The Norwegian Library Act within the public library sector

The Norwegian Library Act, together with directives from the Ministry of Cultural and Church Affairs, constituted the basis for the former Norwegian Directorate for Public Libraries. The establishment of the Directorate in 1949 was a direct result of the Act, first introduced in 1935. Amendments to the Act were last passed in 1985, but some selected sections of the legislation have now been under review.

Library Act for a new millennium?
This is a revision caused by the establishment of ABM-utvikling, Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority. Since The Norwegian Directorate for Public Libraries actually was mentioned in the Library Act, the Act needed some minor amendments. At this point the Ministry of Cultural and Church Affairs found it appropiate to recommend a larger revision. A public consultation document was sent out for comments last autumn, creating quite a riot in the library sector in Norway.

The recommendations were mainly based on the political strategies of the Norwegian government who are in favour of giving local municipalities greater freedom in how they organise their public services. A majority within the library sector did not applaud recommendations to remove the legislative requirement that each municipality shall have a public library of their own, and to remove the obligation of having trained staff in public libraries. In May this year the final document for amendments in the Public Library Act were presented, now with only minor changes, and the new, revised law was passed June 16, 2003.

The need for new library legislation has been a hot issue for some time in Norway. Both in connection with the first public consultation document and the presentation of the final document for amendments, the Ministry of Cultural and Church Affairs has indicated that a major report needs to be undertaken.

This report should describe the needs for and the consequence of entirely new library legislation, covering both public libraries and academic libraries run by public means. A discussion on a library act covering both public and academic libraries involves the Ministry of Education and Research and ABM-utvikling. Most likely the task of writing a report will be assigned ABM-utvikling. If we get a library act covering both library sectors, this will be a very important means to achieve seamless library services in Norway. The Norwegian Directorate for Public Libraries had a minor report made on this issue last year. Professor Ragnar Audunsson at Oslo University College stated in this report that a joint law would

  • tear down the barriers between different libraries
  • achieve better services to students, lifelong learners, and not least of all:
  • such changes in the library legislation will also make a necessary impact on the people managing and administering the libraries – namely the librarians themselves.

Adviser, ABM-utvikling, Norway.