Scandinavian Shortcuts


The Pop Up Experimentarium developed by Vesthimmerlands Libraries is an attempt to create both a mobile and flexible learning environment for schools. It is an experiment drawing on the library’s core competencies, source criticism and media skills. Students wearing white coats are working in small laboratories, solving challenges on iPads.

The pop up service is meant to support teaching and learning in context during themed weeks or other learning projects.The pupils will search online using YouTube and other tools under the guidance of a librarian. Issues like web ethics, cyber bullying and digital footprints will be covered on courses being developed at the library.

Danmarks biblioteker 1/2015


Coding Pirates is a few years old Danish concept and association run on a voluntary basis started by Martin Exner. As the activities aimed at 7-17-year-olds build on the notions of fun, creativeness and learning, it is natural that Coding Pirates are spreading to the public libraries. The participants get to try their hand – and minds – on everything from game programming, robotics and 3D printing to creative circuits.

They are not only using IT but creating their own solutions. In Aarhus the Coding Pirates has formed a partnership with the main public library and the University of Aarhus who are offering their support to the volunteers running the activities. The diverse group of volunteers consists of students, IT professionals, teachers and university lecturers. Through the collaboration the library is able to offer a weekly opportunity for around 60 youngsters while the volunteers form a useful network for the library.

Danmarks biblioteker 1/2015


The Danish town of Allerød is testing a 24/7 library. The concept of extending the opening hours by letting registered users in also when staff is not present started in Denmark and has spread to the other Scandinavian countries during recent years. While several university libraries are accessible at all hours, public libraries have remained closed during night-time. The library building in Allerød also houses the local pensioner association whose members often play bridge during late hours. The library wishes to add some hustle and bustle to the town centre by keeping their doors open to the users.

Perspektiv 4/2015


While receiving 41 million Danish crowns for developing their digital services, Copenhagen Public Libraries are facing budget cuts from 2018 onwards. In order to survive (and flourish) the new world order the development goals of the library include targeted services for specific user groups: increased self-service for those who do not need as much assistance so that outreach efforts can be directed at the right groups.

According to librarys development plan, Strengthen the Citizens, engaging users, more activities at the library and longer opening hours are also on the agenda. One way for achieving more effective digital services will be a shared library call center where queries will be directed. Professional staff will be available until 6 pm, with plans of extending the hours to 10 pm by the end of next year.

Perspektiv 2/2015



While traditional ways of using libraries may be declining, libraries are far from deserted in Finland. Last year every Finn visited their local library 9,3 times on average and borrowed 16,8 items. Public libraries offered more than 30,000 events and activities which attracted 812,000 visitors. 26,000 hours of user instruction of different kinds and well over 6,000 exhibitions show how libraries function as community hubs, encouraging lifelong learning, bridging the digital divide, enriching the lives of millions in a country of five million inhabitants.

All in all, the municipal libraries – 291 main libraries, 465 branch libraries and 142 book mobiles – were visited over 50 million times and issued 91 million loans, all this for 58 euros per capita. Budgets were cut on average by 0,8 % but opening hours were on the increase, thanks in part to the open library concept where users are able to access libraries also when staff is not available.

All the data is freely available online and a new visualisation tool makes the statistics even more accessible than before. You can explore the key parameters or build your own by combining the existing data. Users can choose between tables, maps and graphs, timelines and charts, print and download data reaching back to 1999.

The Ministry of Education and Culture website


Spring 2015 has been full of workshops where the future of libraries has been discussed from different angels: accessibility and availability of services, competence requirements of staff, inclusion and engagement of users – and non-users, the well-being of citizens and the library’s role. The participants have been library professionals but also library patrons.

The goal is to gather ideas, inspiration and information for a renewed version of the library act from 1998. A working group consisting of library directors, professionals in library education and futures studies, representatives from state and municipal administration, academic libraries, the Library Association and the Swedish-speaking minority has been set up by the ministry.

Involving the staff in libraries requires work but the real effort lies in engaging the citizens. A combination of workshops, online forums and more informal discussions in social media are going to be used by libraries during the coming year. The new act is expected to come into effect at the beginning of 2017. The Ministry of Education and Culture website


Finns love a good queue and will queue up for almost anything, provided it’s free, it seems. Several businesses from small shops to department stores have managed to create a buzz simply by giving away stuff whether it’s sweets or buckets, free of charge. This year, a handful of libraries were quick to exploit this – quite frankly – strange fascination with freebies by setting up ‘bucket day’ on 1st April. And no, it was not an April Fool’s joke but all borrowers really got a plastic bucket to carry the items they borrowed. The day was covered by national media and the libraries got their message across: free buckets once a year, free-of-charge loans all year round.

Finnish Broadcasting Company news


The new national curriculum for comprehensive schools is ready and being adapted to local level as we speak. In many schools the school library is only a room with a modest book collection without professional staff which is why collaboration with the public library network is important.

In some municipalities, public libraries are self-evident partners, in others, the cooperation does not run as deep. Possibilities abound: the national core talks about critical reading, the importance of experiences and emotions for learning, of multiliteracies and integration of information seeking in context. Phenomenon-based learning will require a lot from both teachers and learners when it comes to information skills – this is where library professionals come into the picture.

In the metropolitan area and in Turku, for example, libraries are represented in curriculum working groups. This cooperation will provide the pupils with adequate skills in finding, using and presenting information, and ultimately, making sense of the world around them.

The same issues are being discussed in Denmark and Sweden, from slightly different angles. The Danish ministers for culture and education both spoke in favour of cooperation between schools and public libraries at a recent conference: if you can collaborate, do!

The Finnish National Board of Education website



A survey of the 19 county library directors in Norway shows the chief librarians to be moderately optimistic when it comes to the future of libraries. While the municipal reform seems to close a number of libraries increasing the distance to the nearest service point for many library users, 80 % of the directors believe the larger municipalities will be better equipped to fulfil the goals of the public library. This will no doubt result in more use of mobile library services.

As public libraries have since 2013 had a legal role as independent meeting places and venues for public debate, it seems only fit that nearly half of the county libraries have organised debates on the municipal mergers. The directors remain cautiously optimistic about the use of the libraries in the future. They believe that in ten years, the proportion of residents who are public library users will be either the same (37 percent of respondents) or higher than today (33 percent of respondents).

Only 5 percent believe the number of users will go down. And how do they think the citizens will use the library in the future? Access to books and other media will still be number one in ten years, followed by library as a social space, library as a place for learning and library as a space for debate.

Bok og bibliotek 2/2015


The Scandinavian social welfare state has steered clear of private funding when it comes to the basic, tax revenue funded services. Conferences, festivals and sports events have built alliances with businesses but public libraries have seldom ventured into any kinds of partnerships with companies.

Now the Oppland County Library has undertaken the task of finding out how libraries could remain neutral and unbiased while attracting additional financing from sponsors. The libraries involved are aiming at sponsorship contracts which could be used in libraries elsewhere in the country. The project is based on the finding that the better the funding the more actively the library is being used.

Bok og bibliotek 2/2015


Once a month, the National Library of Norway hosts a wiki workshop where the public learn more on the subject at hand - and are encouraged to contribute on Wikipedia. The events are often collaborations with outside partners. One of them is the Finnish-Norwegian Cultural Institute who co-operated with the library on the workshop celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Jean Sibelius, the Finnish composer.

National Library of Norway website


The National Library of Norway has appointed a project manager to develop public libraries as meeting places and cultural venues and to coordinate the local and regional projects. The tasks of the project manager include visiting libraries across the country to develop the libraries’ expertise in programming and audience development. The adaptation of library premises and the technical implementation of events are part of the competence areas covered in the project.

National Library of Norway website



While Finland is working toward new library legislation Sweden is implementing the recent library act from last year. The National Library has been commissioned to develop a national library strategy to promote collaboration and quality in the library system across all library sectors.

The strategy will tackle a number of big issues shared by their Finnish – and indeed, of most other nationalities – colleagues: the role of libraries in society, user needs, new media, technological development and national infrastructure being the central themes. Access to information is one of the pillars of a democratic society which is why the national coordination of digital long-term preservation of library materials and the availability of e-books are integral to the strategy.

The National Library blog for library cooperation


Little Castle is an initiative engaging children in the design of their own library services at the Malmö City Library. The aim is to focus on the perspective of the target group: what the child users wish to do at the library, what they think is fun, how they want to use the library space, services and collections.

The library has had valuable help from the Child Culture Design Programme at the Gothenburg University. Rather than being asked about their dream library, the children have been encouraged to describe their dream world. Nature and magical and secret worlds were high on the list. The library has made the pillars at the children’s library look like trees and built tunnels and secret nooks and crannies for the small visitors to crawl into.

With the help of a company specialising in interactive design, the library has come up with digital solutions such as the Curlicue machine where kids can feed their artwork into the machine’s ‘mouth’. The drawings are then projected onto selected locations in the library.

The City Library has also commissioned surveys among non-users and people who rarely visit the library. When it comes to the needs of families results from the surveys, phone interviews and focus groups of parents show that good logistics, babychanging facilities, clean washing rooms and cloak rooms are appreciated.

Biblioteksbladet 3/2015


The Swedish Arts Council is funding Book Start, a new outreach service in three pilot cities, which will encourage parents to read, sing and talk about books with their children. In Landskrona, Gothenburg and Södertälje librarians will make home visits to families with small children.

The visits take place when the children are 6 months and one year old with the aim of encouraging and promoting reading and supporting young children’s language development by offering inspirational book talks and handing out book packages. As many of the families are not native Swedish-speakers information on the project is also available in 13 other languages.

The National Arts Council website


The concept of Living Library, borrowing a person representing a minority or e.g. a lesser known profession for a conversation, is not a new one. The libraries of Hultsfred and Hagfors have introduced a slight moderation where foreign-language users are able to borrow a local Swedish speaker for developing their language skills.

In Hultsfred the users may take their living books home but in Hagfors the pairs gather at the library where they are offered refreshments as part of the library’s language café.

Another form of live materials are being issued in Leksand where the library lends seeds to keen gardeners wishing to grow something new. They are welcomed to return in the autumn with some of their harvest.

Magasin Ping of DIK Association website


Freelance Library Specialist