“We got a nudge in the back!” Promoting fiction to adult readers (SAV)

SAV was a development project run by the Väster- botten County Library in collaboration with the public libraries in the municipalities of Västerbotten. The goal of the project was to encourage and deepen the meeting between fiction and reader at various levels, and the idea was to develop methods of reading promotion with a focus on adult readers. Preparation began already in 2005 and the project has gathered participants from ten of the fifteen municipalities of Västerbotten.

The work was designed as a processtraining, where participants came together regularly for inspiration, training and exchange of experience. Local working groups, who formulated their own development plans based on local conditions and resources, were formed. The groups were also offered coaching at home.

Rachel Van Riel – from Opening the Book in England – inspired the participants to a new view on both promoting literature and on the furniture and signs in the library. Immi Lundin gave hands-on advice on how to start a book club – which resulted in several new reading groups.

During the second year, reception of visitors and the librarian’s own role in the promoting mission was high- lighted. The joint training included for example a course in presenting books and a discussion of author visits to libraries. One lecture compared the role of the librarian with that of the critic. Literary taste and how to find one’s role in the meeting with the customers were two questions being discussed. The issue of taste – librarian’s and user’s – was discussed on the basis of Jofrid Karner Smidt’s thesis Between elite and publikum. The debate brought many questions to mind, and generated thoughts on good or bad taste, communication, quality, identity crises and the mission of the public library!

The project model, that combined joint training days and local development plans with coaching and time for reflection, has proved very successful. The coaching has been based on the needs of each group, and has striven to lift up the everyday work to a reflection level, which is essential to all development. The basic idea, that the content of the training will take as its starting point the participants’ own interests and skills, has been realized and given good results.

All participants have appreciated the organisation of the project, and its combination of inspirational lectures and time for local planning.

Many have experienced that SAV provided a nudge in the right direction, and led to launching activities that earlier were just ideas. The time ‘created’ at the meetings for planning and reflection in the working groups, has been perceived as very valuable. SAV ended with a conference and celebration in Umeå in February 2010, in which all participants were asked to present their community projects and the work experience provided. Examples of local projects, based on knowledge and analysis of the municipality’s own needs, are book clubs, cafés with book tips, literary walks and book talk (according to Aidan Chambers’ model) with high school students.

As a result of SAV, interest in and awareness of the importance of fiction has increased significantly among library staff in Västerbotten County. The focus has been on promoting literature and literary experience. Spreading love of fiction and reading has been a consistent theme.         The ultimate goal is to consolidate the ‘SAV thinking’, and to make it an established way of working. The participants have developed reflective and analytical ability, and it is now important that all staff become involved in the process of promoting fiction to adult readers.

Eva Nordlinder
County Library of Västerbotten

Translated by Mats Hansson

County Library of Västerbotten