Scandinavian Shortcuts

News clippings from the net and library journals

While SPLQ mostly offers in-depth stories on different aspects of public library policy and development, in this column you will get a glimpse of recent innovative projects and best practices in Scandinavian public libraries. The municipal restructuring and library reforms are still hot topics in library journals, but there are plenty of smaller everyday reforms, revolutions and influential development going on at grass root level. This selection of news clippings has been picked from Scandinavian library journals and library web portals.


Supporting lifelong learning

In the municipality of Fredericia the school and public libraries have since August 2006 had a joint Department of Pedagogical Development situated at the main public library. Cooperation between the two library systems is nothing new, but the new organisational structure where the development department is part of the public library offers even greater synergy advantages and flexibility than before e.g. in supporting lifelong learning. By investing in children, focusing on the joy of learning and cultural experiences the municipality is striving to become “Denmark’s best town for children” in 2012. (Bibliotekspressen 2 : 2007)


The public and university libraries in Roskilde have not resorted to the most usual forms of cooperation even if joint competence development programs and job rotation are on the agenda. In addition, the libraries have together organised cultural events such as concerts and exhibitions at both libraries, and the university library has invited local day-care centres and preschools to watch films at the library. The concept of ‘one-stop-library’ means that users can request materials from either library system at both libraries. It also means that should a student need information on e.g. fiction or a public library user information on a more academic or specialised matter, they can contact a librarian at the appropriate library by a webcam connection. The libraries received a grant from the Danish National Library Authority in 2006 and are planning to continue the successful cooperation. (Bibliotekspressen 1 : 2007)


Mobile libraries are essential

Despite their diminishing number, mobile libraries still play an essential role in the public library network in Finland. Last year there were around 180 book buses in the country. Nine mobile libraries were partly financed by the state in 2006 and 13 the previous year.

A few of the larger towns have two different mobile libraries: one for adults, another for children. In the city of Oulu, the latest acquisition is a ‘normal’ bus, but a few years back the library also bought a smaller mobile library which houses 1,500-2,000 items and serves mostly children, the elderly and other special target groups. It operates according to the same principle as the Danish mobile library of Brønderselv and Dronninglund: As it has no set schedule outside the 70 daycare centres which it visits every three weeks, it can flexibly be booked to schools, homes of the elderly or bus stops in the suburbs. The circulation from the two mobile libraries in Oulu was nearly 130,000 in 2005.

Another slowly, but surely growing trend are mobile libraries acquired and managed jointly by two municipalities. (Kirjastolehti 2006 : 6) (The National Public Library Portal http:// sia_kirjastoautoja/)

The public library in the bilingual municipality of Pietarsaari is not only offering its users the possibility of downloading e-books on their home computers or mobile phones through the Swedish Elib service. The library users also have access to the works of local authors on the library website. The ‘Listen to Your Author’ project started in late 2006 and will include the texts as mp3 files in both Finnish and Swedish. (Bibban 2006 : 3)


Who are the non-users?

In a three-year project in Stavanger the public library is trying to ‘chase the non-users’, to identify who they are, to find out what the library could do for them and to discover new channels for reaching new users, near and far. The project does not have its roots in any kind of crises, but is simply a development project. Cooperation with the nearby patient hotel next to the university hospital is already under way. The library provides the patient hotel with a book collection and offers the in-patients or relatives staying there the chance to take part in literary events at the library, possibly with transport.

In spring 2007 the results of a market research will be available. The library hopes to be able to recognize different user segments, also amongst non-users. A new group of users could be the Norwegian workers at oil company Statoil who are stationed abroad in London, Baku or Lagos. (Statoil’s head office is in Stavanger.) The library also organises exhibitions on the same themes as the art museum of Rogaland and gains visibility among the visitors of the museum by presenting its collection and services there. (Bibliotekaren 2006 :12)

Mobile library celebration

The oldest intermunicipal mobile library in Norway celebrated its 20th anniversary. What started as a project as early as 1986 in Veterålen has since 2000 been a service managed and financed by five municipalities. Even if schools have been closed in the area in recent years, the number of users is more or less the same as before. As is the case with many mobile libraries in Scandinavia, school pupils are the biggest user group. (Bok og Bibliotek 2006 : 7)


Book a librarian

All library users know how to reserve material at their library, and some may know that even mobile libraries can be booked, but few people know you can also book a librarian; at least you can in Gothenburg. 17 of the City Library’s 50 librarians can be booked for an hour, five days a week. As “librarians as a profession are anonymous” this is not only good and personal service but also a great way to market the skills of information professionals. The intimate one-hour contact provides valuable feed-back for the library, too. The hour can be used in the way the user sees fit: The librarians instruct users in information retrieval, either in general or on a particular subject. Some users need hands-on help in using mp3 files or downloading e-books. The librarians can help users start their own e-mail accounts and show how a mobile phone works. After all, when libraries offer mobile services, this becomes their territory. Even tours of the closed-access stores can be arranged.

From the users’ comments it is easy to see that the service works at several levels: It is personal and less stressful for all involved than queuing at the information desk, it markets the skills of the library staff, promotes the services offered by the library and provides the library with feed-back. (DIK forum 2007 : 1)

Games at Malmö City Library

The media and users alike appreciate the newly acquired collection of console games at Malmö City Library. In September last year, the library had 500 games for three different platforms, and although the games can only be borrowed by adults (over 16 years of age) the circulation for the first seven months of the project was 11,000.

One of the biggest obstacles so far is the provision of new games. The libraries have to wait several months before the companies release the library rights for the latest games. By the time the library is free to buy the game, it could well be sold out. The new platforms also pose a challenge.

The reception has been so good, though, that what started out as a project can be deemed a success and the provision of console games continues, at least this year. (Biblioteksbladet 2006 : 9)

Scandinavian Shortcuts is selected by
Päivi Jokitalo
Senior Officer, Library Services
State Provincial Office of Western Finland

Translated by Päivi Jokitalo

Freelance Library Specialist