My short journey to local libraries in Aarhus: A library is more than a place.
This is the second episode of my internship at Dokk1. In this story, I reflect my thoughts after visiting local libraries in Aarhus of Denmark.
Hi there, it’s me again.
For readers who haven’t read my previous episode, I introduce shortly about myself. I am from South Korea who have studied Learning, Education and Technology in Finland. I am currently based in Aarhus in order to intern at Dokk1. Dokk1 is the Main Library Aarhus in Denmark and it has drawn attention from around the world with its unique and innovative citizen services as well as a jaw dropping architecture. In this organization, my main job is to create and to design workshops or programs to encourage citizens into learning technology.
Visiting local libraries in Aarhus:
While working for my internship, I have heard often from my colleagues that I should visit local libraries in Aarhus because they are quite different than Dokk1. Fortunately, opportunities were given to me to have a tour to the Gellerup Library and the Viby library. (Also, I will visit the Risskov Library next week.) There is one lesson that I learned after visiting the libraries so that I am sharing the story in this episode.
1. The first journey to the Gallerup Library : Seeing was not enough!
The Gallerup Library is located in the village where many immigrants reside on the outskirts of Aarhus. As soon as I visited the library, it was distinct to recognize what the difference is. In retrospect, the difference that I found was very limited due to the lack of understanding in the library sector. It was all relevant with visible elements such as interior design and book displays.
“Seeing-is-believing is a blind spot in man’s vision.” — by Buckminster Fuller
After visiting the Gallerup Library, I felt my knowledge about the library was confined by what I had seen at Dokk1. It reminded me a quote from American architecture Buckminster Fuller. He said that “seeing-is-believing is a blind spot in man’s vision.” and it was exactly about me.
It was necessary for me to change the topic of the library tour and to overcome the superficial understanding with respect to libraries in Denmark. Further, I thought that the better I understand libraries in Aarhus or in Denmark — either micro or macro perspective, the better ideas or projects I will be able to suggest for users in Dokk1.
2. The second journey to Viby library to find the value of libraries in Denmark
Yesterday was the day when I visited the Viby Library as the second journey of the local library tour. The Viby Library is situated not far from the Aahrus city center. It is small compared to Dokk1 (of course) but cozy enough to spend time hanging around by reading books and playing with children. Also, I saw many drawings hanging on the walls.
After looking around the library, I had small talk with Hans Jørgensen a librarian in the Viby Library. It was very meaningful 30 minutes.
I prepared several questions to ask to Hans, which is not surprising after learning the lesson from the previous experience in the Gellerup Library. To make a long story short, the questions were mostly to figure out the core meaning of libraries for Danes. Hans dropped me three key words; life-long learning, højskole, and lastly, N.F.S Grundtvig. The visit to the Viby Library helped me to get closer to the main philosophy behind the Danish libraries as well as its key value to Danish.
2.1. The root of Danish libraries
Hans said that the libraries in Denmark are closely related with the concept of life-long learning. According to him, the life-long learning in Denmark is rooted from højskole. At this point, let me briefly introduce about højskole.
Højskole can be put as a sort of high school without formal examination in other words. It is known as Folk High School in English. The idea of højskole is originally from back in 18th and 19th century by N.F.S Grundtvig who was one of the most influential figures in Danish history. Basically, Grundtvig emphasized two things in education. First of all, education should be accessible to all people no matter how they are rich or not. Second, individual should develop their own interest or talent and learn by talking with each other. People need to their voice out and to be able to say one’s thought coherently with others in community. After all, people can become a better person and a better citizen in demographic society.
2.3. A library is more than a place.
The visit to the Viby Library took me to the past to get to the root of Danish libraries. The stories about højskole and Grundtvig were interesting and helped me understand what libraries mean to Danes as well as how they function in Danish society.
I could grasp why it has been easy to find meeting rooms, halls and activities in diverse genre including music, art, knitting and so on in Danish public libraries (also in other Nordic countries’) — those elements were hard to find in South Korean libraries indeed. A library in Denmark is more than just a place where people read books or study without noise. It is a community where heterogeneous interests and abilities can be met and flourished. It is a source where Danish society can be developed further in accordance with the needs of the times.
3. Now it’s time to apply what I learned!
During the last week, I have struggled with my last mission which will be suggested to Dokk1 before completing my internship. The mission is about developing ideas in order to find the practical roles of Dokk1 to support citizens to take initiative for sustainability of Aarhus.
I have had too many ideas to focus on. It was seriously challenging to go further. Thinking back, I didn’t quite get what the core value of library is so that I lost final destination to reach out. Fortunately, the visit to the Viby Library gave me a hint how I can approach this project!
Despite the short time of visiting to the Viby Library, I was so happy to have food for thinking from there.