Editorial: At the center or on the periphery?

If you are at the center, everything else around you seems like periphery or fringe.

In Denmark we have lately been operating with the concept of “Udkantsdanmark” (Fringe Denmark), meaning those areas in the country that are furthest away from the capital, and where local authorities are often characterized by restricted budgets, fewer and fewer jobs, low employment and weak infrastructure.

It suggests poor living conditions and few possibilities for self-realisation. Recently, attempts have been made to change the word “udkant” to another and more positively charged word, but perhaps the whole perspective needs to be changed?

If you live in a small urban community far from the capital, the local town with its library or bookmobile is the center, and the capital is very much perceived as the periphery. The theme of this issue of Scandinavian Library Quarterly describes exactly the strength of a large number of library initiatives without them having necessarily anything to do with larger cities.

New possibilities

The article “With new tasks and functions in rural areas” offers examples of how important the mobile library units are to the local population. It is inspiring to see how many different initiatives are launched in the mobile libraries and how gratifying results, a dedicated staff and many equally dedicated volunteers can achieve.

Another article deals with open libraries – a library concept, which was developed as an alternative to branch closures of Danish libraries, and which is now rapidly spreading in the Danish library sector. The small urban communities’ local library is often the pivotal point of cultural life, and it has been interesting to observe the many open libraries, which are to find their role in an interchange between serviced and self-service opening hours.

We, therefore, have to design our libraries in a different way to the way we used to in order to satisfy both needs. The users are offered completely new possibilities of bringing their influence to bear on the local library, when they can use it for much longer periods than before. The local community is an essential driving force in the open libraries.

A reading campaign

In autumn 2013 the Danish minister for culture, Marianne Jelved, launches a new reading campaign, which over a four-year period can stimulate the Danes into reading more literature and will focus on reading by those, who do not usually do a lot of reading. The idea is for the libraries also to play a major part in this by working with the local community on getting more people interested in reading.

Such campaigns are often launched centrally, but they cannot be implemented in practice without a local anchorage – it is here – round about, that results are generated.

Head of Division for Libraries The Danish Agency for Culture and Palaces