The public library at work

At Horsens Library we do a lot of things apart from just lending books in the traditional way. The Bakery Library is a good example of this.

The Bakery Library is a collaboration between Horsens Library and the bakery called Lantmännen Unibake A/S which is situated in the village of Hatting just outside Horsens. Altogether the concern employs 4,300 people representing 16 different nationalities. The department’s main office in Hatting employs 300 people, the majority of them early school leavers. The purpose of the collaboration is to offer the employees a library service which is easily accessible. The Bakery Library is for all of them – both those who have difficulty reading, but also for employees who would find it hard to get to a library during opening hours. Lantmännen Unibake pays Horsens Library for the arrangement.

The physical framework

The Bakery Library is divided between two of the factory’s canteens. About 200 employees have registered and more are being added regularly. Both canteens have a selection of books, audio books, easy-reader books, periodicals, cartoons and a selection of children’s books. In addition, Lantmännen Unibake has paid for a number of books which are placed permanently in the two canteens. The library service is handled by libraria at Horsens Library, Jette Holst, who visits Lantmännen Unibake every other week. The users can borrow the materials between visits by way of a PC or on paper slips to be registered by Jette Holst when she arrives.


The collaboration between Horsens Library and Lantmännen Unibake started in 2005. At the time Lantmännen Unibake had been running a similar project, ‘The learning bakery’, which was a joint venture between union representatives and education providers. The project was based on the concept of the learning organisation and helped to promote an acceptance of the fact that some people have problems with spelling and reading. Reading difficulties is often a sensitive area and can be a taboo subject. The factory’s experiences with ‘The learning bakery’ were positive and paved the way for a collaboration between the factory and Horsens Library which resulted in the project ‘Slow readers at work – the library on the job’. The project, which got financial support from the Agency for Libraries and Media’s Development Pool for Public and School Libraries, started in 2005 and finished in 2007.

‘Slow readers at work – the library on the job’ had two offshoots which both started in 2007 when the project finished. One of these is the development of reading guides targeted at citizens who experience reading difficulties.

The other offshoot is the Bakery Library. The need for the special kind of library which the Bakery Library represents is obvious. Many of the Bakery Library’s patrons are not used to reading books. It is a fact that 28% of the unskilled workers in Region Central Jutland have difficulties reading. On a nation-wide basis the percentage is estimated at 20.

A new role

As the users of the Bakery Library are not regular library patrons it was necessary for Horsens Library to consider carefully how to approach the new group of borrowers. At Horsens Library we are used to outreach work. We supply, for example, State Prison East Jutland with materials and also accommodate borrowers who are not able to visit the library themselves.

The level of education in Horsens

Municipality is somewhat lower than the national average, and during the work on project ‘Slow reader at work – the library on the job’ it became clear that the library had to assume new roles. First of all it proved imperative to do outreach work, which meant taking the initiative, thinking in creative terms, being persistent and taking into consideration local events. In terms of the promotion part of the collaboration it was also necessary to think in untraditional ways. As a librarian in a place of work you have to engage the employees during their breaks without seeming to be pushing. In order to create effective communication it is important to address the users in straightforward terms as well as on equal terms.

The library’s changed role also contained an element of salesmanship, which meant that you considered carefully the expectations which the users might have in terms of benefits from the cooperation. There were also a number of practices from traditional library work which would be immediately useful in the new approach. In the first instance, the customary commitment in traditional library work could easily be transferred and it is a well-known fact that enthusiasm can easily rub off on others– in this case the patrons. Empathy was equally important as we were dealing with a group that does not necessarily feel at home in a library. Competent and serious guidance from a well prepared librarian, ready for dialogue, was also something to be applied straight away. Finally, knowledge sharing was allimportant in the shape of feedback to own organisation.

The effect

The Bakery Library has meant that several employees at Lantmännen Unibake have been motivated to read. The factory has not ascertained whether people have actually become better at reading manuals, but there is no doubt that weak readers’ self-confidence has been given a boost. They are, for example, much more inclined than before to question something they don’t understand either in writing or speech. Feedback from the factory’s union representatives indicates that there is more openness and dialogue about reading difficulties. This is in harmony with the theory about the learning organisation which the Bakery Library supports. According to Mariann Rasmussen, who is HR-manager at Lantmännen Unibake, many borrowers would not have used the library at all, if it was not represented by a minilibrary at work.

The Bakery Library has also been a positive experience for Horsens Library. By and large Jette Holst has only received positive indications from the users.

“I think it is both exciting and challenging to work in the Bakery Library. Exciting because I get into close contact with some of the borrowers there, and it is a nice professional challenge to make sure that the right materials are chosen, considering that there is not room for very many books, films etc. I can walk about here in Horsens and pick out things which I think “this will be just right for one of my bakery borrowers”, says Jette Holst. “It is also challenging because the employees are on the whole happy to see me there, although strictly speaking, I could be said to be a disturbing element in their lunch break.”

The Bakery Library has also caused Jette Holst to reflect on the public library’s role in general. “To my mind the library’s role is to service as man as possible, and I like the idea of travelling out to people who would perhaps not have found their way to our‘normal’ library”, says Jette Holst.

Søren Davidsen
PR member of staff, Horsens Library

Sod AT

Translated by Vibeke Cranfield

PR member of staff, Horsens Library