As one of the ILN program coordinators, I’m passionate about the chance to build my professional network around the world. As such, I participated in the recent round of the ILN and was matched with a librarian from Copenhagen, Denmark. My husband and I decided that we’d escape the blistering Sydney summer at the end of the year and instead travel to Copenhagen in winter, which meant that I could meet my ILN partner in real life, and see her workplace! It’s a simple thing, but being able to meet locals and see real lives when travelling is an enriching experience.
Rebekka, my partner, works at Hvidovre Library, just to the south west of Copenhagen city. Hvidovre is a challenge for an Australian to pronounce, and is an area with interesting demographics. There’s a wide variety in Hvidovre and the neighbouring suburb of Avedøre – there’s lots of people that aren’t in the workforce, but this is for a variety of reasons. There’s wealthy people raising children, early retirees, unemployed people, migrants, and bored teenagers causing trouble. Providing services for this group, and providing a safe and comfortable environment, is a challenge.
I met Rebekka at Hvidovre Library on Friday 2nd January, a day in which most child care centres hadn’t yet reopened for the year. The children’s section was packed, and wonderfully noisy, although the library layout meant that the noise was well-contained. The library’s collection is wonderfully varied, and the furnishings modern – there was a great music listening pod.
Like libraries in Australia, Danish libraries are seeing a general decline in the use of print resources and increasing use of online resources and in-library services, but there are some exceptions – Hvidovre library offers books in many languages, and on the day I was there they were waiting on several crates of English books ordered on a recent visit to London. I’m not sure I succeeded in convincing them that they needed a purchasing trip to Sydney.
We walked from Hvidovre Library to Avedøre Library, a gorgeous new library that’s been struggling to make a difference in a difficult area. The library is housed in an old school, which has had a modern conversion into a community centre with wonderful facilities. To me it looked like a dream conference space. But recently there had been some anti-social behaviour from a small group of local kids, meaning that the library’s opening hours and some services had been curtailed for security reasons. This was so disappointing, and I could see how frustrated the staff were that their efforts to help the local community were being damaged by a small number of people. The library itself was fantastic, with patron-centred displays and a very hands-on feel. While it was quiet on the day I was there, I was assured that, within a week, the place would be bustling again.
I’d like to thank Rebekka for taking the time to show me her work environment. We talked a lot about current strategies for public libraries in Denmark, and it was interesting hearing about some of the differences when working with a non-English collection (including the Danish customised MARC standards, called, hilariously, DanMARC). I love being able to use the ILN to get myself invited into a strange new library on the other side of the world!
-Alyson Dalby, ILN Program Coordinator