The multicultural library

The Multicultural Library in Norway dates from 1983 when it was established as a separate department at the Deichman Library in Oslo (the main Oslo public library). The basis for the library was the Deichman’s own collection of literature in the most important immigrant languages. Today the cost of maintaining the Multicultural Library is shared between the Oslo municipal authorities (25%) and the Norwegian state (75%). The library has three main functions.

  • To act as a centre of competence and a source of guidance for Norway’s county and public libraries with regard to library services aimed at meeting the needs of immigrants and refugees
  • To purchase and classify literature in 37 specific languages
  • To provide a distance lending service for refugees and immigrants.

In order to improve library services for language minorities the Multicultural Library has initiated several projects, including BAZAR, the purpose of which is to create a national Internetbased information service for both library staff and the individual user. In addition there is a desire to improve ICT expertise and multilingual skills. The project is based on the results of several surveys revealing that library users with a minority background are active and interested and make greater use than ethnic Norwegians of all library services, particularly those based on the Internet.We also know that this user group has less access at home to The objective is to obtain all information for immigrants from one database the Internet than Norwegians in general. The library thus becomes an important source of digital information and communication, providing also the necessary training in the use of such services. BAZAR provides a source of knowledge about Norway, Norwegian conditions and the Norwegian language. At the moment information is available in English, French, Arabic, Somali and Norwegian, but the aim is to increase this to 10 languages. FINFO in Denmark has served as a model for this project and financial support has been provided by the Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority.

Translated by Eric Deverill


The Virtual International Library

The International Library in Sweden has a national obligation of disseminating books and other media in foreign languages. The library is also a resource for the country’s public libraries when it comes to advice and development within this area.

Over the years 2003-2005 the Virtual International Library (VIB) will be developed. The idea is to create a virtual meeting place for users as well as staff which will present literature and links to publishers, shops, journals and information on society. VIB will invite discussions and exchange of ideas, receive suggestions for purchases and answer questions in eight languages.

VIB is to develop in close cooperation with perspective users in the form of interviews, focus groups and evaluations. 2005 should mark the presence of a well-functioning version which is available to all.


FINFO’s purpose is to strengthen ethnic minorities’ access to information on rights, obligations and opportunities in Danish society. FINFO contains an subject-categorised index of links to information about asylum and residence, work, education, politics and culture as well as a linksguide to information on the 45 countries from which refugees and immigrants in Denmark most often come. The nationwide information is available in 11 languages, while regional information is available in fewer languages. FINFO is maintained by the State and University Library/Immigration Library as well as 130 county and public libraries.

Adviser, Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority