Scandinavian Shortcuts

Volunteers – what to make of them in Scandinavian libraries?

It is not only in the US and UK that libraries are facing budget cuts, Scandinavian libraries also have to make do with insufficient funds in many municipalities. This, and the need to connect more closely with the users, has lead to a discussion on the role of voluntary workers in public libraries, something of a novelty in a Scandinavian context. The Danes have been the first to put the new trend into words. At the Gentofte City Library volunteers run a NetCafé and Viborg teenagers work together with the staff on arrangements and PR for their peers. The Nørre-Snede public library has eight volunteers working three hours a week to help keep the small library open to the public. The same voluntary workers also function as a valuable focus group when developing the library services. The official view of the Library Association is clear: voluntary work is needed and welcome, but it should never replace professional library staff. “A book collection run by volunteers is not a library.”

Danmarks biblioteker 7/2010

Walk Your Library – a guide to visual marketing

Aarhus City Library has published an exiting new guide on visual marketing of public libraries: Walk Your Library – a guide to visual marketing. The goal was to create a resource which would help in the everyday development of library PR but could also inspire the libraries to think outside the box. The title of the book is meant to be taken literally.Walk round your library with the book in hand and ask yourself some basic questions about the design and space utilization: “Do the furnishings answer the needs of the users?” “Does the physical space support the role of the library as mediator of contents?” The guide includes lots of practical tips and a useful checklist starting with first impressions: the parking space and the facade of the library building. The guide is produced by Staehr Grafisk in cooperation with a group of librarians. walk-your-library

Bibliotekspressen 20/2010

Literary web service assumes physical form

The national website on all things literary,, stepped out In Real Life gathering big crowds at the Copenhagen Book Fair. The web service was first started eleven years ago as a pro-ject and has since become a permanent fixture in the form of an association with public libraries as members. The editor-in-chief, Lise Vandborg, interviewed authors, the public took part in quizzes and listened to the editorial team’s book talk on stage. Litteratursiden is now also a magazine on books, delivered to all Danish cultural politicians in cooperation with the library journal Danmarks Biblioteker.

Danmarks Biblioteker 8/2010

Human Library more than ten years old

Lending out Living Books such as refugees, ex-gang members, Muslims or homosexuals started out at the Danish Roskilde rock festival in 2010. Even if the Human Library is by no means a public library monopoly, libraries often organise events where living books can be borrowed. This makes sense as the Human Library Organisation states on its web page that the “librarian plays an impor- tant part, both as a facilitator of loans, and as the one responsible for keeping the books in check.”

Bibliotekspressen 19/2010


A man’s best friend – now at a library near you

Reading-to-a-dog schemes are already common in USA but haven’t really caught on in the Scandinavian countries. This is about to change, though, as the public library in Kaarina, in Western Finland, is cooperating with the institute of psychology at Turku University, offering fifteen eight-to-tenyear-olds the chance to read to trained dogs. It is a proven fact that children feel more relaxed and confident reading to a pet than e.g. in front of a class room or an adult who tend to criticize or correct any mistakes. Four dogs with their owners from the Cuddly- Bernies Association will listen to insecure readers several times during the year. The project will also result in a master’s thesis on the effects of the undertaking.

Kirjastolehti 1/2011

Virtual paths well chosen

Hämeenlinna City Library has opened a new kind of web service which presents interesting cultural spots and routes in the area. The users can also produce their own content on the virtual paths at The historical buildings, sculptures, beautiful nature resorts and good ski tracks (and much more) of the Hämeenlinna region are presented on Google Maps templates which bring the texts, photos, old construction plans as well as links to web pages and media files alive. All web users are welcome to add their own experiences in the service

From analogue to digital

Do you have ancient c-cassettes still lying around in a shoe box? How about videotapes? Don’t know how to digitise your paper photos? Several Finnish libraries (and probably libraries elsewhere in Scandinavia as well) offer advice and equipment for transferring your analogue media into digital form. The Meeting Point of Helsinki City Library, Hämeen- linna and Lahti City Libraries as well as Kaarina Public Library have recently started offering the service.

Kirjastolehti 1/2011

Not a drop of moaning in January

Dropless January is a well-known concept in Finland: after the weeks of mulled wine and Christmas parties many a Finn gives alcohol a wide berth, whereas ‘Teardropless January’ is a notion introduced this year by a young librarian. The idea quickly spread in social media and attracted well over 500 followers on Facebook alone. The goal was to refrain from “complaining or whining about work or at work during January”. Whining and moaning can poison the atmosphere at work when it’s habitual and not constructive. We’ll see if this will become a regular themed month! =186228514724743&ref=ts

Finnish mobile libraries celebrate 50 years of service

The first mobile library was acquired by the City of Turku in 1961. The halfcentury milestone will be celebrated in the same city in the presence of foreign guests as Turku will be hosting an international mobile library festival in August 2011. As the city is also the European Cultural Capital of 2011, there will be plenty of events to choose from.


Time Library open for early birds

After years of waiting, a new library building opened its doors in Time last year. The library staff were hands-on in the planning stages taking part in design and in the choice of materials and colours. The non-fiction books are not divided into children’s and adult materials but organized according to subject. From January 2011 the library has been trying out self-service opening hours between 7 and 10 am when users have access to the collections, are able to borrow materials and use the group working rooms and study areas. The library café offers breakfast from 7 o’clock.

Bibliotekforum 10/2010

National Encyclopedia emerges from collaboration

The Savings Bank and Fritt Ord Funds will finance the construction of a new national web encyclopedia, both with 15 million Norwegian crowns over the next three years. The Non-Fiction Writers and Translators Association also support the project with 1,5 millions while the National Library will host the service and the universities will take part in contents production. The new encyclopedia combines three services: the biographical and medical encyclopedias and the ‘Big Norwegian Encyclopedia’. The aim is to integrate the new service into the digitised media of the National Library and to daily update the encyclopedia.

Bibliotekaren 12/2010

Teenage critics’ choice book award

Nine out of eleven Østfold schools decided to be a part of the critics’ choice book award events starting in October and running until a glamorous prize ceremony taking place in March. 200 pupils discussed the shortlisted books, took part in author visits, book talks, breakfast readings and meetings with e.g. a Norwegian rap artist. The regional library of Østfold also organised training on how to teach literature to teenagers. The cooperation between library staff and teachers has been one of the keys to success.

Bibliotekforum 9/2010

PLACE for public libraries

Public libraries – Arenas for Citizenship is a study of public libraries as community meeting places in a digital and multicultural context. The project, funded by the Research Council of Norway, started four years ago and is now in its last year. Oslo University College, University of Tromsø, and Oslo School of Architecture and Design are the main partners who base the case studies on three municipalities where a new main library is being planned: Oslo, Norway; Aarhus, Denmark; and Birmingham, England. Several mas- ter’s theses and research articles have already been publis- hed as an outcome of the project. The study charts the views and attitudes of users, legislators and librarians e.g. on the library’s social role and meaning in the community. journalistikk-bibliotek-oginformasjonsfag/PLACE


Love Tensta wants to spread hope

How do you go about changing the reputation and atmosphere of a suburb with a reputation? Love Tensta is a network who wants to spread hope in the community. In their manifesto of hope Love Tensta proclaims the goal of setting up a platform for immigrants, suburban teenagers, the unemployed and other groups who are normally excluded from the public debate. The network sees the public library as an important gateway to social involvement. Cooperation between the young activists and the local library has been good for the community: the area has become safer, the younger kids with immigrant background see the library as a cool hangout and the library gets help in the planning and organising of events.

Biblioteksbladet 10/2010

Children’s books common ground for bookstore and public library

Book Spider is the name of a wellesteemed Stockholm bookstore selling children’s books in Swedish (4000 titles!) but also in languages such as Tamil, Tagalog and Russian. The owners, both with immigrant backgrounds and a degree in cultural anthropology, have started a collabo- ration with Stockholm City Library. The library buys the books and the bookstore owners run reading clubs for children between the ages of 10 and 16. Both owners have wide knowledge of children’s literature and actively look for new contacts, most recently in Ethiopia. This year more reading circles will be organised and a folder with tips for libraries on reading circles will be put together.

Biblioteksbladet 9/2010

Dewey arrives at Swedish public libraries

To change classification systems is not easy but it is exactly what the public libraries in Sweden will have to do in the near future. This is a natural consequence of the National Library’s decision from 2008 to change over to the Dewey Decimal Classification System. In January 2011 all the records from the Royal Library will be catalogued according to Dewey. The training of staff and marking up of the shelves with plain language instead of numerical classification signs is something the public libraries wish could be done centrally, without each and every library pondering on the same questions.

Is reading fiction a vanishing skill?

The public libraries will benefit from the results of a new research project on how young adults read fiction. The researchers ask whether the reading habits of young readers between the ages of 16 and 25 have changed as a result of network use. It has been assumed that young people prefer nonfiction and might be on the way to lose their ability to read fiction. The importance of fiction-reading in terms of personality development and orientation in the social environment is being studied. The Universities of Borås and Uppsala have been granted a subsidy for the project by the Swedish Research Council. /101217-Nytt-projekt-om-fiktionslasning

DIK 9/2010

Päivi Jokitalo
National Library Network Services
paivi.jokitalo AT

Freelance Library Specialist