The transport workers’ library A service for truck drivers on the roads of Norway

In 2006 the Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority collaborated with the Norwegian Transport Workers’ Union (NTF) in setting up a library system specifically for truck drivers. The aim of the project is to encourage transport workers to read and to listen to literature, which means that library services must be brought out to where the drivers are – on the roads. In order to achieve this, libraries for transport workers are being established at some of the main roadside inns, restaurants and motels used by long-distance truck drivers when taking their compulsory breaks and overnight stops. Today there are some 30,000 transport workers in Norway and by the end of 2009 the aim is to be able to offer library services to each and every one.

A demanding profession with few welfare benefits

The work situation for long-distance truck drivers is a lonely and demanding one. Long days spent alone in the driver’s cab listening to the radio hour after hour can become boring, but driving your semitrailer to a library is rarely a possibility. Truck drivers as a professional group have little opportunity to make use of ordinary public libraries. These are usually situated some distance from the main roads in a town or village and drivers have neither the time nor the local knowledge to find them. Library opening times are set to suit the needs of people working normal daily hours, whereas a truck driver is on the road from early morn last for several days or even weeks. When can he find time to borrow an audio book for his journey or something to read in the late evening? How is he to return it later?

Statistics from Sweden indicate that transport workers as a professional group suffer from reading and writing problems. In Sweden this applies to about 25% and the situation in Norway is probably much the same. This would seem to suggest that libraries are not likely to be very popular among transport workers, but is there no way to change this? The answer lies perhaps in bringing libraries to them in the places where they spend time of their own accord, namely roadside restaurants, inns and motels.

Swedish ‘invention’ with a Norwegian twist

The idea of library services for transport workers comes from neighbouring Sweden.When the Norwegian Transport Workers’ Union heard of this project from their Swedish colleagues, they immediately approached the Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs with a suggestion for a similar initiative on the main Norwegian highways. The Ministry responded positively and brought the Archive, Library and Museum Authority into the picture. This was the start of the ‘Transport Workers’ Library’ project. These libraries will provide truck drivers with literature, mainly audio books, but also in the more traditional format, together with periodicals and magazines. Each library should also contain a PC offering access to the Internet.

The intention is that these libraries should become a resource creating an interest in literature and contributing to an improvement in reading and writing skills among transport workers. No statistics exist in Norway concerning these skills but the Norwegian Transport Workers’ Union can confirm that many of their members have problems with reading and writing. In the long term it is hoped that these libraries will not only constitute an arena for knowledge and culture but also become centres for various arrangements and courses aimed at a general improvement in the overall competence of truck drivers.

Who, what and where?

If a project of this nature is to be successful, the keywords are involvement and cooperation. The Norwegian Transport Workers’ Union has shown great interest in promoting the scheme and the same is true of the highway restaurants and motels which have been approached. Not least the county and public libraries engaged in the project give it their full support. The first library to be established was in 2007 at Høydalsmo roadside inn in the county of Telemark, the second at Furulund in the county of Vestfold. The Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority contributes NOK 75,000 towards the cost of establishing each library. Since the final cost of setting up the library at Furulund came to NOK 166,000, it is clear that the county and public libraries involved must be prepared to make extra funds available to support the project. The trade council of the Norwegian Transport Workers’ Union is the body which considers and suggests the stopping places most suitable for a library. The choice is based firstly on accessibility and location in relation to the regulations concerning driving hours and rest periods, secondly on the geographic spread of the drivers who will come to use the services on offer.

The three libraries which so far have received funding are all situated in the south of Norway. In 2009 priority will be given to establishing libraries on roads in western and northern regions. Present plans encompass up to six libraries for long-distance truck drivers.

Roadside inns – the best of hosts Libraries will be situated at roadside establishments offering drivers a wide range of services. These include good parking areas, decent and healthy food, an exercise room, showers, restrooms with tea-making facilities and TV. Together with the library, this will represent a comprehensive welfare initiative for an occupational group which has so far been sadly neglected. These services will be available from early in the morning to late at night.

Placing libraries in roadside inns and service centres is a brilliant idea. Proprietors already know their truckdriving guests very well and in some cases have been transport workers themselves. Considerable goodwill has been shown by those participating in the project so far and the trade council of the Transport Workers’ Union has received a large number of enquiries from other highway establishments interested in offering their guests library services in addition to their standard operations. The day-to-day running of the library is carried out by the normal staff with a librarian visiting 3-4 times a month to check on progress, register the number of items lent out, etc.

A better working day

Interviews with drivers show that the project is well received as a positive initiative contributing to a better and easier working day. In an article in the Trondheim newspaper Adresseavisen a driver points out that his working day goes much more quickly and he has become more relaxed. He goes on to explain, “It has an effect on the way I drive. It reduces stress. I’ve spoken to several others who have discovered that their diesel consumption has gone down because they drive less aggressively.” This seems to indicate that establishing these libraries has achieved more than we dared to hope for at the start of the project. Lending has been on the increase at the two libraries already operating and both the local managers and the librarians involved report considerable interest in the project.

Monica Kaasa
Adviser, Norwegian Archive,
Library and Museum Authority

Monica.kaasa AT

Translated by Eric Deverill

Adviser, Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority