Drammen is a striking example of a town enjoying positive development and of local government understanding the value of a purposeful emphasis on knowledge and culture.
The town of Drammen, which is situated some 40 kilometres (25 miles) south-west of Oslo, has undergone a considerable change in recent years and is on an upward trend. Greater local pride, an increase in the population and, not least, the establishment of important institutions of learning and culture indicate that Drammen has become a town to reckon with in Norway. It’s all happening now in Drammen! The Drammen Theatre, the Union Scene cultural centre and the new Drammen Library are examples of institutions winning recognition both at home and abroad. The emphasis on cultural activities is a significant factor contributing to the town’s greatly improved reputation.
Local government has had the expressed aims of achieving population growth and an increase in business and industry. The town’s many qualities are intended to help attract business leaders looking to move or to establish new projects. There is also the hope that families will be persuaded to see the town as an attractive place to move to. So far the initiative has been highly successful and the town council’s objective of an annual population increase of 1·5 % has been achieved in both 2006 and 2007. This striking result means that from among the 10 largest towns in Norway only Sandnes can point to a greater rate of growth than Drammen.
Drammen Library is situated by the river in an old part of town where paper mills once created life and activity, providing the local population with work and a livelihood.Many years of economic decline, however, had left the area lying dormant. All this has changed with the development of the Drammen Riverside Knowledge Park, including the new Drammen Library. The whole area is revitalised and many building projects are underway. Students and others are attracted by all the new possibilities and this in turn has a positive effect on town development. Local businesses and industry have also played their part in making the town interesting and attractive.
In January 2008 the new footbridge across the river was completed. Given the name of ‘Ypsilon’, the bridge is an exciting structure connecting the two districts of Bragernes and Strømsø. The bridge ends at the corner of the Riverside Knowledge Park, right in front of the library, thereby bringing the town centre much closer and the library more easily accessible to a greater number of people. Inhabitants now appear to regard the library as situated in the centre of town and since the footbridge opened, there has been a marked increase in both visitors and borrowers.
The municipality of Drammen’s committed desire to promote learning and culture is clearly illustrated by the development of the Riverside Knowledge Park and the Drammen Library. The aims behind this project were defined as follows: “Drammen shall be a leading centre of learning, offering a stimulating environment where expertise and original thinking can flourish among students, teachers, research workers and innovators. The Riverside Knowledge Park shall be the town’s archi-tectonic landmark.”
The Drammen Riverside Knowledge Park belongs to the whole region and is the result of a partnership between the Buskerud University College, the Norwegian School of Management/BI Buskerud, the Advisory Council for the Drammen region, Buskerud County and the City of Drammen. The Knowledge Park is intended to provide a first-class physical arena and development environment. The aim is to offer a centre of excellence and innovation with a unique content and profile. In addition to the Drammen Library, the premises contain three colleges of higher education, a careers centre and several enterprises engaged in research and innovation. The Drammen Library is Norway’s first all-purpose library, being the result of cooperation between the Drammen Public Library, the Buskerud County Library and the Buskerud University College’s special library and thus able to offer services to all user groups and visitors of any age. An overriding aim was to ensure that the library would stand out as the ‘heart’ of the Riverside Knowledge Park. The municipality of Drammen has invested no less than NOK 123 million (some 13·5 million Euro) in the construction of the Knowledge Park, NOK 22 million (2·5 Euro) of this amount being directly invested in the library. The new library is a vital feature in establishing Drammen as a centre for lifelong learning.
The library is a learning resource centre, offering a combination of study facilities, information services and ITcompetence. The library also has an extensive programme of arrangements and exhibitions catering for a variety of interests. Local societies, associations, artists and institutions can use the premises to engage with the public. Inside the library considerable attention has been paid to making it a welcoming meeting place and the furnishings and fittings have been chosen to satisfy the needs of many different types of users. Cooperation with the Union Scene cultural centre housed in the old factory buildings nearby makes it possible to conduct college examinations and various cultural arrangements by shared use of the premises. The library also maintains close contacts with businesses engaged in the field of innovation.
Drammen has noted that this emphasis on learning and culture has attracted attention from outside the local region and to some extent also abroad. Visitors come from near and far to observe what has been achieved here in the new library. Before deciding to move to a new town, many people check on the various activities available to its inhabitants, including the range of cultural attractions and library services. They feel that a library is important to them- Lena Hillestad selves, their family and the local community, since it is a source of culture and knowledge, fosters our literary heritage and promotes democracy and equality. There can be no doubt that Drammen has chosen wisely by investing so strongly in a new library.
Local government politicians have high hopes that the Drammen Library will become a centre for innovation and a destination for others seeking to learn. Their declared aim is that “the Drammen Library should be a creative and popular feature of the community offering a combination of learning and culture”.
Head of Department
Lena.hillestad AT drmk.no
Translated by Eric Deverill