My Library will be Anti-Facist or it will be Bullshit

Translation of my interview with Erling Bergan, editor of Bibliotekaren (The Librarian), the Norwegian Union of Librarians‘ journal. Link to the original interview: https://www.bibforb.no/biblioteket-ma-vaere-anti-facistisk-ellers-blir-det-bullshit/    

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Are libraries a neutral institution?

Christian Lauersen was to be presenting at the Granitol conference at Gjøvik this winter but injuries after a nasty bike ride prevented him from coming. We still got a chat with him about the role of the library in a society that seems to be increasingly polarized.

You put up for an energetic lecture at the Granitol conference, entitled “My library will be anti-facist or it will be bullshit – why the library is not a neutral institution”. What did you mean by this title?

Yes it was really annoying that I was prevented from coming – I had looked so much forward to debating this highly relevant topic with the Granitol participants. What I mean by the title is simply that the public library should actively consider its role in our society. We should say aloud that we are fighting for a better world and disregarding fascism, nazism, racism, etc. and we must be keen to put act behind the words and convey and promote literature that can enlighten and bridge, create room for debate and dialogue with focus on diversity, inclusion, minorities and the consequences of polarization. And we cannot do that if we take a neutral stand. I believe that the library has a responsibility to make this world a better place to be and live. We only lift that responsibility if we take a clear stand and act. Actually, the question whether the library is neutral or not is close to irrelevant; The library must ensure equal access to information and knowledge for everyone. Is it a neutral point of view? No, it’s a value-laden and political standpoint. The library as a social institution cannot be neutral as I see it.

“I believe that the library has a responsibility to make this world a better place to be and live. We only lift that responsibility if we take a clear stand and act”

You mark opposition to fascism. Are there multiple directions the public library should flag opposition to?

Yes. Fascism is just one of many. It is all directions and currents that suppress, exclude and polarize. Nazism, racism, hate against women, homophobia, etc.

An inclusive room

How can the public library be anti-fascist in practice?

“Anti” puts it a little on the tip. One could also turn it around and use “pro” instead: pro-diversity, pro-democratic, pro-enlightening, pro-inclusive. But practically, most public libraries already do this. By creating an inclusive space with equal access to information and knowledge, the public library is a major pillar in creating a healthy and democratic society. But there is a need to discuss and communicate the library’s role as an active participant in creating a better world, both internally in the sector and towards the citizens and decision-makers. There is also a need to discuss how we put action behind the words in a sensible way. So it’s about formulating the role of the library as a committed and important player in achieving some social goals, moving forward towards inclusion and understanding, and moving away from polarization. Find out and convey literature and resources on minorities, diversity, inclusion, democracy, etc. Support digital education in our post-factual society. Events and debate on the same topics. A New Enlightenment! We should dare to intervene in the public debate and point to the library’s role as a counterpart to polarization and a member of democracy development.

Is anti-fascism meant as a parole for active engagement, or as a delimitation of material and speakers that the library considers to be fascist?

It is meant as a parole for active involvement and for determining the role of the library. Basically, I do not want to exclude anyone from the library, neither people nor books.

“We should dare to intervene in the public debate and point to the library’s role as a counterpart to polarization and a member of democracy development”

No blacklist

So the public library should not have any blacklist of people and organizations that should not be allowed into debates at the library or be represented with books and journals on the shelves?

– It is a good and very central question, which can be difficult to answer. On the one hand, I do not think we should give a voice chair to, for example, racist organizations. On the other hand, it is in the library’s DNA and statutory law to be inclusive and exist for everyone, even for people you are fundamentally disagreeing with. I don’t think one should make any blacklist of people or groups one doesn’t want to get into their library. But one should think about how to create an arena for healthy and democratic dialogue on difficult issues. I can’t imagine a situation where we would give an openly racist organization permission to use the library to promote its message, but I can imagine that a representative of an anti-democratic organization participated in a debate event, creating a room for dialogue on different issues. views. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree, it is always good to discover and hear different views on an issue, including those that are radical or extreme. It is often in the encounter with the radical or extreme that it becomes clearer to us what is right and wrong, and what we ourselves believe in.

So actors on the far right, who otherwise escape the public in society, should not be blacklisted by the library?

No, as I said, I don’t think blacklisting is the way forward. It leads the mind to McCarthyism and it will be very dangerous. But we should be clear about how we set the stage for dialogue between different views – both when we promote literature and when we make programs and events.

“It is often in the encounter with the radical or extreme that it becomes clearer to us what is right and wrong, and what we ourselves believe in”

What characterizes a library that is bullshit?

That it does not take a position on the role it has in society. That it is restrained and neutral to the outside world. That it does not have the ambition to make a positive difference in society.

Take an active position

Is opposition to fascism the most important measure public library can do to avoid a bullshit stamp?

No, fascism is in this case meant as an example of everything one can fight as a library. If your public library is not to be bullshit or irrelevant, it must decide what it wants in the world, what it will work for and fight for. We may well have different views on this, but I expect that we will actively take a position on it.

There are probably many librarians who believe that the public library should be neutral to questions in society. Why are they wrong?

If the library is neutral, it risks being indifferent. The library is a 5.000-year-old institution built on amazing values ​​such as enlightenment, education, life-long learning, inclusion, democracy – values ​​that may be more important than ever. If we do not dare to play it actively in order to make a difference in this world, I think we are failing. The library is a large institution, and with it comes a responsibility.

Is there too much bullshit and too little anti-fascism in Danish public libraries?

I think that the Danish public libraries do a lot of good work in this respect. We could probably be better at telling the story of why we do what we do – actively saying what we think is important, what values ​​we emphasize, what we reject, what we are fighting for. But the public library is of course also a politically controlled organization and it sets some framework for what one says and what one does not say.

“If the library is neutral, it risks being indifferent (…) If we do not dare to play it actively in order to make a difference in this world, I think we are failing. The library is a large institution, and with it comes a responsibility”

A democracy-creating institution

In 2014, a new sentence came into the Norwegian law on the purpose of the Norwegian Library Act: “The public libraries shall be an independent meeting place and arena for public conversation and debate”. It has had great significance in this country. Should the Danish Library Act be changed accordingly?

I really like that wording. In Denmark these days, an audit of the Library Act is being discussed and it might be useful to get something similar. It also shows that the library is more than the materials, which takes a lot of space in the Danish library law. It sets the library as a democracy-creating institution in society

.In January this year, the Independence Party – a new party on the outer right wing – borrowed a meeting room in Bergen’s public library to hold a foundation meeting for a local branch in Bergen. An organization calling itself AFA (Anti-fascist Action) has complained to the library manager, who replies that she has “taken an editorial decision based on the law referring to the principle of freedom of speech. Rejecting the unpleasant voices is contrary to this principle. Then we are no longer a library for everyone. ”The case has been big in the newspaper Bergens Tidende. Would you encounter a similar situation in your library with such an argument?

I cannot comment on the specific case without knowing the circumstances, the party and its principles. But in general I would be concerned if I considered that the party’s principles and values ​​were in fundamental contradiction to the values ​​that I think the library and the society in which the library operates are based. But we should be aware that the library also acts in a political arena, and if it is a legal political party, it sets some limits for what we can and what we cannot do. What I would like to do in such a case was to invite representatives of the party in question to come and participate in a debate event on the opportunities and challenges of democratic society in 2019. It would be to use the library in an open, enlightening and democracy-supporting platform where we set different attitudes and perspectives in the scene.

 

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Travel the world of libraries with Library Planet

It all started with a chat with my wonderful and awesome library buddy, Marie, on how traveling and visiting libraries are such a cool combination. We agreed that the world needed af Lonely Planet for libraries and I threw it out in a tweet

Turned out Marie and I was not the only one that thought that was a good idea.

And so Library Planet was born: https://libraryplanet.net/

Library Planet is like a crowdsourced Lonely Planet for libraries of the world meant to inspire library travelers to open the awesome book that is our world of libraries, cities and countries.

We want to give you a guide to the world of libraries and we want to give you an opportunity to share your experiences with libraries.

Everybody can contribute to Library Planet. See how here: https://libraryplanet.net/contribute/

Libraries are cornerstones in greater and smarter communities. Libraries are about people connecting and growing. Libraries are wonderful and traveling and visiting libraries are one of the best ways to expand your world.

When we got enough of Library Planet stories we want to publish it as a book. Damn right we are!

Library Planet hugs

Christian

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Let’s dance! Thoughts and cases on academic and public library collaboration

Written in collaboration with awesome public library ninja Marie Engberg Eirikkson from Gladsaxe Public Libraries and with contribuation from great library peeps from around the globe. This blog post in on collaboration between public and academic libraries and is meant to grow with new cases and idea, so if you know of a good case or have a good idea sent it to cula [at] roskilde [dot] dk

Ones there was a small tribe in Siberia. The tribe lived, hunted, ate, slept and died together. And they didn’t want anyone to interfere so they isolated them self from the surrounding world and for many years they actual didn’t see or interacted with other human beings outside the tribe (they lived in a really rural and cold place). After living like this for some generations they become extinct; they simply degenerated physical and mentally.

Point of this story? Collaborate or die…

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In Denmark we have a lot of awesome academic libraries and a lot of awesome public libraries and as libraries they are at the same party but they almost never ever dance with each other. They barely even talk. And the mobility of library workers moving between the sectors is very close to zero. So many great folks connected by the core values of libraries that never collaborate, that never learn from each other, challenge each other, develop services together, tell the library story together. It is a shame, it really is. It is a shame because we think academic and public libraries could learn a lot from each other and it is a shame because we think a stronger tie between the sectors would result in actual initiatives and services that would benefit both academia and society.

So it’s easy to say that public and academic cross-sector library collaboration is valuable and important but how to actual do it and how does it actual make a difference? Here is some takes on how we could go about it. We have divided them into overall benefits and actual projects.

Overall benefits  

Communities win

No matter what kind of library we are talking about, libraries are about people. Libraries are a people business and people are what brings libraries together. But often we fail to see the whole life of those people; Public libraries sees different kinds of citizens; Kids, grown-ups, elderly, folks with reading disabilities, refugees etc. Academic libraries see students, teachers and researchers. But all of those people don’t just belong to one category; A student at a university is also a member of a local community and might want to be engaged in cultural or social activities. An engineer working at the local power plant might be in use of some new research results. Dividing library services in public and academic might make sense according to library logic but it often doesn’t to a user logic. As open institution focused on people succeeding public and academic libraries holds a great opportunity to empower people across the public and academic domains. Examples on how to do this later in this post.

Shared values, inspiration and joint-problem solving

We believe that library workers at public and academic libraries share many of the same values. Values as readily, equally, and equitably access to information, diversity and inclusion, education and life-long learning, intellectual freedom, trust and social responsibility seems to be drivers for people in both sectors. Yet we do things differently and difference views are good, so talking about different takes on the library task – both practical and strategical – will be of benefit to all if we are willing to listen and will eventual lead to joint-problem solving and development of services.

Information literacy from cradle to the grave

Almost all libraries, from school to university libraries, deal with supporting of information literacy of their users. While collaboration between school libraries, high school libraries and public libraries are pretty common, and some places even share the same building or staff, the same is not true for public and academic libraries.

In order to make a real impact on society when it comes to digital edification and information literacy we need to stop looking at the user within that silo that is a specific library, and center our forces at supporting and promoting digital skills and a critical sense throughout the whole life of a citizen. This means much closer collaboration and coordination between school, public and academic libraries. An obvious obstacle is that the different libraries belongs to different formal structures in the Danish society and the shutters between those are pretty closed but libraries, as open institutions, should be able to open those shutters. We have an obligation and responsibility to look at the whole life of the individuals in order to make an actual impact supporting digital skills.

A library is a library to most people

We often meet users of libraries who don’t understand that they can’t return books from the public library at the university library and don’t really know – or is interested in knowing – the difference between the types of libraries. To many people a library is library and they like it that way, because they like the library. Is that good or bad? For library professionals it seems really important to distinguish between the types of libraries but if so why aren’t we better at communicating this to our surroundings? Maybe we should focus more on that force of social good that is THE LIBRARY no matter what kind of library that is instead of focusing on where people can return the books. A shared universal story of all libraries might be a better deal for all.

Examples of cross-sector projects and activities  

Shared stacks, shared delivery

ReCAP (The Research Collections And Preservation Consortium) is a HUGE remote stack in New Jersey currently able to holding up to 17 million items facility and is located on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus. ReCAP is a joint-venture between Columbia UniversityThe New York Public Library and Princeton University. More than fifteen million items are currently in ReCAP’s care and they are used to fulfill approximately 250,000 requests for materials each year, from its partners and from libraries around the world. tems housed at ReCAP are requested through the partners’ library catalogs. Requests are processed daily by 3pm, and ship out to Manhattan overnight and twice daily to Princeton. Electronic delivery of articles and chapters is available as well, with requested materials sent directly to members of the partner libraries.

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The ’seamless’ library

In Drammen, Norway, they have established a combined library with three library types under one roof. The library opened in 2007 and is a coalition of three separate library organizations working together: The county library, the municipal library and the university college library. To the visitors the library experience is supposed to be seamless, they should meet one library unit, not three. The aim is to meet all library needs in the life of a user: as a kid, grown up, pupil, student, researcher, senior citizen etc. The idea is brilliant but if Drammen has actual succeed on creating a 100% seamless library experience and to link municipality and the university college, helping to remove any barriers between the two worlds we don’t know. Study trip in the making… Link to Drammen Library: https://www.drammensbiblioteket.no/
Drammen bibliotek3 libraries in one

The public library is knocking on the door to the university class room

The awesome Amy Walduck pointed us towards an upcoming project between City of Gold Coast Libraries (public) and Bond University Library in Australia. Basically Bond have international students (mostly Chinese) who have low level English skills when they arrive to study. They have to complete an English course but the library just doesn’t have the type of resources that the students need and want outside of course materials. The Gold Coast Libraries have eBooks, eAudiobooks and print books in their first language as well as a lot of English as second language resources. The plan is to go into their class, show students what we have and sign them up on the spot.

When you have a community on the rise but don’t have the opputunity to build a public library

In Roskilde Municipality there is a new area on the rise called Trekroner. Buildings are pupping up and the numbers of citizens are growing each month. Obvious Roskilde Public Libraries want to reach out to this new community but there is no public library in Trekroner. A mobil library bus is offered (and very populare) but it is hard to do book clubs, litterature talks and other kinds of community building programs when you don’t have a physical site. But Trekroner is also home of Roskilde University and Roskilde Universty Library so the obvious move choice was to do a partnership with different kind of programs hosted by the public library but taking place in the university library. The programs are open to both the community of Trekroner and students, researchers and teachers at the university so in that way the library partnership also becomes a platfrom for bringing society and acdemia together.

Letter of intent on music, library systems and data exchange

A new collaboration between University Library of Southern Denmark and Odense Public Libraries are on the rise. A letter of intent on enhanced cooperation between the parties has been written and aims to confirm, document and formalize the collaboration that already exists between the libraries and to form a foundation for new partnerships. According to Jane Jegind, founding partner in the collaboration and politician in Odense Municipality,  the purpose is “to ensure a comprehensive and perspective-based library development between two leading knowledge and dissemination institutions within the research and public libraries area in Denmark.”

“The cooperation will strengthen library offerings for citizens and students in Odense and the rest of the region. It allows for better use of existing resources, as well as making joint investments in technology and new offers to users. I also welcome the fact that the letter of intent has grown on the basis of already good cooperation between the parties. There are big gains to pick up by handing out”, says Jane Jegind.

The letter of intent has defined a number of areas of cooperation in which the University of Southern Denmark and the Odense Libraries will assist each other in the future. These are the following areas:

  • The music service with joint operation of the collection, public service and academic cooperation between the Music Conservatory Library and the Odense Libraries.
  • IT collaboration on joint operation of library systems.
  • Cooperation on the development and exchange of data and data-based service areas for the development of library offerings by both parties.
  • Joint efforts on the library service of upper secondary education in Odense and on Fyn.
  • Collaboration on material stock and use of storage capacity, depot and magazine facilities.
  • Study of joint operation of reading room facilities with study facilities in Odense center.

This collaboration really got a sound platform and a great volume so it will be exciting to follow.

Ideas for future collaboration

Fiction as a window to a broader view on education and learning

In Denmark medical students are required as a part of their course load to read fiction to help them understand the point of views of the people they are diagnosing. To see the person behind the disease.

This approach might also be beneficial to people studying administration, political science, to be social workers or other kinds of vocations that bring you in to contact with people in different difficult situations. As public librarians have vast amounts of experience in book talks and knowledge of genres and titles. It might be relevant to students to have public librarians visiting the academic libraries to do book talks and curating small collections of fiction that fit this theme.

Beside helping the student examine other points of view, reading fiction also reduces stress, helps concentration and sleeping patterns. Thing students could benefit from in stressful periods like during exams.

WE WANT MORE!

Know of a good academic/public library collaboration case or just got a good idea? Let’s have ’em so they can be shared, discussed, qualified and maybe inspire others to do the same. Hit us in the commentaries or at cula [at] roskilde [dot] dk

Cheers

Christian & Marie

The Library is everywhere! How Linkoping University Library went pop-up

This blog post is written by Library Lab friends and fellows Anneli Friberg and Maria Svenningsson from Linkoping University Library, Sweden.

Linkoping University Library is working with communication and outreach in diverse ways. One way to interact with users can be the pop-up library. The pop-up concept is nothing new, it has been used for quite a while, by stores, coffee shops and libraries (mostly public libraries, though). At Linkoping University Library we’ve been talking about pop-up for a while and during 2017 we finally realized it.

The main reason for starting with pop-up was that we wanted to be present where our users are, to offer new touch points for them to interact with us at places where they didn’t really expect to find the library. Furthermore, we wanted to be more visible and relevant for new students, employees and for non-users who don’t actively use the library. The closing of one of our libraries at the University’s main campus may have influenced us to start the project, since many students feel that the remaining library is too far away from their natural study areas.

The planning phase – spring 2017

In spring 2017, after we were given a go-ahead and resources from library management, a project group started. We were five colleagues from different working areas, with different skills and perspectives. One of the group members works as a coordinator between the University’s IT department and the library and the other four are librarians. We also encouraged more library staff to join the project because it is important to involve as many as possible when starting a new way to work. We started to brainstorm to find out where to start, when and how.

We wanted to work with Student Library Ambassadors because we thought that student-student learning would be a good idea. Therefore, we tried to engage students that are working at the library as student helpers. This turned out to be easier said than done, since most of them didn’t have that much time to get involved. Luckily there was one student who wanted to be part of the pop-up concept. From her, we learnt a lot about how to book places at campus and where to be at which times. We also got a better understanding for the student organizations at Linkoping University. This was very valuable, and we will cooperate with them more in the continued planning and work with the pop-up library.

We used an idea qualification technique to structure our discussions, by listing the following questions: What? Who? Why? and How? After processing the What? and Who? we started to think about Why and How? We discussed a lot about in which way the library is helpful for students. We wanted to show them what we can offer, for example course literature and lots of nice study areas, both for group studying and quiet reading. We also started to think about the desk we would use for pop-up; should we bring some kind of furniture with us, for example. After some discussions back and forth we ended up with a mobile desk designed from an old book trolley. We also ordered fake tattoos with the text: The Library is Everywhere.

TatueringThis should be a real tattoo

pop-up-diskFrom book trolley to pop-up library

The start – fall 2017

We started to pop-up at the beginning of the semester, in September. Two of our three campus libraries participated in the pilot project: the Valla Library and the library at Campus Norrköping. We found that lunchtime was the best time to pop-up because most students don’t have lectures at that time. They were waiting for food or friends or just hanging around, happy to talk to us. We were inspired by other libraries working with pop-up, especially by an article by James Barnett, Stephen Bull and Helen Cooper from University of Birmingham who tried the pop-up concept in 2014-2015. They experienced that less is more; in other words, don’t bring too many things. We brought the trolley, a laptop, a few books (fiction) and freebies. The tattoos were very attractive, and the students loved them! We also designed flyers with opening hours and gave away free pens and of course we had a fruit basket for hungry students. Very popular! We were thinking about having beach flags to be even more visible, but most times we skipped that. To enhance visibility, staff wore a library t-shirt and a name tag.
pop-up-C-husetThe Library is everywhere – pop-up library in action

Insights and challenges

After testing a few times, we gathered and talked about our experiences. Almost everyone was enthusiastic and felt comfortable with the concept. Some felt a bit unaccustomed with the proactive part of the pop-up concept, that is approaching students. The project group told everyone that the best is to be yourselves, some think it’s easier than others to interact with people. It’s up to you to decide how to work with pop-up. We encountered one rather big practical problem, though. The plan was to roll the trolley outside, to be visible on the way from the library to the place we were going to pop-up. This turned out to be very difficult due to the wheels of the trolley, which weren’t really made for outdoor activities. We will have to change the wheels. Another thing was the laptop, which we had some trouble with in the beginning (difficulties to log in etc.) but we solved that along the way. Sometimes we didn’t even bring the laptop. A lesson learned: don’t forget to use social media to spread the word about what you do and where you are!

What’s next?

In December last year, management decided to prolong the project for a few months. So, the plan forward is during January 2018, we’re planning to pop-up almost every Wednesday at lunchtime. A schedule is prepared where library staff can book themselves. We’re hoping that colleagues, especially liaison librarians, will join the project. We think they will benefit, coming closer to their departments.

Linkoping University organizes so called Welcome Fairs to welcome and introduce new international students to the University. Naturally, we’ll use this opportunity to pop-up there, as well.

At the end of this semester, we will decide whether pop-up should be part of our regular library activities in the future or not. If we decide not to, then at least we’ve had a valuable learning experience.

pop-up-blå-havetThe Library is everywhere – pop-up library in action