New country library structure in Denmark

the obligation of provision of materials… the obligation of provision of materials… Background With the new Danish lib rary act, which was passed in May 2000, a county library reform became possible. The need for a reform has been imminent for some time. The present county library structure goes back to the municipal reform of 1970 and stems from a time when the county library supply of book materials was the most important task of these libraries. This task is stil l important, certainly, but other tasks have emerged. The new library act dictates an extension of the obligation of provision of materials. Now the libraries are not only obliged to lend books and periodicals, but also music CDs, CD-ROMs and multimedia.

In order to make the most of the resources allocated for the superstructure function and to make sure the money will stretch as far as possible,it is necessary to rationalise on how to go about solving the tasks. At the same time developments have made room for greater efficiency. New tools have arrived to help exploiting the collections to the full. The national database, DanBib, has been absolutely essential. The vast number of new services on the Internet have also relieved the county libraries of part of the information service which previously was their duty.

The structural reform has presented us with three particular challenges: The first one being the traditional supply of book material. How many ‘supply centres’ were needed? – and how to organise the distribution of the materials in the best and least expensive way?

The second challenge consisted in ensuring the supply of new obligatory nonprinted media. As far as music is concerned – which incidentally seems to be the most prominent of the new media – a further challenge presents itself in that we are facing a shift of media from CD to netborne music. How fast is this development going to be moving? – and how do we secure the libraries’ role in the mediation of music, when in future Mozart’s 6th symphony can be brought into your room via the Internet? And finally: What will the superstructure obligation in relation to netborne music consist of?

In order to get a superstructure which matches the demands of the networking society other tasks have to be solved – that is the third challenge. This applies in particular to the IT area, where guidance, further education and competence development are necessary and it is essential to extend network co-operation between the libraries.

The process Preparations for the county library reform have been lengthy and the decision- making process on how to carry it through has been fastidious and therefore lengthy as well. Two working groups have been concentrating on the basis for decision-making, one has been dealing with the p roblematics in general and another particularly with music and the new media. On the way there have been three hearings: the first one with a broader aspect, based on a paper containing proposals for several possible models, next a hearing among the county library municipalities and the interested parties of the library world when a concrete proposal was put on the table and most recently a hearing among the country’s municipalities on geographical service areas. The change-over to a new structure has now been postponed for a year – instead of 1. January 2003 it will now be l. January 2004.

All the way the philosophy has been to secure a dynamic structure which can continually be adapted to swift developments and a structure which to a much greater extent than before will focus on tasks rather than institutions. This implies a contract management where the apportioning of government means will increasingly be related to activities rather than objective criteria such as for example catchment population. And it means than the fulfilment of the contract is measured according to results and user satisfaction.

The new structure The result of the discussions on structural reform was that the p resent 16 county libraries (one in each county and one in the municipalities of Copenhagen and Frederiksberg respectively) are maintained but with far-reaching changes in portfolio. The performance contracts with the government will be the central tool in the prioritisation and allocation of the tasks with corresponding allocation of resources. Following a hearing on the proposition, the final model was submitted to the Danish minister of culture, Brian Mikkelsen, in May this year.

Three levels have been defined for the portfolios for the 16 county libraries. Level 1 and 2 cover the basic supply of materials, relevant co-ordination and advice and various other expert tasks. Altogether 10 county libraries enjoy this status. Level 3 has a small portfolio which includes a limited supply of materials and/or advice within certain areas. 6 of the smallest county libraries have been given this status.

A new structure for music and multimedia will be established. Considering the future changes of media, it is expected that in the long-term perspective the need for purchase of printed copies will diminish. A new model will therefore be tested in which four county libraries will be g iven the responsibility of organising the music and multimedia distribution in a network with other libraries, including the State and University Library. The handling of national licenses for music mediation will be tried out in an interplay between the relevant county libraries, the State and University Library and the Danish National Library Authority. National delivery service and possible national net services can be put out for tender nationally or regionally in cooperation with present players within the area.

Following up With the minister’s decision on the structure, the outline was clearly defined. But a great deal of following up was required. The first task was to determine the geographical service areas which the 10 county libraries with general supply obligation had to cover. One had to move from a division which followed the county boundaries to creating 10 regions that made sense geographically/ culturally and which were reasonably balanced as to size. By no means an easy process where many considerations have to be observed, such as library co-operations which are not to be split up, different emphasis on cultural and business co-operations in different municipalities.

Concurrent with the work on geographical divisioning and in connection with the contracts completed for 2003, the first contours of the distribution of tasks in the new structure have become visible. In the main it has been agreed which tasks the 6 county lib raries with the small portfolio have to solve and development assignments have been discussed with the others.

An analysis of national delivery service is now going on with a view to determining the need and the possibilities for putting this service out for tender. Most recently – and following extensive calculations – an agreement has been entered into concerning a model for the basic allocation of resources to the 10 county libraries with the broad portfolio. The first portion of the allocation is given on the basis of activities like collective loans, interlibrary loans and use of electronic resources. A smaller portion in allocated on the basis of the number of municipalities in the service area and the number of inhabitants. For the individual county library the basic allocation is hereafter supplemented with means for other tasks, e.g. superstructure within the music area, co-ordinating role in the running of net services or competency development.

A concretisation of the new model for the superstructure on music has taken great strides on the basic of a media political proposal from the four county libraries that have to be anchormen in relation to this task. Determining the financial framework for the music superstructure has been equally important.

Economy In terms of money, we are talking about the sum of 68 1/2 mil. DKK (or 9.13 mil. Euro). This is the sum available for creating a superstructure in the county libraries according to the proposed national budget for 2004, when the new structure comes into force. It has now been agreed that the means will be distributed with 46 mil. for the basic tasks in the 10 county libraries, 5,5 mil. for supplementary solutions of tasks in the 6 ‘small’ county libraries and finally 17 mil. for ‘new’ tasks, including the music superstructure which will be allocated a total of 4,75 mil. distributed on printed materials and support for the development of licenses for netborne music.

Translated by Vibeke Cranfield

Chief Consultant Danish Agency for Culture, libraries