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:    

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.



Tune in and turn it up: List of library related podcasts


It took me a little while to get hooked on podcasts but now I’m all in; I listen to podcasts about Danish rap history, football, crime stories, cycling, food etc. And libraries of cource.

A while back I made the list of library related hashtags and library themed songs which seemed to be of great joy to people around Library Town so I’ve decided to compile a list of library related podcasts as well – there are some really good ones out there.

List of library related podcasts (please ping me if you got a great podcast to the list)

Turbitt & Duck – The Library Podcast by Sally Turbitt and Amy Walduck
Stories from amazing people who do amazing things in libraries and beyond from Australia and the rest of the world

 Librarians Aloud by Laura Rooney Ferris
Independent podcast by librarians for library & information professionals. Each episode features a guest from the information profession telling their origin story, sharing insight into their career path and discussing the future of information and knowledge sharing and discovery

Circulating Ideas by Steve Thomas
Circulating Ideas is an interview podcast with library professionals on various subjects. 150 interviews is up to this date

Banned Library Podcast
Podcast about books and movies that has been banned at some library at some point in history

Librarians with Lives by Jo Wood
Thoughts and talks about continuing professional development

Road to Open Science Podcast by Utrecht Young Academy
Podcast about Open Science and what it can do for research? The podcast follows the path to open science through the perspective of researchers (not librarians)

Librarians Unhushed by Bella Vista Public Library
Talks about books, movies, life in a library and a lot of other stuff

Better Library Leaders by Sarah Clark
Thoughts and talks about library leadership

Dewey Decibel by American Library Association
Monthly podcast featuring conversations with library professionals, authors, scholars etc. on a huge range of subjects

Book Squad Podcast
Join Lawrence Public Librarians and Book Squad members Polli Kenn and Kate Gramlich for some bookish banter straight into your ears

Library Matters
Podcast of Montgomery County Public Libraries. Each episode we explore the world of books, libraries, technology, and learning

Shout for Libraries
Podcast about librarians and the issues that matter to them on CJSR

Lost in the Stacks
Music, interviews, and library talk united by a common theme picked by staff from Geogia Tech Library

The Pod(y) in the Library by Matt Imrie
A podcast about being a librarian, books and anything else to do with Libraries

Library Land Loves
Library Professionals are passionate about a lot of things. Be it the pop media they consume or the databases that drive their libraries, Library Land Loves A Lot!

Public Libraries Online by Public Library Association (PLA)
Podcast about issues and topics that matter to public libraries and public librarianship. PLA is a subdivision to American Library Association

The Librarian Is In
The Librarian Is In is the New York Public Library’s podcast about books, culture, and what to read next

Cook Memorial Public Library Podcast
Podcast that features book recommendations, library news, discussions, author interviews, local history stories, and a whole lot more

Swedish podcast from Chalmers Library on work with User Experience (UX) in libraries. Most episodes are in Swedish but some are also featured in English

Reading with Libraries
Two-fold podcast by Central Minnesota Libraries Exchange: 1) Chat about books, and to have fun doing it! 2) Help library people in their Reader’s Advisory work!

Linking our Libraries
Podcast about leadership and library skills training by Central Minnesota Libraries Exchange

Book Bites Quickie Podcast
Quick 5 min diskussions on books by while you are waiting for your pizza. Made by Central Minnesota Libraries Exchange

Yarra Libraries Podcast
All about libraries podcast from the City of Yarra, Australia

Shelve Under
Podcast by Toronto Public Library with monthly discussions with writers, public figures, library workers and other notable people

Live Mic: The best of Toronto Public Library Conversations
Conversations with some of today’s best-known writers, thinkers and personalities

Library Figures
Podcast about library marketing and outreach

Nonsuch University Librarynth
In the fertile lands of green and leafy Surrey is situated the world-renowned Nonsuch University (est. 1542), at the heart of which lies the magical and mysterious Librarynth, a place of spooky shenanigans and paranormal creatures that serves Nonsuch’s student population. Join the library staff in their trials and tribulations in our fortnightly podcast about the weird goings-on at this fine Tudor institution.

Library and GLAM interviews from Australia made by newCardigan

All things GLAM

Overdue Finds
Podcast by Edmonton Public Library with conversations about books, movies, music, pop culture and other great things happening in Edmonton

Dear Reader
Podcast by Melbourne Libraries with reading recommendations and chatter about books, hosted by Bern and Louise

Desert Island Books
Catch up with Melbourne identities as they share what they would read on their desert island, hosted by Natalie Mason

No Librarians Allowed
A podcast about libraries, technology, and people at the center of them. Thoughtful, in-depth conversations with real humans who use tech and libraries

VU Library Live Podcast
A talk show and podcast featuring interviews with researchers, lecturers and field experts from Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, about new developments in academia

So what?
A podcast about library and information science research and why it matters

Know of a great library related podcast that should be added to the list? Don’t hesitate to ping me

Cheers from Christian



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:

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:

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



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…


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.


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:
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.


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


Christian & Marie

A human chain around a true community friend: The library staff

September 15 is The Roskilde Libraries birthday and every year we celebrate by inviting old and new employees for cake and coffee. This year we celebrated on October 22 and at this occasion I did a little birthday speech about The Arab Spring, a human chain in Alexandria and how staff is the single most important asset of any library.

Welcome to The Roskilde Libraries birthday. I would like to take this opportunity to tell you a story. It is a story that in its turn is both cruel and poetic. It’s December 17 2010 and we are in the Tunisian city of Sidi-Bouzid. Here we find a man named Mohamed Bouazizi. He makes a living of selling fruit on the street, but since he has no license to sell fruit, the police seize his fruit truck. Bouazizi is a desperate man and when the police seize his fruit truck they deprive him of his livelihood. Bouazizi does something very radical. He sets fire to himself in protest against the police, the system and the regime and this act gives spark to The Arab Spring and the entire Middle Eastern world is hit by series of pro-democracy demonstrations.

The demonstration came to clashes between citizens and police and military, the existing systems collapse and in continuation of the violent demonstrations and increased pressure on the established systems, lawlessness prevails. Robbery and vandalism of public buildings, museums, hospitals and schools are taking place. This is also the case in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. Everything is chaos and the city is being completely torn apart. Out of the chaos, a group of people gathers, they take each other by the hand and form a human chain around a particular building. The building is The Library of Alexandria. In the two weeks where the riots are on, the human chain stands tall and when the disturbances drive over, not a single window is broken in the library, not a single book is stolen.

The human chain around The Library of Alexandria

This is a very powerful story to me and I think there are two things in this context that are important. The first must be found in The Arab Spring as a revolution. The Library stands for all the achievements of The Arab Spring: Democracy, Freedom, Transparency, Inclusion, Diversity. For me, the human chain in Alexandria is the ultimate tribute to the library’s function and justification in a society. And then it’s important to remember, that the human chain that formed around the library was a guard of the building, the collection, but very much also a guard for the library’s most important asset; The people who work there. The people who make a positive difference every day to the communities they earn.

So when we celebrate The Roskilde Libraries birthday today, it’s in fact the celebration of former and present employees who all have made and make a difference for the citizens of Roskilde Municipality and made it a better place to live. And if we were ever to be hit by a Zealand Spring I’m confident that a human chain would form around our libraries to protect the institution you have helped created.

Thank you

bib3_0Happy birthday, Roskilde Libraries! You are an magnificent friend to the community 

Changing lanes: Moving from academic to public libraries (new job)

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
– Winnie-the-Pooh

After 8 utterly awesome and rewarding years with The Royal Danish Library / Copenhagen University Library it was the time for something new. From September 1st I will take on the position as director of libraries and citizens services in Roskilde Municipality


The Roskilde Libraries are a wonderful library organism with one main library and 5 branch libraries, citizens services, 3 archives, a mobile library (a very very cool and colorful bus) and serves as central library for the region of Zealand and Bornholm (which means providing of materials and coordinating of library and skill development together with the municipalities in the region). All in all around 140 employees are with the libraries and citizens services in Roskilde.

Roskilde Municipality has 85.000 citizens and holds a reputation as a community that prioritize culture highly. There is a long and strong tradition of collaboration between libraries and the other institutions of culture, education, learning and experiences in the community. And then Roskilde is the home of one of my all time fave venues; The annual Roskilde Festival.

As director of libraries and citizens services I will join the leadership group of City, Culture and Environment and it’s expected that you don’t just deal with libraries but also put energy in developing the community in a broader sense which was one of the things I found appealing about the position.

Lots of stuff is going on with the libraries in Roskilde these days, months and years: The main library in Roskilde are gonna get a new main entrance so it will be more integrated with the upcoming ‘Street of Culture‘ which is gonna run parallel with the main downtown street in Roskilde. A new House of Culture for Children which is run by the library will open in the end of August. A totally new branch library is being build in Viby Zealand and a potential new library is on the rise in Jyllinge. Besides that it seems to be an extremely dynamic organization with high degree of performance, collaboration and development.


I truly believe that in order to continuously grow – both professional but also as person – we need to move ourselves sometimes. At least I do. I’ve been so happy with my carrier with The Royal Danish Library but never imagined that I should be in the organization forever and this was a chance to try something completely new, take a step up the leadership ladder and then it is just an awesome job and a great opportunity.

Also, over years I’ve been advocating about the importance of a higher degree of sector mobility between academic and public libraries (the mobility is close to zero in Denmark). I believe a higher mobility will foster more collaboration between the sectors which would benefit both students, researchers and citizens but also because I think that public and academic libraries can learn so much from each other. By this move I feel that I walk the talk and I will do what I can to promote actual collaboration between public and academic libraries.

I am looking forward to learn about public libraries, citizens services and the community in Roskilde. To advocate the value and importance of public libraries in our societies on national and global level. To meet all the people and try to make Roskilde a better place to live. And to learn more about myself.

Obvious I will keep on blogging about my new library life. Also follow along on Twitter and Instagram for all the new library adventures.



Yours truly in front of the main library in Roskilde

Do not be silenced. How opinion formers gives the library debate diversity and more voices

The Danish Union of Librarians has made a bold and important move, which I want to share with you. But first, let me tell you a story some of you might already know:

President John F. Kennedy was visiting NASA headquarters for the first time, in 1961. While touring the facility, he introduced himself to a janitor who was mopping the floor and asked him what he did at NASA. The janitor replied, “I’m helping put a man on the moon!”

I like this little story because it reminds me that we are all ambassadors for telling the purpose and value of our institutions, from top management to the janitor who mops the floor. However, it is not enough to know the vision and the value of libraries or whatever institutions you are a part of – it is crucial that we also got the skills and the tools to communicate it to the surrounding world. In the daily tsunami of information and a jungle of communication channels, that does not necessary come easy. It takes courage, awareness and a certain skill-set to stand up and communicate a case so people listen and understands your message.

The Danish Union of Librarians has taken responsibility for trying to bridge their members with methods and skills to influence the public debate by establishing an “Education for Opinion Formers” (sorry, no English version of the program available at this time that I can link to).

The Education for Opinion Formers is a three-day course aiming at giving librarians and library workers the skills, tools, insight and courage to participate and interact in the public debate on behalf of libraries. The Opinion Formers will learn to:

  • Write piece of debate to newspapers and other medias with clear points and language
  • Get tools to communicate to others from the standpoint at one’s own profession and values
  • Tell stories so people listen
  • Grow a network of peers who want to join the voice for libraries

The education is developed in collaboration with the Think Tank Cevea that also facilitates the program.

Being an Opinion Former: “… the discussions about where the library is heading needs more diversity and more voices”

The first Education for Opinion Formers launched by end of January 2018 and the first 11 Opinion Formers is ready to raise their voices and have already done so. I have talked to one of the new Opinion Formers, Marie Engberg Eiriksson, librarian at Gladsaxe Libraries, Denmark:

Why did you join the opinion formers?

I think that the discussions about where the library is heading needs more diversity and more voices.

I feel like the public debate over the last few months has painted a picture of crisis in the public libraries, and working in a public library, I do not recognize that picture at all. The library is changing with society and is more relevant than ever. I want to contribute to a more diverse picture of what libraries do by being an active voice in the public debate.

What tools did you get from the education and have you used them yet?

The education so far has contained three parts. Inspiration and brainstorming, writing and feedback, and knowing the different publications or types of media.

I think some of what I took away from this part, was that you do not always get to the same conclusion because you have the same facts. In this genre it’s ok to say, this is my opinion and it is formed by my experiences as a librarian. I also took away tools to build a good piece and a compelling argument, based on personal experiences from my work life and how to angle a piece to hook on to a current event, debate or existing discussion.

It was helpful to get an idea of what formats are available in the relevant publications and how to adjust your piece if it get’s rejected and send it to another publication. It seems trivial when I am writing it, but I don’t think I would have thought about doing that.

Finally, there were different presentations about challenges that libraries face in 2018.

The goal after the first weekend workshop was that everybody had a piece ready to send before we left.

The workshop was a month ago. About 60% of the first pieces, including mine, were accepted by a publication and most of them to national newspapers.

One participant got invited to do a radio show and another to be part of a panel at a conference, based on the pieces they wrote. So, I think we are off to a really good start.

Any advice to peers who want to engage in public debates about libraries?

First of all, I was amazed that so many of us got our first piece accepted. And it certainly made it less daunting to write the next one. I want to say it’s because we are all brilliant, but maybe it’s just not as hard to get a piece accepted as I thought.

The training was good, but the essential part for me, was having the conversations and the feedback with the rest of the group while I was writing.

My best advice would be to try to find someone to work with. It doesn’t have to be somebody you agree with or somebody with the same interests, just somebody who would be willing to read your things and give you their opinion.

We live far apart, so we started a Facebook group and are talking about starting a blog to try and keep each other engaged and productive. The feedback and inspiration and the encouragement from the rest of the group is really a motivator for me.

An Opinion Former. Marie Engberg Eiriksson

Impact and perspectives

7 pieces has been published in the first two months after the 11 Opinion Formers ended there education. 5 of them in national newspapers. The subject being covered has been on the value and purpose of the public library, the danish law of libraries, the library as catalyst for social balance, the importance of well-staffed libraries, librarians in the literary debate and libraries importance in helping citizens with reading difficulties. Following the pieces some of the Opinion Formers has been invited to participate in radio and conferences.

The impact has been significant in the first few months. The range of subject covered has been diverse and the quality of pieces has been high. The voice of libraries in Denmark has grown stronger.

Some people are born to be an opinion former but many are not. It takes courage and specific skills to engage in a debate and communicate your views so people understand them. It’s not about winning the debate by proving you are right – it’s about making sure your viewpoints are understood. In general and in times where libraries are under pressure (at least in Denmark) we need voices who can engage in the debate of the value and purpose of libraries. Who has viewpoints and opinions and are able to communicate them in a public forum. The Education for Opinion Formers give people those tools and methods and not least, it gives the courage and belief that it is possible to engage and affect the public debate.

I hope many unions, organisations and library advocates across the world will get inspired by the concept of The Opinion Formers and will do something on their own. The library needs voices to raise a sound and constructive debate on libraries now and in the future. And remember, we all have a voice and we all have an obligation of being an ambassador and opinion maker for libraries, anywhere, all the time.



Meningsdanner07The 11 opinion formers. Photo by Heidi Lundsgaard