Continuous education of library staff in Denmark

Danish libraries are changing. Due to the municipal reform in 2007 and large scale merging of research and higher education institutions, the number of research and public libraries has decreased significantly since 2007, and the remaining libraries have grown in size. In the same period, the need for new library concepts and services has been stressed by a governmental demand for changes from physical to digital services and a diminished role for libraries in the market of information retrieval and information supply.

In 2009, the Ministry of Culture appointed a committee on public libraries in the knowledge society, who in 2010 published a report that among other things focused on the essential move from focusing on collections to connections, a stronger focus on partnerships, and a need to reflect new concepts and services in staff and leader competencies. The committee recommended:

  • That each library decide on a plan for how best to support staff competence development through a wide variety of possibilities, e.g. recruitment, further education, organisation form and ‘on the job’ training
  • That the common competence development, which today is organised under the auspices of the regional libraries should be extended and intensified
  • That as part of the public management training, tailor-made modules  should be established targeted at leaders in the cultural sector.

In 2011, the Danish Agency for Culture carried out an investigation on library behaviour and needs in relation to further and continuous education of library staff. The primary part of the investigation was a questionnaire sent to all Danish libraries. The questionnaire was divided into two parts, one dealing with the libraries actual behaviour and the other with demands for future continuous education.

Supply of continuous education for library staff in Denmark

Until recently, basic and further education of library staff was almost exclusively a matter for IVA (The Royal School of Library and Information Science). Today, IVA competes with other institutions in relation to basic education of library staff. At the same time IVA focuses on higher education and plans to assign the responsibility for education of non-academic staff to other education institutions. Finally, IVA minimizes their activities on further education.

The above-mentioned questionnaire revealed that libraries use a broad range of suppliers. This is to some degree caused by the fact that library staff today has a much broader educational background than just a few years ago, but it is primarily caused by the need for new skills in relation to user interaction, communication et cetera.

Libraries undertake a growing part of continuous education themselves. Regarding public libraries, the main part of continuous education is organized by the regional libraries, who (funded by the Ministry of Culture) are responsible for the procurement of materials that the public libraries need but do not have at their disposal, advisory and development tasks, and the continuous development, facilitation and execution of common continuous education initiatives. Research libraries are a bit more traditional in their choice of suppliers of continuous education. Yet, there is a strong ten-dency towards the bigger research libraries and the Danish Research Library Association carrying out continuous education of staff for a large number of research libraries.

What types of continuous education are demanded by libraries

In their response to the questionnaire, both public and research libraries pointed to a strong need for continuous education inside the areas of digital media, formats and platforms.

Besides digital media skills and knowledge, the public libraries stated a future focus on ‘communication’, ‘user interaction’, ‘user involvement’, ‘user training’ and the like. Basically, the research libraries stated the same major groups as the public libraries. However, the research libraries pointed to a higher degree to more traditional areas like ‘information retrieval’, ‘cataloguing’ and ‘bibliometrics’.


The tendencies for future continuous education of library staff in Danish libraries are pretty clear. Libraries tend to use a broader range of suppliers and to undertake larger parts of the education themselves – often in partnerships involving several libraries and regions.

Furthermore, new library concepts force both public and research libraries to focus on digital media, user involvement and user studies to a much larger extent than earlier. These focus areas are of course reflected in the libraries suggestions for future needs for competencies and thereby continuous education of staff.


Chief Adviser Libraries, Media and Digitalization Danish Agency for Culture