The (more or less) bookless children’s library

A children’s library designed with children very much in mind and within the framework of the knowledge society – this is the underlying ambition of Aalborg Libraries’ development project ‘The (more or less) bookless children’s library’. A children’s library designed with children very much in mind and within the framework of the knowledge society – this is the underlying ambition of Aalborg Libraries’ development project ‘The (more or less) bookless children’s library’.

If the children’s library is to play a vital role in the knowledge society, it is not enough just to offer children spectacular activities within a defined part of the circulation area. Traditional library practice, partly based on the book and partly on equating mediation with making things available, is obsolete in relation to modern children’s needs, according to the staff at the children’s library in the Aalborg Libraries.

The aim of the project ‘The (more or less) bookless children’s library’ is therefore fundamentally to reconsider design, activities and materials so that the children’s library no longer primarily concerns itself with mediating books, but rather with children’s own culture and the new ‘Bildung’ concepts and cultural perceptions that set the agenda in the knowledge society’s universe of children’s culture. In this way the library will to a greater extent be able to act as creator of frameworks for children’s interpretation of themselves and the surrounding world.

In concrete terms the children’s library is moving 90% of its books into an open book stack in the basement and is arranging a number of different mediation sections centrally in the circulation area, where computer games, books, DVDs etc. are presented in equal measure in relation to the users’ various needs. In order to match the children’s interest in media and media usage, 75% of the materials account is spent on play station, DVD and music and 25% on book material with the emphasis on the books the children ask for. At the same time the librarians are very determined not only to keep the new media in stock, but also to mediate their content via activities in which they themselves participate actively and in an initiating way. DKK 100, 000, – are therefore earmarked for arrangements and activities during the project period.

The actual design of the different areas is done in a cross-functional collaboration between the library and interior designers from Scandinavian furniture store Ikea, The regional theatre and other local partners. Mediation of the materials is primarily to take place via activities around the children’s library’s various media, expressions and cultural forms, where children, media and librarians interact.

Each room is therefore designed with a view to exactly those activities and arrangements that take place there:

• The gaming den, a PC room where you can surf the net and test genrecategorized games for PC, PS2, PS3 and Nintendo wii before borrowing them to take home

• The laboratory, a science room with textbooks, DVDs and special subject displays about e.g. weather conditions, natural disasters etc., as well as PC, scanner, printer and practical help available to children in the homework café.

• The reading room, a ‘chill-off ’ room with soft sofas, special subject displays and ‘I recommend’ exhibitions.

• The nursery, a place for 0-7 year-olds and their parents where they can play, read aloud and find materials

• The discothèque and the cinema, a mini cinema and a ‘listening post’ with display of CDs and DVDs

• The square, which is the first room you enter, with an exhibition area for materials from the other rooms, common facilities for the other rooms and service area.

In all the rooms all digital resources are exposed and mediated as well as all types of materials and new forms of mediation such as podcasting, big screens etc. In connection with the rooms there will also be a gaming club for boys, a manga club, a reading club where children and librarians regularly compete, exchange reading experiences etc. Help with homework in cooperation with thethe Danish Refugee Council is also on offer.

The library also presents various arrangements with topical trends and cultural phenomena from children’s every-day lives, which give the children the chance to actively confront the culture in which they live. For example theatre sport, babybooktalk, computerintro for the youngest, search courses on the net, Singstar competition, computer games and animation workshop, chemistry show, author’s school, celebrity visits, film marathon night, poetry café, hobby workshops, recital and author arrangements, mini concerts and visits by a policeman or a zoo keeper combined with subject-related mediation of specialist literature. The arrangements are planned in cooperation with relevant associations and institutions like for example Jako Bole Theatre, Universitarium, AAU Spiluddannelsen, TRoA, GameSector. dk and the association ‘Tinsoldaten og Biocity’.

The project has received funding from the Development Pool for Public and School Libraries. The project started in February 2007, the new children’s library was inaugurated in October 2007 and was ‘run in’ via current evaluation until October 2008.

During the project 58 different arrangements and activities took place and permanent collaboration with at least 20 partners was established. The library is also mediating its experiences to other interested children’s libraries at a final conference the 20. of November 2008.

Monica C. Madsen
journalist, Bureauet

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Translated by Vibeke Cranfield