DENMARK
Danish libraries as mediators of digital competences

All Danish public libraries are active coplayers in national programmes when it comes to improving the citizens’ IT skills and ability to conduct searches. It is a requirement in the Danish library act and is supported by two partnership agreements with the National IT and Telecom Agency. How is this going happen?

Background

It started with the preparations for the common public portal, Borger.dk (citizen.dk) where the Danish Library Agency (as it was called then) was invited to participate in a working group together with the National IT and Telecom Agency about the mediation of the new portal. The deve-lopers of the portal were well aware that it would not be sufficient to establish a portal on the net and market it via the media. Alliances were to be made with public employees who had direct contact to the public. They would be able to underpin the promotion of the portal by encouraging and instructing the citizens in using the portal and its many possibilities for self-service. Here the libraries would be an obvious choice. The libraries already have a statutory obligation to mediate public information and all local authorities have one or more library departments.

Two cooperation agreements Borger.dk

In January 2007 a comprehensive municipal reform came into operation in Denmark. At the same time Borger.dk was opened, and the National IT and Telecom Agency entered into a cooperation agreement with the Danish Library Agency about the promotion of Borger.dk via the Danish public libraries.

The agreement meant that the Danish Library Agency would further develop an educational programme for the mediation of digital information, which the regional libraries were already involved in. Moreover, each library had to appoint a contact person for the promotion of Borger.dk

The tasks for each of the parties were in the main as follows:

- Borger.dk contributes with presentations at courses for library staff
- The libraries commit themselves to offer courses and guidance in information search and self-service via Borger.dk
- Borger.dk incorporates the libraries in its marketing of the portal
- The Library Agency (now Danish Agency for Libraries and Media) organises and runs a liaison committee with relevant stakeholders from the library world for the coordination of the collective effort.

The agreement was for an experimental one year, but has since been followed up by a new three-year agreement (2008-2010) that continues the effort to encourage the citizens to use Borger. dk and the self-service solutions which are currently being added.

Learn more about IT

The National IT and Telecom Agency last year launched a new initiative, consisting of an upgrading of Danish citizens’ basic IT skills: ‘Learn more about IT’. Inspired by the agreement about promotion of Borger.dk, a similar agreement has been made with the Danish Agency for Libraries and Media about the libraries’ participation.

The agreement has the same main elements and corres-ponding division of work between the National IT and Telecom Agency, the Danish Agency for Libraries and Media and the libraries.

With the new agreement the Danish Agency for Library and Media has extended the liaison committee for Borger.dk to also include the programme ‘Learn more about IT’, so that all the threads are coordinated. The libraries are in charge of both, and there is an obvious connection between being able to use a computer and being fairly proficient in using the net for the search of public information.

How to succeed?

When it has been possible in Denmark to plan and carry out two such major programmes with participation of all the nation’s public libraries, it is due to a number of aspects.

A vital element is the strategic cooperation between two state partners. Another is our possibility as library authority contractually to bind the libraries in relation to specific tasks. This possibility has opened up via government grants to regional libraries, which is stipulated in the Act regarding library services. However, the national effort should been seen in the context of a long-standing tradition of cooperation in the library service, with the regional libraries’ organisation of the work in relation to competence development and with the public libraries’ keen enthusiasm and commitment.

The public libraries’ active backing and great involvement have in this context been remarkable. Such a successful interplay between the state and the municipally owned public libraries is not a matter of course. According to the libraries a decisive element in the support for the programmes has been the fact that via the partnership agreements the staff has had the chance to take part as allied partners in the development of e.g. Borger.dk before the general public as such.

In the following two regional library coordinators describe in more detail the libraries’ participation in the two agreements.

Jonna Holmgaard Larsen
Chief consultant
Danish Agency for Libraries and Media

jhl AT bibliotekogmedier.dk

Translated by Vibeke Cranfield

Chief Consultant Danish Agency for Culture, libraries