Partnerships produce strong and relevant libraries

Partnerships are a source of development and strength. Through collaboration with other competence institutions we can build relevant libraries that can fulfil their role in society. This may be difficult, but it is absolutely necessary.
Nursing students studying. Photo: Arne-Harald SteilbuLenvik Library in Troms County, Northern Norway, has been working to establish partnerships for a number of years. In the autumn of 2013, the library was co-located with a variety of competence institutions in the recently established Knowledge Park in the centre of the small town of Finnsnes.

The idea behind the Knowledge Park is based on the need for synergies gained through interaction between the library and other educational, competence and cultural institutions. This was undertaken as a separate project (in 2012–2014) called Shared use and interaction, owned by Lenvik Library with support from the National Library and Troms County Administration.

Lenvik Library is located in the centre of the Knowledge Park, which also includes Finnsnes Study Centre, a facilitator and provider of higher education, as well as the educational and psychological counselling service (PPT), the Educational Centre (PS) and Løkta (The Lantern) which provide counselling and training activities to day-care centres, schools and the health and social services. In addition, the Knowledge Park also comprises Central Troms Museum, the Newton Room, a café and more.

Study Library – partnership in practice

The University Library at University of Tromsø, The Arctic University of Norway, has served as an extremely important collaboration partner to Lenvik Library. With the University Library and the Finnsnes Study Centre we have established separate quality-assured library services for adult students.

The objective of the Shared use and interaction project was: “to develop shared use of and interaction in the provision of library services between Lenvik Library, Tromsø University Library and Finnsnes Study Centre, including establishment of shared solutions in a modern learning environment.”

The concrete result is the Study Library, which provides students with userfriendly, adapted and expanded library services, with a particular focus on the situation of students in decentralized or flexible programmes of study. Most of our student users live and work in the central Troms region, but need basic, ongoing orfurther education.

Study through the Internet 

Many of them are students at Finnsnes Study Centre, which provides types of training and competence-building needed by local industries and communities. All training is provided in collaboration with higher education institutions in Northern Norway, and nursing is the largest programme.

Other student users take courses at university or university college level through the Internet, or they attend socalled session-based training programmes in educational institutions located outside the central Troms region, travelling to on campus sessions for short periods, while living at home for the rest of the time.

Many of these students are able to study because they can do so without having to relocate. Distances are long in our part of the world, but modern technology and locally adapted options nevertheless provide outstanding opportunities.

In this situation, the Study Library assumes a meaningful position, providing access to good places to work, databases and academic literature, and it has also become an attractive place to meet. The Study Library provides help and facilitation in the use of academic resources in collaboration with the educational institutions.

Positive feedback 

The library’s services are being developed collaboratively between library professionals, academic staff, ICT resources and administrators. We schedule training courses in how to search for information when this is relevant for students – not ‘just in case’, but ‘just in time’. We receive stockpiles of academic literature from the University Library, set up displays adapted to the courses being taught, and provide user support for ICT as well as pedagogicalcounselling.

We receive highly positive feedback from the students and teachers. The Study Library plays a decisive role, showing that the local public library can make a difference when collaborating with others and demonstrating an ability to address a community’s needs.

Goal attainment through collaboration

The Shared use and interaction project has also undertaken development work in collaboration with the educational and psychological counselling service (PPT), the Educational Centre and others. The library has initiated systematic collaboration with the PPT, including a shared meeting schedule to identify areas of cooperation, exchange useful tips and undertake dissemination of literature and apps.

Library staff have lectured on library resources, such as adapted books and book packs of material for conceptual learning and reading motivation. Together, the special needs educator and the librarian can counsel the clients and facilitate their learning, and the PPT can order specially adapted literature.

Observing these concrete gains from collaboration is highly rewarding. Librarians have also joined the Educational Centre to provide training courses in how to use school libraries. These two institutions benefit from each other’s competence and collaborate in arranging training courses and events. Here too, we can observe the joint attainment of goals that we achieve by working together across sectors and levels.

Reinforcing social role of libraries 

We have seen that collaboration produces synergies and helps reinforce the libraries s institutions. The relevance of our services is constantly being put to the test, and we can reach out to a higher number of users – private individuals as well as professionals. Partnership requires libraries to act professionally. The services that we provide must respond to social needs, be of high quality and marketed professionally.

The OECD Skills Strategy Diagnostic Report (2014) states that Norway has capable competence actors, but needs to increase the interaction between them in order to reap their full effect. This will remain one of the main challenges that Norway will face in the years to come. Their free position and role in the cultural and knowledge sector provide the public libraries with unique opportunities to serve as an arena for interaction.

This provides some very intriguing opportunities for development of the libraries. We need more research, experience and models for collaboration between the institutions, and we need active libraries that dare to try out new ways to reach their goals and play the social role that has been assigned to them.

Chief Librarian Lenvik Municipality