In Stordal, the mayor, the chief municipal officer and volunteers hold poetry readings using tree stumps and rocks as their stage. The school headmaster sings traditional “stev” tunes that echo from the mountainsides, and an immigrant from the Netherlands evokes enchanting sounds from his “tussefløyte”, a folk instrument similar to a recorder flute. Stordal Public Library has mobilized the local inhabitants, and the poetry readings are one of the events to which local people and users contribute actively.
Stordal municipality is located on the Storfjord in the Sunnmøre region on Norway’s west coast. The municipality is home to 1,035 inhabitants, and is the smallest municipality in Møre og Romsdal county in terms of population.
Stordal Public Library also functions as a school library for the municipality’s only primary school. This combination of library functions represents a good solution for our municipality, although we continue to face some challenges in reaching out to the adult population.
Grant for extra development
As head librarian, I have had a long-standing desire to expand the library’s services to the local people. However, with little personnel, a large workload and few resources available it was difficult to make any progress. The new Library Act that came into force in January 2014 included provisions requiring libraries to undertake active dissemination and serve as an arena for interaction and debate.
Since I have no magic powers, I saw that we needed to take some decisive action to ensure that the library could comply with the requirements in the Library Act. As a result of the legal amendment, the Nati onal Library announced extra development grants, and Stordal Public Library received funding for the bold project The library on a roll.
Collaboration a source of strength
The key lies in collaboration across municipal bodies and cooperation with volunteer associations and NGOs. Cultural affairs in Stordal are managed by a team consisting of the head librarian, the public- health coordinator, the volunteer centre and a cultural advisor. We all share the situation of working alone in each of our areas of responsibility, but by collaborating across different agencies we can provide cultural experiences and arenas to our local community.
This community also has a strong tradition for organized volunteer effort. Creative cooperation between the municipal authorities and volunteers has produced positive results. We are building a local community in the way we want it to be. This is how we construct buildings and facilities, and this is also how we raise the position of a library.
Local collaboration partners include the Mental Health organization, Stordal Sports Association and Stordal Hiking Association. The County Library provides financial support to the project and has also served as a helpful and important partner in other respects. The Good Health department in the county administration was also willing to support the project through advisory services. This department embodies competence and resources that we are likely to draw on as the project progresses.
A public health perspective
The Library on a roll project has a particular focus on public health. This follows from Stordal Municipality’s participation in Good Health, a partnership for the promotion of public health in Møre og Romsdal county. The objective is to incorporate concern for public health in all planning and activities. To be honest, this was also a natural consequence of the fact that Stordal Library’s premises were unsuitable for events for adults, and that we hence needed to make use of outdoor areas, sports arenas and other venues while starting a process of redesigning the library premises.
The funding was allocated in April, and the head librarian and the willing helpers have been on a roll ever since. In late June, the project was presented in a leaflet distributed to all households in the municipality. The leaflet provided an overview of the seven events that the library would arrange over the remaining six months of 2014.
In total, the municipality has personnel resources amounting to 56.5 percent of a full-time equivalent devoted to library activities, and even though extra wage costs have been added to the project, the programme must be deemed quite ambitious.
In July, the library arranged two literary stunt performances during the Stordal Cup, both in honour of Alf Prøysen, Norwegian writer and musician. In August, we invited the public to an inspirational evening that included information on how to participate in a reading circle. In August we also arranged two walks with poetry readings held from tree stumps, with more than forty participants in the first walking tour.
The second walking tour competed with another outdoor event, and the weather looked set for rain. Nevertheless, more than thirty people showed up, and in spite of the weather living up to its promises we all agreed that the tour was a success!
On the occasion of World Mental Health Day we issued an invitation to an evening devoted to the stress of everyday life and mental health, and approximately 50 people turned up. The author Marit Kaldhol read her own poetry that focused on children and had a bearing on the topic, and Vibeke L.S. Høgset, who is a psychiatric nurse, held a lecture. The event was a collaboration between Mental Health, psychiatric health workers and the cultural management team.
On a rainy, but mild November evening we had a ‘headlamp safari’ for children accompanied by adults. We walked through the evening darkness to a place where a fire was burning and where there were fairy tales and hot drinks waiting. Approximately fifteen young and old walkers joined in, enjoying the shared experience. The library has 25 headlamps that can be used by those who have no lamp of their own.
The road ahead
In November the library will also invite the public to a full evening of “Exercise, swimming and books”. Here, avid readers can recommend books to each other. This will be followed by a dip in the swimming pool or a brisk walk under the auspices of Mental Health.
Such creative and ambitious leaps can result when a head librarian in a small municipality takes stock of where we stand, where we want to go and what needs to be done to get there. The project has been foreseen to last for two years, and we are hoping for funds from the National Library to continue our activities. Moreover, we are delighted that Møre Savings Bank has decided to sponsor the project in 2015.
Collaboration is a source of strength and vitality! Stordal Public Library is set to remain an active and energetic force in a vibrant local community.