Seeking knowledge and inspiration

Leonardo da Vinci professional  exchange for librarians and teachers
In the autumn of 2003 and the spring of 2004 librarians and teachers from the county of Sogn og Fjordane in Norway made professional study visits to Denmark. Finance for the trips was obtained through EU’s Leonardo da Vinci programme and the theme was pedagogical use of libraries and other sources of information.

In 2003 the Red Cross Nordic United World College (RCNUWC) and the Sogn og Fjordane county library applied to EU’s Leonardo da Vinci programme for the funding of a week-long professional study tour to Denmark.

The theme of the tour was the pedagogical use of libraries and other sources of information. The purpose of the visit was to obtain new knowledge and inspiration from observing examples of good practice and to exchange experiences. We also wished to establish contacts with colleagues in another Nordic country, while at the same time strengthening our own internal cooperation in our home region.

The Leonardo da Vinci programme offered financial support for ten persons and two trips have taken place, the first in the autumn of 2003 and the other in the spring of 2004. I myself was responsible for arranging the trips and the project leader was Lise Alsted Henrichsen, previously a voluntary worker at some of the libraries in the county of Sogn og Fjordane.

The voluntary worker arrangement
Lise Alsted Henrichsen came from Denmark as a newly-qualified librarian in the spring of 2002. She worked on a voluntary basis at three public libraries, the RCNUWC library and the Sogn og Fjordane county library. The voluntary worker scheme is also one of EU’s programmes under the auspices of ‘Young in Europe’. Participants work as volunteers from six to twelve months in return for free travel, board and accommodation. They also receive a little pocket money. These volunteers do not take the place of any other employee.

The particular area of study in our own volunteer project concerned user information in libraries and library services for distance-learning students. A further aim of the project was to initiate new exchange arrangements. Lise Alsted Henrichsen was therefore given the task of preparing an application suitable to meet the requirements of the Leonardo da Vinci programme.

Contents of professional visits
It was important for us that any such arrangement should have an overriding professional profile. The theme should be clearly defined and limited, so that we could expect direct benefits in the chosen professional area of interest.We therefore approached the Council for Library Education in Denmark, a specialist forum directed specifically at those engaged in educational activities in the library sector.

The programme for the trips to Denmark was arranged in close co-operation with the Danish organisation.We visited various different types of libraries and several schools and also participated in a seminar arranged by the Danish organisers. Common to all the libraries was their focus on pedagogy and we were introduced to several interesting joint projects. The National Library of Education in Copenhagen introduced us to its course in information retrieval for students. At the Royal School of Library and Information Science in Copenhagen we participated in a workshop with Anette Skov, who has made a special study of the question of quality in relation to information retrieval.

At the Nordfyn secondary school a programme entitled ‘The reflexive library’ brought teacher and librarian together to take classes, while librarians and teachers at the Kerteminde art and handicrafts seminar had co-operated in developing a two-week course in project work and information retrieval. The public library in Odense had fitted out a learning centre for immigrant youth and offered courses in information retrieval. We met librarians and teachers who had carried out research in their own field and had reflected a great deal on questions connected with pedagogy in the library. The professional benefit from our visits was indeed well above all expectation.

Participants from Sogn og Fjordane
Before the exchange visits we had spread the word far and wide in order to ensure broad participation. The group taking part in the two study tours consisted of staff from various types of institutions and departments. There were librarians and teachers from secondary schools and public and college libraries, together with representatives from the county library and the county educational department.

Results and consequences
Have these study tours had any influence on our daily work? Yes, without a doubt!

They have given us concrete knowledge about a vital area in our profession and they have created involvement and enthusiasm. We have made new contacts across national borders and we now have a network of colleagues with an expertise we can benefit from. Furthermore, this is a mutual gain. They know about us and what we are doing. Nor should we underestimate the value of the collaboration involved between ourselves here in Sogn og Fjordane. In a county such as ours with many oneman libraries co-operation is vital.

It has also meant a great deal that the county library and the county education department have involved themselves in the project. In this way we have made ourselves part of the offensive now underway in schools and libraries to stimulate reading and the development of information skills. This provides a firm foundation and a new perspective to our work.

Translated by Eric Deverill
Portrait by Edmund Cluett

Librarian, Red Cross Nordic United World College.