Cooperation between schools and public libraries in Rogaland

Cooperation between schools and public libraries in Rogaland In order to highlight and strengthen the relationship between school libraries and public libraries, the Rogaland County Library sees the need for an overall regional library policy. As far as literature is concerned, the traditional maintenance of sector boundaries with little exchange of information is giving way to a sector-overriding contact between several professional groups. There is a growing need for broad thinking and a long-term strategy among those active in the literature and library fields. This requires increased knowledge, initiatives to bring the various sectors together and an arena for public debate.

Reading for Life
The Rogaland County Library s pioneer work in the field of literature for children and young people has resulted in “Reading for Life”, Norway s first politically-approved strategy to encourage youngsters to read. Our aim with this plan is to strengthen the position of children s literature by exploiting the room for movement recently created for interdisciplinary cooperation between research institutions, the library sector, teachers, authors and illustrators. A further objective is to improve the methods of promoting this type of literature. Cooperation between the various participants is to be achieved through a variety of strategies, festivals and conferences. Common to all the professional groups involved is the need for practical opportunities to meet each other. Such arrangements can provide a stimulus to quality, exchange of knowledge, greater expertise, new thinking and innovation.

Reading ability is a social concern
The development of school libraries in Norway is primarily a result of shared experience and has little basis in research or systematic planning. Recent studies (Maren Britt Baadshaug s Skolebiblioteket – et aktivt læringssenter, Oslo 2002) have revealed that many teachers in primary schools do not regard the school library as part of the teaching arena, defending their views by claiming that the use of the school library is a matter only for the individual pupil and the librarian concerned. These attitudes need to be changed if we wish the school library to function as an important part of each child s learning progress. Achieving such changes demands a recognition that the school library, as an institution, is not just a concern of the education sector alone. Today s greater focus on the school library is due to a realisation that the reading proficiency of each and every individual is a matter for society and, perhaps even more importantly, a political question.

Two different sectors
Also here in the county of Rogaland we have experienced difficulties in providing pupils with an optimal learning environment due to a lack of cooperation between schools and the public library sector. Given the existence of a national strategy and central funding one would naturally expect to see increased cooperation in this area and a consequent improvement in the position of school libraries. Unfortunately it is not that simple and there are many obstacles in the way. The education sector and the public library sector have two very different traditions with clear dividing lines from the national level and right down to the individual school. This situation exists in spite of the fact that the dissemination of literature is central to both sectors. The school library with its links to the cultural sector has proved difficult to integrate into the school system and the level of priority given to any library is still dependent upon the personnel involved. Furthermore the public library s approach to implementing the various agreements on cooperation with schools can also be rather casual, in spite of government legislation imposing this responsibility on the individual public library.

School libraries in Rogaland
However, some municipalities in Rogaland and also some research institutions have realised that a library has an important role to play in a school. As one of few Norwegian municipalities, Stavanger has established a school library centre linking the public library system with the schools. The centre invites all those responsible for the running of primary school libraries to attend network meetings for the exchange of information and experiences.

In this way school libraries are better brought to the attention of outsiders such as local politicians and public servants who can exercise influence and perhaps in the future be decisionmakers with regard to cooperation between schools and the public library sector.

The Learning Support Centre at the University of Stavanger has developed a concept entitled “Reading Motivators”. These are specially-trained teachers who introduce new literature to schools on request. The Rogaland County Library is working together with the Centre on this project, which in time is intended to become a national concept. The Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority is also taking part, the aim being to meet schools on their own ground and to influence their use of the school library.

Combination libraries
In the county of Rogaland there are many municipalities which for one reason or another choose to establish combination libraries. These are mainly situated in a primary or junior secondary school and carry out the functions of both public library and school library. This method of organisation offers distinct advantages. Library services to the school itself are much improved and the introduction of trained librarians presents the opportunity to influence school management. Although experience shows that it takes time to achieve integration, once the ground work has been done and both sectors see the results of their efforts, there can be no doubt that cooperation between the school sector and the cultural sector is beneficial to the learning process of each individual child.

Creating awareness
We believe that politically-approved initiatives and plans influence library development in the individual municipality by increasing awareness for literature in political circles and among the media. This is important because we know that reading is a tool essential to all learning, personal development and social participation. The reading skills of the individual provide the foundation for acquisition of knowledge, cultural development and the growth of business and industry. In Rogaland we are therefore proud to announce that the county authorities as part of a strategic plan for reading have approved the creation of a prize of NOK 100,000 (EUR 12,500) for innovative writers of literature for children and young people. The award will be made in 2007 in conjunction with the centenary celebrations for the Norwegian writer of children s books, Rasmus Løland.

Translated by Eric Deverill


Adviser to the Rogaland County Library