Scandinavian Shortcuts


Mobile library services of today and tomorrow

Following the structural reform in municipal government in Denmark several of the new and bigger municipalities have closed down smaller library units and replaced these with mobile libraries. In addition to the more traditional library services such as borrowing books and information retrieval the new mobile libraries also provide citizen services. This could mean e.g. information and guidance on how to register at the daycare centre or how to change your address, how to apply for housing subsidy or health insurance and the forms needed for doing this.

In the case of Brønderslev municipality 15,000 of the 35,000 inhabitants live outside the bigger communities which means long distances to the nearest library or citizen service centre. The subject areas covered by the service at the mobile library were decided in cooperation with the citizen service centres. The subject matters that were chosen are the ones most often asked about and the kind of questions that can be handled at a mobile library. The library staff have a hotline to the citizen services even at times when the town hall is closed. The idea is to provide the services as close to the citizens as possible by using the mobile libraries.

The traditional library services and the citizen services are not the only service forms of the mobile library, though. The new and popular ‘Book a Mobile Library’ service means that the local communities are able to get tailormade services where and when they want them.

In the same issue of Danmarks Biblioteker another mobile library is also presented. Denmark’s biggest municipality Ringkøbing-Skjern runs a special mobile library serving the kindergartens and daycare centres in the large town. The mobile library not only offers the usual services of borrowing and returning materials but also rhyme workshops, book talks, performances by professional actors, dancers, musicians etc. The kindergartens get to book ‘the rolling children’s library’ themselves at a time when it is most convenient for them. (Danmarks Bbiblioteker 2008:4)

Crime Book Fair in prison

What better place for an event concentrating on detective stories and popular criminal literature than a former prison! Horsens Public Library in Denmark has organised their Crime Book Fair since 2003. This year’s fair kicked off with a one-day workshop on detective short stories for library staff, authors and high school teachers. On Saturday there were talks, discussions and interviews with authors – plus hot dogs and beer. This year the library also launched a crime wiki with articles on books and films. The local event gets good and well-deserved coverage in the media. (Bibliotekspressen 10:2008)


Oulu City Library reaches out to housebound users

Oulu City Library and the Department for the services for senior citizens have been working together to improve and develop the outreach services of the library. The aim was to improve the services for senior citizens and the visually impaired, to increase the number of users and to make the services more effective.

The common goal for the library and the Department for the services to the elderly was to find new ways to support the living at home of the aged. As a part of the Virtual Personified Service Portal for Senior Citizens Project the library took part in a view phone pilot project, organised literature circles for senior citizens and produced a literature CD to support work with the aged.

During the four-year project new features were added to the library system so that personal profiles on the reading habits of the senior users could be saved in the system. The system can check new titles against a list of previous loans to find books the users have not read yet. Several different profiles can be defined for any one user. The aim was to increase personalisation of the services and to make distance use of the services easier for housebound library customers. Kirjastolehti (Link at http://kirjastoseura.kaapeli. fi)

Municipal decision-makers as library users

Oulu is by no means the only city in Finland to carry out projects or user surveys but also the second piece of news from Finland happens to come from the region of Northern Ostrobothnia where the public libraries mapped out the local decision-makers’ knowledge of library services and their use of the libraries.

All municipal decision-makers in charge of library matters were sent a questionnaire which they could answer anonymously. In the city of Oulu, the response rate was an acceptable 47%.

All the respondents thought the public library to be an important basic service. The decision-makers proved to be rather active users of library services; half the respondents reported visiting the library monthly and reading more than 20 books a year.

Most respondents said they used the library mostly for borrowing material but also for reading newspapers and journals and visiting the exhibitions at the library. 37% reserve material and renew loans on the Internet. As many as 80% are happy with the library collections – still, half of the respondents would use the library services even more if new titles were more easily available.

When asked about developing the library services the respondents suggested, maybe somewhat surprisingly, establishing new libraries for new residential areas, organising literary events, increasing the book budget, listening to user feedback – especially from children and teenagers plus more active information about the library services.

A lot of the survey results sound very promising and will hopefully make all the decision-makers more aware of the current library services. One of the questions produced mindboggling answers, though.When asked how big a proportion of the municipal budget the library services made up, only 27% could even roughly estimate the share of the library expenditure while a third of the respondents did not so much as hazard a guess. (Kirjastolehti) (Link at http://kirjastoseura.kaapeli. fi)


The first demotek in Norway

The first demotek in Norway was opened in Bergen in March and is modelled after the 80+ demoteks in Sweden (presented in SPLQ 2007:1). The new department at the library hosts demos in the fields of music, literature, film, photography, graphic arts etc. It is meant to be a stepping stone for aspiring artists from 14 to 30+ in the city of Bergen. Nobody will be refused providing the works do not break the law and the author signs a contract stating she or he owns the copyright to their material. The library believes the demotek to be a real alternative to YouTube and the abstract nature of computer files: to have your music CD or manuscript available at the local library is more concrete and tangible. While delivering and hanging up posters for the Demotek, the library staff already encountered enthusiastic reception: At a café a member of staff wanted to give two music CDs to the librarian to take to the demotek. (Bok og bibliotek 2:2008)

A library without barriers

In Kongsberg Library the traditional information desk has been replaced by a round table where the information retrieval takes place in a more democratic setting than before. This has been done in many libraries elsewhere, but in Kongsberg the use of laptops makes searching information and revising the initial searches possible also between the shelves. This simple solution makes it easier to work with the users instead of working for them. Removing the physical barriers between library staff and users can create a more equal situation. It also makes running back and forth between the desk and the shelves unnecessary. The use of laptops also made it possible to take the library out to the streets during the yearly jazz festival: Librarians equipped with laptops and book trolleys could lend out material for relaxed patrons at the pavement café. (Bok og bibliotek)

Library users: Who are they and what do they really do at the library?

A study of 3,337 library users in Oslo, Trondheim, Kristiansand, Stavanger and Bergen was carried out using observation of user behaviour during library visits. Borrowing and returning books accounted for 50% of user activities which is yet another indication that new measures are needed for describing library use. The mere number of visits or issued books does not tell us how the visitors make use of the library.

According to the results, 71% of the library visits lasted less than half an hour while on average a library visit took 35 minutes. 11% of the visitors were studying or working at the library for over half an hour whereas 2% of the visitors did not use any library services during their visit. A quarter of all visitors approached the staff with questions. The assumption of libraries as complex institutions with numerous uses was confirmed by the results: The library visitors really used the library in different ways for studying, leisure, reading, meeting people, accessing the Internet etc. (ABM-skrift 46, 2008; Bok og Bibliotek – aktuellt:


The whole of Malmø is reading

The biggest reading initiative in Sweden was awarded the Swedish Arts and Business Award 2007 in the category of ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ for the successful cooperation between Malmø City Library and the Swedish Savings Association Foundation. The target group of the 3-year project are all second to fifth graders in Malmø, 24,000 pupils altogether. The initiative is carried out in cooperation with the local pedagogical centres and other cultural institutions in the city.Wellfunctioning and permanent structures and networks have also been created between the public library staff and the school libraries.

The two project coordinators have organised seminars in e.g. dramatised book talk for the staff and come up with ideas for activities, but it is up to each library and school class to decide what methods and events they want to make use of and arrange. One of the most exciting sub-projects was the detective story relay where over 500 school pupils in grade 2 wrote a whodunit called The Secret Mission of Konrad and Milou with the first and last chapters written by an author. The book was also printed and made into a play. (Biblioteksbladet 2008:5)

Reading aloud for burned-out women

The public library in Helsingborg has started a literature circle for women who have been diagnosed with burnout. In the region of Skåne, several projects have been initiated where culture is seen as one of the tools towards better health. All the women taking part in the literature circle were registered library users but had not been frequenting the library for a long time, maybe several years.Meeting with the other women, and reading aloud from works of fiction is meant to have a positive influence on the health of the participants. (Biblioteksbladet 2008:5)

A more silent library by adding sound

Contradictions in terms can sometimes work and produce desired effects against all odds. This has been the case at the school library in Viktoriaskolan on the island of Oland in Sweden. After setting up a sound installation of the sounds of wind, water, forest, birds and even frogs, the sound levels at the library have actually fallen. The wallpaper of the sounds of nature has made the school library a quiet and peaceful working and studying environment. It even drowns the noises from the printers and the ventilation system. (Biblioteksbladet 2008:4)

Scandinavian Shortcuts are selected by:

Päivi Jokitalo
Licensing Coordinator National Electronic Library Services /
FinELib The National Library of Finland

Freelance Library Specialist