What American Youth Librarians can Learn from the Danish Library System: Fun as a First Priority

Happy November, readers! Although summer is now just a glittering memory for most of us as fall settles in, I remain excited and inspired by the experiences I had while visiting Copenhagen, Denmark in late August and September.

denmark
Our travel group!

One of the most exciting and important portions of the trip was a visit to the city of Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark and the home of Dokk1, the most innovative and unique library I have had the fortune to visit. Dokk1 (pronounced DOC-EN if you’re Danish, or DOC-ONE if you’re American – it means “the Dock” because of the building’s location on the harbor) perfectly represents the Danish value of fun and “hyyge” – coziness. The library, completed in 2015, was built to be the living room of the city, and they accomplish this particularly well with respect to their children’s collections and spaces.

 

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Dokk1 at night on the harbor.

The children’s area in Dokk1 is imaginative, fun, spirited, and completely different from every American library I’ve visited. The area has dress-up clothes (not just in children’s sizes either!), climbing gyms, and video games. The library was relatively quiet when I visited, but the tour guide assured us that it can get quite loud, and they actually encourage that! The library is surrounded on all sides by a globally inspired playground, with different areas representing various countries of the world: a bear slide stands for Russia while a climbable eagle points toward the USA.

 

 

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The bear of Russia, surrounded by happy Danes!

 

The space in Dokk1 works hard to be there for all the members of the Aarhus community, and they fully include children in that ideology. Children feel, from the cradle into adolescence, that they are accepted and welcomed into community spaces.  This is in contrast to what can often feel like repressive, quiet spaces in American public libraries.

So what can we learn as future children’s librarians – we may not have the benefit of working in Dokk1 or a similarly family- or children-friendly facility, but I believe that we can all incorporate the welcoming spirit, openness, and creative use of community space that Dokk1 has made so central to their mission. If we can take even just a small piece of that Danish ability to welcome noise and chaos into our otherwise orderly library lives, I think we can create a whole new generation of library-loving kids.

 

Thanks to everyone who came to the iYouth Welcome meeting last Wednesday!

The professional panel had some wonderful tips for the incoming year of MLIS students. For those who missed the meeting, here is a roundup of what was discussed. The next iYouth simulcast meeting on Adobe Connect will be recorded so that anyone can watch it at a later date.

Our panel:

From left to right: Claire Scott, Erin Sterling, Eliza Dresang

Claire Scott works at the Northgate Branch of the Seattle Public Library as a public children’s librarian. She would like to join iYouth later in the year for a Children’s Literature Pub Quiz. Claire.Scott@spl.org

Erin Sterling works as a school librarian at Eckstein Middle School. She is a recent alumna of the University of Washington MLIS program. emsterling@seattleschools.org

Eliza Dresang is the Beverly Cleary Professor in Youth Services at the University of Washington iSchool; she teaches many library related children and teen classes. edresang@uw.edu

Tips and Resources

  • Katie Davis, a UW iSchool professor, is teaching a new course this spring on child/teen brain development in regards to information.
  • Journals like Voice of Youth Advocates – VOYA (http://www.voyamagazine.com/) and School Library Journal (http://www.slj.com/) are great publications to keep up to date with new books and information in the field. You can gain free access to these journals online through the University of Washington or VOYA’s digital version.
  • Join professional organizations and the associated divisions at reduced student rates to network. Get the bonus of going to conferences at student rates. For ALA (American Library Association) join groups such as YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association), AASL (American Association of School Librarians), and ALSC (Association for Library Services to Children). For WLA (the Washington Library Association join the CAYAS (Children and Young Adult Services) interest group.
  • As a student get a two for one student rate to your state organization, such as WLA (Washington Library Association) and ALA (American Library Association) http://www.ala.org/groups/joint-membership-program. If you call the membership number you may still be able to get the single rate deal as a student all year (even though it says the deal has expired online).
  • To join WLMA (Washington Library Media Association) as a UW iSchool student for free, email Lorraine Bruce (lbruce@uw.edu). She will probably forward you to Pat McKinley (pamckinley@directv.net) for registration.

If you have any questions about anything discussed, please email iyouth.info@gmail.com and we will get back to you as soon as possible. 

Importance of Libraries and Community

We know this importance, we held a conference about it–but now it’s in the news. Read this LA Times article for more information. 

From the article: 

“The role of libraries — as it is now and as it has ever been. Certainly, they are repositories for books, even if (in my least favorite bit of data here) 20% of respondents think print titles should be moved “out of public locations to free up space for other activities.”

But more to the point, they are community centers — not just for neighborhoods but also for the community of ideas. Libraries are places where readers and writers can come together, where we can have a conversation, where books and literature are not relegated to the margins but exist, as they ought to, at the very center of public life.”

Five Days Until the 2013 iYouth Conference!!

It’s not too late to sign up for our fantastic iYouth Conference, featuring workshops, panels, trainings, a book signing, and more! Click here to register! 

You can find the calendar here and some session summaries. Come help us celebrate diversity, community-building, libraries, reading, and kids!

We hope to see you there!