Scandinavian Shortcuts


  • Million dollar library in Aarhus

Aarhus and Chicago Public Libraries are co-operating in order to create new models for innovation, experimentation and decision-making within libraries. The libraries have been awarded one million dollars by the Gates Foundation, their biggest grant so far. The Chicago and Aarhus libraries will be working together with the design company IDEO. The aim is to create and develop new kinds of services and programmes and the results will be presented at a conference in Chicago next year with a toolbox becoming available for all libraries to use.

Danmarks biblioteker
Chicago Public Library press release 30.6.2013


  • Guess who’s coming for dinner

The good life in the Danish countryside continues as librarians boldly invite themselves for dinner with the local associations and other active stakeholders in the community. Even if library professionals wish to start by presenting well-prepared project plans, it is not the way to involve people, neither does it help libraries in finding out what the users really want. It is better to come up with ideas together with the local citizens. The seven libraries taking part in the Good Life mobile library project (yes, it’s been covered before in Shortcuts, from a different angle) have promised each other that every library will try out at least two new things which the steering group can help develop. So far, the mobile libraries have e.g. visited new target groups such as a cake making company (which sounds as a tasty mobile library stop).

Perspektiv 7/2013


  • In search of the perfect storytelling chair

Choosing furniture is never easy. Comfortable, fun and different, that’s how the perfect armchair for storytelling should be. Sønderborg Public Library wanted to find a chair which would feed the imagination of young and old alike. Of course, the chair – or chairs, as the library had already decided to buy more than one – should be sturdy and withstand heavy use, too. In the end, the library bought a mermaid chair and ordered a teddy bear chair, a dragon chair and a rhyme chair.

The staff discussed all the chairs separately: e.g. what props could be used with the different chairs. For the mermaid chair, the library bought squid and crab hand puppets and a small fishing rod. A round rug was purchased to go with each of the chairs. The idea was that the chairs would not only be safe places to sit and enjoy your book but also function as mini stages for storytelling.

Perspektiv 6/2013


  • Grow (at) your own library

Risskov Public Library is luring the young to the library through an inviting garden space suitable for gaming and other popular pastimes. There are plenty of places to sit down, green berry bushes, beautiful marigolds and vegetable beds. The Grow your library project has turned the outside areas into a library space fit for teenagers – which just might bring some new users to the library during winter.

Danmarks biblioteker



  • Emphasis on national and regional development

The Finnish library decree regulates e.g. the duties and functions of the central library for public libraries and the provincial libraries as well as the Centers for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, the regional state agencies. It also defines the professional requirements of the staff. The decree was amended earlier this year. The development of national online services and cooperation between the different library sectors are emphasized more strongly in the tasks of the central library for public libraries. In the functions of the provincial libraries promotion of regional development projects and online services are highlighted. The decree also harmonizes the interpretation of the qualification requirements of library staff. The amended decree came into force on the first of July 2013.


  • Love of reading

Even if Finns are known to be a reading nation and literacy is supported by a strong library system, free education and a number of children’s books in Finnish, young people read less than before. The three-year Love of Reading programme aims to strengthen the reading and writing skills of children aged 6-16, with funding from the Ministry of Education and Culture.

The cooperational network around the programme is broad, from the faculties of Humanities and Education at the University of Oulu to the Finnish Library Association, the regional library authorities,, the Trade Union of Education and the Finnish Broadcasting Company, to name a few. New approaches, tools and models will be tested in pilotn projects during 2013-2014, ending with the themed year of diverse literacies in 2015.
Bibban 2/2013


  • 100 years of public service at the library of parliament

In April 2013, 100 years had passed since the Library of Parliament opened its doors to the general public, instead of being a closed service for the MPs. A strong motivation behind the public service ethos was the library’s role in spreading legal and social information and supporting democracy. Or as the chief librarian Herman Bergholm put it in 1912: “Our aim is that the library should be used as much as possible and be as useful as possible.” The library is open all year round, 57 hours a week for MPs, parliament staff, media, researchers and citizens alike. The guidelines of the library remain the same: open knowledge and free access to information.

The Library of Parliament


  • Small-scale mobile library

Oulu City Library and Oulu University Hospital have acquired a new self-service library for the hospital premises. The library is an easy-to-move bookcase which can be opened using a library card.

Hospital patients can use the library 24/7 and other borrowers while the hospital is open. Books can be borrowed for a week at a time and returned in the bookcase. The usual overdue fees apply.

The self-service library is the first of its kind in Finland. It accomodates around one hundred books for readers of all ages.



  • Users’ pet

The previous shortcuts mentioned how according to national surveys library users in Denmark and Finland appreciate the library services as much as ever. The same goes for Norway.

According to a survey, around 60 per cent of Norwegians are happy with their local library while only 2% were of an opposite opinion. In all the Scandinavian countries public libraries top the polls when people are asked which municipal services they most appreciate. When evaluated on a scale from 0 to 100, libraries scored 85 points in Norway.

Some regional differences can be seen though. It seems that people living in the countryside have a more positive attitude towards the offerings of the local library than those in towns and cities.

Overall, library use has doubled since 1978; today half the population are regular library users. But the pattern is the same as elsewhere: library visits are up while people borrow less.

Norwegian Library Association


  • Leading change, innovation and knowledge

21 library professionals in the Hordaland region are taking part in a tailor-made study programme tackling the challenges of the changing library landscape. The aim of the course is for the participants to be able to manage a concrete change situation in their own work environment. The course works much in the same way as the Finnish year-long programme for library directors in small libraries: to keep it relevant, the contents are continually related to the everyday work of the participants – many of whom have a staff of two or three. The National Library supports the bachelor-level (15 credits) programme which is a cooperation between Høgskolen Bergen and Hordaland regional library.

Bibliotekforum 2/2013



  • Top points for libraries

Exactly as in the rest of Scandinavia, the Swedes appreciate their libraries. Even so, like Norway, Sweden reports a decrease in library use: while 70 % of the population visited their library at least once in three years during the noughties, last year the percentage of active users had dropped to 46 %. When it comes to book reading however the statistics look quite positive with 85 % of Swedes having read one or more books during the year. The gaps between different groups are growing, though. All age groups under 65 read less than before and men both visit libraries and read books 15 % less than women. 9 % have read an ebook with 4 % reading ebooks regularly – and library users read ebooks more than non-users.



  • 25 world class school libraries (and counting)

The school library system is systematically being developed in Sweden. The DIK trade union has created criteria for a good school library which e.g. strengthens the digital competences of the pupils, supports the learning process of both groups and individual pupils and helps the teachers in their use of digital media and printed material. By nominating the libraries who fulfill the criteria as school libraries in world class, DIK wants to draw attention to the libraries’ essential role. So far 25 libraries have made the list.

Swedish highschool Vittra Södermalm (photo) is inspiring learning environments that break down the boundary between education and leisure. Vittra Södermalm has 350 students and is located in a historic building in central Stockholm. Architects: Rosan Bosch.



  • Reading and exercise

How to make reading attractive for children, especially boys? One way is through other hobbies such as sports. The Swedish Arts Council has reserved 3 million Swedish kronas (ca 345 000 €) for reading promotion partnerships between sports clubs and libraries. Apart from creating an interest in reading, what is needed is training, much like in sports.



  • Set the books free

When library branches were being shut down in the small town of Partille, the staff started thinking of new ways of reaching out to the users. That’s when they came up with the idea of library shelves in senior centers, maternity clinics and local businesses. All the shelves out in the community are easily recognized as a library service, and have been designed for the purpose. Each shelf carries a picture and contact information of the librarian who is responsible for the stock. A library card is not needed as the whole service builds on trust: users are free to take the books home and return them either on the self or to the nearest library.

Framsidan 7/2013

Freelance Library Specialist