plans to complement it with a science centre. Spring 2001 saw the inauguration of the Dalénium, Gustaf Dalén’s Discovery Centre on premises neighbouring the Dalén Museum.

The regrowth of technological competence is of the utmost importance for future development in industry and research. The aim of the Dalénium is therefore to encourage the interest of young people in technology and the natural sciences.

At the Dalénium the sense of discovery and imagination is given free scope. Knowledge related to mechanics, the four elements, the human body, light and sound etc. are taught using pragmatic and surprising exercises.

Reference library
During the establishment of the Dalénium the management contacted the local library, needing assistance in creating a reference library. Their aim was a library containing literature, periodicals, computers and multimedia tools in the areas of technology and the natural sciences. As further discussions were pursued, the idea of maintaining two libraries seemed increasingly foolish.Why not move the entire branch into the Discovery Centre and partially profile it as a library encompassing the natural sciences and technology? This would enable a library functioning both as a public library and as a pedagogic library for the visitors and staff of the Dalénium. Falköping’s municipal board who saw the potential qualities attainable from such a collaborative effort supported the idea.

Inauguration 2003
As the top floor of the centre was not being used, it was eventually rebuilt to accommodate the public library. The library section for technology was situated on a shelving structure as part of the experimental hall. The shelf also functions as a ledge connecting the library with the Discovery Centre. The new library was inaugurated in January 2003.

The inhabitants of Stenstorp have been quick off the mark in putting the library to use and generally feel that it is an immense improvement on the previous one. Much appreciation has been bestowed on the choice of literature, computers and periodicals found on the ‘shelf ’. The co-operation between the library and Dalénium is beginning to take shape and will eventually encompass much more than a mere reference library.

Thematic studies
There are a number of teachers at the Dalénium and during weekdays it is closed to the general public allowing only for group bookings. School classes visit the Dalénium to take part in thematic studies to which the librarians have prepared lists of recommended literature and instructions on how to utilise the library facilities. Practical knowledge is acquired at the Dalénium and the library caters for the theoretical aspects. All groups are supplied with lists of recommended literature after a visit and there is also the possibility of lending books to the visiting schools. The Dalénium and the library are jointly planning instructional courses for pedagogues. A web site is also under construction.

It is of importance that the various categories of staff representing their respective expertise collaborate to ensure a mutual understanding of each other’s tasks. For instance, one of the assistants at the Dalénium is assigned to the library a few days each week. Such acts are advantageous in establishing collaborative schemes.

It’s still early days, but there is no mistaking the enthusiasm – and the inventiveness – in Stenstorp!

Translated by Jonathan Pearman

Head of library, Falköping Bibliotek.