Competence building in Norwegian libraries Framework and priorities

The leaflet Competence building in Norwegian libraries – framework and priorities gives library owners, training providers and the library community a common basis for their competence development efforts. The leaflet is the result of a thorough preparatory process, and public development funds have been granted for its follow-up in 2010.

Library Reform 2014 – the starting point

The national report on libraries from 2006, Library Reform 2014, addressed the future challenges facing the library sector, and proposed strategies and measures to meet these challenges. The report was produced by The Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority under a mandate from the Government. The proposals were grouped in three target areas: content and services, structure and organization, and competence and research. The strategies outlined by the two first target areas had competence building in the libraries as a precondition, and the strategies identified in the third target area represented responses to these challenges. The key pro- posal in this target area was to establish a national programme for developing competence, with a view to strengthening the total library network and the individual libraries. Library Reform 2014 was followed by a compre- hensive round of consultations that gave widespread support to the proposal for a programme for competence development.

Focus group interviews with library managers and library owners

In its follow-up of the report during the spring of 2008, The Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority was assisted by the consultancy enterprise Human Factors to conduct a number of focus group interviews with library managers and library owners, with a view to discussing and identifying needs pertaining to competence development in the libraries. Participants were encouraged to provide input associated with seven issue areas:

• In what thematic fields should the libraries enhance their competence?
• In what ways could a possible reallocation of the existing resources of the library or libraries contribute to enhancing competence development?
• In what ways could a facilitation of the conditions of the libraries and library staff help to encourage participation in competence-enhancing programmes?
• In what ways could new working methods help strengthen competence building?
• In addition to ordinary training courses, what kind of specific development initiatives could help strengthen competence building in the libraries?
• Is there a need for new training courses for further and continuing education of library staff?
• What is expected of the library authorities and the library owners with regard to competence building in the libraries?

Framework document

The report from the focus group interviews constituted an important basis for the document Competence building in libraries – framework and priorities, published by The Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority in the spring of 2009. This publication was issued shortly after the Government submitted its report on libraries to the Storting. The term framework document was chosen because this document outlines a framework for competence building in the library sector, i.e. preconditions and needs, forms of competence building, distribution of responsibility, instruments and areas of priority.

Objectives of the document

The general objective of the framework document is to contribute to the renewal of the libraries. Digitisation and technological development require new skills among staff and call for new working methods. The framework document is intended to provide a common platform for library owners, training providers and the professional communities for their planning, facilitation and cooperation pertaining to competence-building activities. The document is also intended as a basis for a national programme for competence building in the library sector.

Preconditions for successful competence building

The framework document emphasizes that purposeful competence building must be based on a plan drawn up by the library owner and grounded in the main challenges and requirements of the library. The libraries need to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their activities and of the measures that can be taken to improve the situation. The libraries further need to develop a culture that is conducive to continued learning, in which all those involved assume responsibility for making an effort to achieve common goals.

Development needs

The document encompasses the entire library sector. It describes the current status with regard to competence in the various types of libraries and identifies needs for further development. The Norwegian Library Act stipulates that all municipalities shall have a public library headed by a professionally qualified library manager. Nevertheless, close to thirty per cent of the municipalities have a library manager without professional qualifications.

Forms of competence building

The document discusses key concepts associated with competence building, reviews opportunities for further and continuing education and workplace learning, describes prevailing regulations and agreements, and reviews the position of research and development activities in this context.

Responsibilities and tasks

A concerted effort to enhance the level of competence in the libraries will require a clear division of responsibilities between the various actors in this field. The framework document describes the particular tasks of these actors. The actors comprise library managers and library staff, library owners, county administrations, educational institutions offering training in library and information science, government authorities and the social partners. Competence areas A key purpose of the focus group interviews was to identify areas in which the library managers and owners perceived a particular need for competence building. Six areas were identified: management training, promotion of the libraries’ services, communication, digital skills, the library as an arena for learning and cultural diversity.


With regard to competence building, focus tends to be put on formal further and continuing education programmes. These are important, but not exclusive instruments. A programme for competence building in libraries could draw on a combination of several instruments. The framework document points out research, development funds, further education, continuing education and short training courses, county administrations in their role as promoters of regional development, networking and measures that are coordinated at a national level.

The parliamentary report on libraries and competence building

The parliamentary report on libraries, Report No. 23 (2008-2009) to the Storting, Libraries: Knowledge Commons, Meeting Place and Cultural Arena in a Digital Age, which was submitted by the Government in the spring of 2009, underscores the need for competence building in the public libraries. The report refers to multiculturalism, promotion of literature, digital services and management as specific areas where competence building is required. The report also maintains that a knowledge gap is evident in the structure of the public libraries and needs to be filled, for example through bette  cooperation between the public libraries. According to the report, the Ministry of Culture (which is responsible for the public libraries) and the Ministry of Education and Research (which is responsible for the university and college libraries) will jointly assess the need for further measures, including a joint programme for competence building in the entire library sector.

The Competence Million 2010

In the state budget for 2010, the Government granted NOK 1 million to competence building in the public libraries, in the form of an allocation to The Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority. Half of these funds have been allocated to the Faculty of Journalism, Library and Information Science at Oslo University College, which partly will develop an expanded programme for distance learning at bachelor level, and partly assess the feasibility of an experience-based master’s degree focusing on library management. The remaining funds will be devoted to The Year of Reading 2010 and the planned efforts to promote reading in the period until 2014. The remaining funds will be allocated to county libraries to be used for measures that aim to enhance the ability of the public libraries to encourage reading and promote literature to adults with little reading experience.

Arne Gundersen
Senior Advisor
The National Library of Norway
Arne.gundersen AT

Translated by Akasie språktjenester AS

Senior Advisor The National Library of Norway