In 2015, the Norwegian Library Association chose to give the prestigious Library of the Year award to Berg Library, a small library in a rural community in Norway.
This award focuses on the societal role of small libraries, and the jury’s statement includes the following passage: ‘Most libraries in Norway are small, and the local library in Berg revives the communal spirit that has always been vitally important in fishing hamlets and rural communities. To participate in shaping the society we live in is a pillar of democracy. On the seaward side of Senja island this pillar rests on a rock-solid foundation: the local library’.
As the only employee of Berg library and with no more than a 34 percent full-time equivalent position, librarian Brita Esaiassen has succeeded in providing first-rate services to the 900 local inhabitants, who represent a number of different cultures and languages.
Local voluntary effort
Here, young immigrants can learn from elderly villagers how to knit mittens, and in the cooking classes everybody learns from everybody else. The cultural events are well attended, and renovation of the premises is taken care of through voluntary community work. All this was achievable through collaboration with local volunteers as well as through cooperation on librarianship with the host municipality of Lenvik, which supplies the chief librarian and more besides.
In small communities where everybody is mutually acquainted and the community spirit has always remained strong, it is perhaps easier to join a community effort and use creative methods to make the best of the available resources, as the people of Berg municipality on Senja island have done.