Scandinavian Shortcuts

A public library up-to-date


Ask Olivia

Could librarians learn from a 14-yearold fictional character on the web, asks an article in Bibliotekspressen.According to a report by University of Southern Denmark on the ‘Ask Olivia’ service of Gentofte, Herning and Silkeborg libraries, the questions teenagers pose Olivia on the Internet differ a great deal from the questions asked at the information desk at the public library. Even if the users know that Olivia really isn’t a teenager, they still see her more as a friend who they can relate to. “You don’t ask a librarian what to do if you have problems at school.”

The anonymity of Olivia makes it easier to ask and talk about personal things, something the teenage users would not do at a library with an adult librarian. Librarians are also seen as book-centred. “A librarian only works with books while Olivia can also talk about other stuff.” The writers of the report suggest that public libraries could offer advice on webpage production and tips on interesting websites more actively. (Bibliotekspressen 2007 : 5)


When teenagers do not come to the mountain, the library has to go to where they are. And a lot of young people between ages 13 to 18 hang out on the Internet, more precisely on Messenger where they can chat online. This is the philosophy behind Need2Know, an information service which uses Messenger as a communication channel. During its first three months, the Need2Know service had 27,000 visits and 700 users had added it to their contacts.

The public and university libraries in Aalborg are operating the service which is open for four hours every afternoon. Each of the 20 participating librarians is on duty up to two hours every week. Need2Know is part of a larger project, called ‘The Digital Librarian’,where public libraries search for new ways of communicating with and reaching out to users in the digital environment. The project has received funding from the Danish Library Agency. 60,000 DKK were used for marketing in the form of banners which were shown 15 million times around the turn of the year.

Judging from the questions, most of the users are between 13 and 18 years old. Questions range from the labour market to the stripes on a zebra. But as with ‘Ask Olivia’, teenagers ask about things they are not likely to ask about at a library, such as eating disorders.

According to the participating libraries, Need2Know caters mostly for nonusers or rather potential users of the physical library. The tone of the communication between users and librarians is informal, open and personal, “spoken language in written form”.The initial project finished in March, but the libraries would like to expand the opening hours and incorporate the service at a national level in ‘Biblioteksvagten’. (Bibliotekspressen 2007 : 5)

Roskilde library in Second Life

There has been a lot of hype around Second Life, the 3-dimensional online virtual community on the Internet. Up until recently, mostly the realm of nerds, Second Life now also hosts museums and libraries. The first Danish (and Scandinavian?) public library to set up shop in Second Life in January 2007 was Roskilde. At Roskilde Library Hangout the librarians are first and foremost researching how to make use of the virtual environment and how to interact and communicate with users with the help of these new technologies. The immediate goal is to support the Roskilde Festival by offering a hangout for visitors. (Bibliotekspressen 2007 : 6).

Another project on Second Life is 3Dbib, where the libraries in Aarhus, Copenhagen, Randers, Viborg, Køge and Gladsaxe together with Future- Com, a 3D business in Aarhus, and the Danish Library Centre are creating a 3dimensional library with the help of a grant of DKK 234,000 from the Danish Library Agency. Their goal is to set up an agency for presenting and marketing the digital resources in the libraries. Future plans include an auditorium for meetings and discussions on library policy, a gallery and a student café where students can meet up with librarians. A full-time librarian will be available at the library in Second Life, and there are plans to make the service nationwide later on, hopefully with a larger staff. (Bibliotekspressen 2007 : 6)


New library in Turku

The long-awaited new main library was opened in Turku at the beginning of March this year. The old main library is being renovated for fiction, music and art departments and will open in 2008. The new building hosts the children’s and the youth departments as well as a roomy News Area with newspapers, magazines and PCs. The non-fiction collection is divided into departments according to information contents. The staff can now specialize in Society, Peoples and Cultures, and Nature and Hobbies which means better expert service for the public.

As all library cards will gradually be renewed to include a RFID chip, a new ‘culture card’ was introduced together with the opening of the new library. Users can choose to have information about cultural events and offers sent to them by e-mail or sms and they can define their own cultural profile in the library system. A bonus system will be launched later on together with museums, theatres and other cultural institutions. (Kirjastolehti 2007 : 1;

Poetry panel at the library

Riihimäki City Library was probably the first Finnish public library to put the popular Finnish television format of the Poetry Panel into practice at the library ‘before a live audience’.And they have done it not once but three times, both for children and adults. The panels consisted of a host and six panellists who judged the poems performed by the members of a local youth theatre group. In the children’s poetry panel the panellists were of course children who gave their views on children’s poems from the previous year. When the main library celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, the poems were selected from the last 20 years of Finnish poetry. Each Poetry Panel proved to be a great success. (Kirjastolehti 2007 : 2)


The newly opened Drammen library in Norway is said to be a concept and not an institution. For the public it is meant to appear as an integrated whole, a library building which in fact consists of three separate libraries all with their own administration, staff and target user groups. The Drammen library is the first of its kind in the country with a surprisingly short history and planning phase. It was only a couple of years ago the staff of the Drammen public library, the regional library of Buskerud and the college library of Buskerud started talking about cooperation and a joint library building.

Even if many practical solutions, such as shared loan regulations, are still to be discussed, the staff of the different libraries can already see improvements and advantages. Firstly, the mere increase in space has enabled library instruction which was nearly impossible for the college library on its old premises. Secondly, the staff can learn from each other, and last but not least, staff in all libraries has got new colleagues. Not surprisingly, there are also problems or obstacles to tackle, e.g. the public library and the college library operate different library systems. (Bibliotekaren 2007 : 4)


New library integrated with tourist agency

Yet another new Scandinavian public library opened its doors in Åre last October, just in time for the Alpine World Ski Championships. Åre Public Library shares the premises with the tourist agency at the – also new – railway station building. During the championships even the police moved its reception to the library. The staff is available on weekdays, but the little town of 10,000 inhabitants now has a library which is open seven days a week, thanks to RFID and self-service. Also in Åre the cooperation has brought with it the advantage of colleagues. As they work side by side at the information desk, the library staff has learned a lot from the staff of the tourist agency and vice versa. The central location has also meant new users for the library. All the trains and most of the buses stop at the station which makes the library a natural stop on the way. It is easy to combine shopping for food with a visit to the library. (Biblioteksbladet 2007 : 2)


The upper secondary school and the public library in Järfälla have started their own network of the worldwide booknet ‘Bookcrossing’. The pupils will first read, then hide the books for other readers to find. After reading a book the pupil writes a review on the web and leaves a tip for others on where to find the book. The library has ‘released’ 135 books which the pupils now can ‘capture’, and plans to widen the book selection in the future.

Bookcrossing not only makes reading books more exiting, but also provides an opportunity for the pupils and the library staff to get to know each other better. A similar project was started in Parainen, in Finland a couple of years ago and has now been expanded to seven other municipalities in the Turku achipelago. ex.html (DIK forum 2007 : 3

Scandinavian Shortcuts
is selected by Päivi Jokitalo,
Licensing Coordinator
National Electronic Library Services /
FinELib The National Library of Finland

Freelance Library Specialist