On the brink of a new era

Danish school library activities are based on the Act of the Folkeskole, which states that “every independent school must establish a school library as a pedagogical service centre”. In 1995 the Danish minister of education Ole Vig Jensen, issued an executive order regarding the school libraries. This order does in fact expound on the text of the law.

But an executive order also tells the Danish municipalities, who own the “folkeskole” (i.e. the municipal primary and lower secondary schools) how the minister of education wishes the development to take form. This moved the school libraries from the Ministry of Culture to the Ministry of Education and the school libraries thus left the public libraries which belonged under the Ministry of Culture. This, to underline the fact that the school libraries were “school” primarily, and to a lesser extent “library”.

Right now work is in progress on a new executive order. A new minister of education, Christine Antorini, wishes for the comparatively old order from 1995 to be replaced by a new one. A new executive order will have to update the old one as well as outline a new development for the Danish school libraries.

It is in the nature of things that an executive order from 1995 has been overtaken several times by the pedagogical as well as the didactic development, but naturally also by the development of the internet and other electronic platforms. Just as we can observe giant leaps in the development of learning resources.

In a textbook from 2009 on the subject ‘Danish’, the Ministry of Education describes the school library thus: “But it is also as learning centre, as development centre, media centre or “multilearning centre”, pure and simple.” The debate about the school library’s aims, content and function has since 2009 gradually come to mean that the word used to describe the school library will in all probability be ‘learning centre’.

A learning centre – in relation to pupils

The school library as learning centre embraces the many activities that relate to culture, media and learning in the school today. It contains a culture, a media and a learning dimension. The learning centre team communicates, guides and teaches in relation to various subject-specific fields. The pivotal point for all these activities is a broad understanding of the concept of learning.

As far as the pupils’ learning is concerned the learning centre is the extended classroom. Based on the teaching in the classroom and with the task defined and the aim determined, the pupil is sent through the learning centre where the school librarian, the learning instructor, didactically advises and guides the pupil in relation to digital, analogue and concrete materials.

But it is also the learning centre’s job to introduce the world into the school and make it interesting and relevant to the pupils. That can be done with exhibitions, competitions, surprise activities, experiments, arrangements, guests et cetera. The pupils also have access to a modern and relevant selection of children’s and youth literature.

The task also means introducing the pupils to the world outside, for example the experts and cultural institutions that can help them on their way. The learning centre has a quite unique cultural and learning function and addresses the issue of the pupils’ liberal education as citizens and human beings.

A learning centre – in relation to teachers

The learning centre has an equally important task in relation to teachers in their role as advisers and sparring partners. The advisers working here have special didactic and pedagogical skills, for example as school librarians, reading, IT and teaching advisers.

The particular aspect about school librarians is in fact that they give didactic advice and guidance, not only pedagogically but also didactically speaking. It requires that the school librarian has completed a teacher training course followed by a training as school librarian. In very simple terms didactic guidance and advice consist of finding the right learning resource in relation to the target set for the pupil, at the right time and with the completely relevant content.

Media, pedagogy and didactics

The advising team have the greatest knowledge in terms of learning resources and know what is available at the school or what can be acquired. They help in procuring the learning resources requested and offer relevant advice about them and how they should be used.

All in all it is a question of a media professional sparring which both supports the pedagogical practice and challenges the pedagogical agenda at the school. Key words are media pedagogy and didactics. Pedagogical designs are developed which open up for new learning spaces that include analogue and digital learning resources.

The next step

As mentioned above, the Danish minister of education, Christine Antorini, has appointed a committee to prepare a new executive order for the Danish school libraries. This executive order will be tied up with a new act on the Folkeskole, which is expected to be passed before long. The committee members are stakeholders from municipal, union and professional organisations and representatives from the ministry. (The author of this article is a member of the committee). The committee has been working for some months, and a clear picture is emerging as to what is expected from a learning centre:

At each school a school library is established as a learning centre. The overall objective for the learning centre is:

  • The pupil’s learning is at the centre of the learning centre’s activities and efforts
  • Focus on didactic guidance in relation to learning processes, teaching aids and school development
  • The learning centre functions as a place for creating and disseminating culture.

The learning centre’s team function must:

  • Support the pupil’s learning in a virtual as well a physical space
  • Handle tasks such as teaching, didactic guidance and mediation in relation to learning and learning processes, including advice and guidance of teachers and pupils on choice and use of didactic, semantic and functional teaching aids
  • Make available digital and physical teaching aids for the teacher’s instruction and for the individual pupil’s versatile and academic development and assist with the use of the teaching aids
  • Implement initiatives that contribute to continuous development of the school including competence development, project support, course activities and practice learning
  • Facilitate initiatives and cooperation with the school’s management about the school’s development, including dissemination of knowledge about development, relevant news, campaigns, cultural initiatives and other initiatives which can be included in the teaching
  • Launch initiatives to encourage the creation and dissemination of culture.

The teaching aids in the learning centres include fiction and non-fiction, concrete and laborative materials, digital teaching aids including net services, digital learning spaces and guidance skills.

It is this learning centre, which with a network of advisers – including school librarians as learning advisers – will be the pivotal point for a school’s daily work with the pupils’ learning as the absolutely essential element.

The new act on the the danish Folkeskole

MA children’s literature Chairman of the Association of Danish School Librarians