A. S. Steenberg: Public libraries in Denmark. 1910.

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 A. S. Steenberg.

Public libraries in Denmark



LIBRARY work in Denmark is so much behind that done in England, that it can only be of comparatively little interest for English librarians to read about it. Denmark does not offer the same conditions for the development of large libraries as England. Of our 73 towns with a total of 500,000 inhabitants, only a have more than 40,000, 53 less than 10,000 and among these 40 less than 5,000. In the rural districts there live 1,500,000 people, 40 to the square kilometre. There live in Copenhagen with its suburb Frederiksberg 500,000 ; but owing to special circumstances this large city has not, like the large cities in England and America, taken a leading part in the library movement.
The last few years, however, have brought some new ideas and facts, which may be of interest to librarians in England.
From the figures given above it will be easily understood that the most prominent part in the library movement is played by the small libraries. It is therefore of the greatest importance that the public should be taught how best to arrange such libraries. During the summer of agog there was held in Aarhus, Jutland, an industrial, agricultural, and art exhibition, in connexion with which the Danish Union of Architects had built a "model village" with the view of promoting the taste of architecture in such villages as are constantly springing up round new railway stations Among the buildings erected in this village was a lecture hall and public library, the lecture hall standing with one gable?end to the street, and the library building forming a wing to it, with a garden in front. The library contained one large reading?room, with a reference library (150 vols.), a lending library for adults (900 vols.), and another for children (200 vols.), both of them arranged on open shelves, besides a variety of newspapers and magazines. A simple classification with author marks and shelf marks was used. There were two card catalogues, one classified, the other dictionary. On the cards were noted the nationality of the authors, the years of their birth and death, and the pronunciation of foreign words occurring in the title. On the walls of the room were hung maps of Aarhus town and its environs, a bulletin board, portraits of Danish authors, and pictures of places famous in the history of Danish literature. The tables and bookcases were decorated with flowers in earthen urns made by the village potter. A special library had been arranged for the use of the officials connected with the exhibition. The library was very much used; not only the chairs in the reading-room, but every seat on the benches in the garden being often taken up by the readers.
In a room adjoining the reading?room was a small exhibition showing the development and present state of Danish libraries.
In the lecture hall was held on 3rd and 4th August the first Danish Library Conference, which numbered 150 members, representatives of scientific as well as popular libraries, most of them being of the latter class. At this Conference the present state of our libraries and schemes for improvements in their organization were discussed. The Conference resolved upon submitting to the Minister of Public Instruction a proposal to appoint a committee to consider and report upon the organization of the Danish libraries outside Copenhagen. It is hoped that this committee will be able soon to begin its work. The Conference also discussed the training of librarians and a plan to provide an index to Danish magazines.
In 1905 the Danish popular libraries formed an association named " Danmarks Folkebogsamlinger ". The libraries pay for membership on a sliding scale in proportion to the size of the library. Also private persons can be members if approved by the directors. This association has done much good work.

By agreement with the Danish association of booksellers it has obtained 25 per cent. discount on all books sold to subsidized popular and children's libraries (these children's libraries are connected with the public popular schools, which are municipal institutions). It has caused a great many lectures to be given on library management. It publishes a library journal (" Bogsamlingsbladet "). By arrangement made with the State Library in Aarhus, which in some respects is working much on the same lines as the public libraries in England, the State Library sends to the popular libraries small collections of books (fiction excluded) for a term of two months, and to the leaders of small libraries also books of fiction for seven days to help them in making a selection of books for their library.
In August, 1909, the Minister of Public Instruction for the first time appointed an adviser in library matters. Among other duties he has to assist libraries belonging to other State departments, such as libraries in the hospitals and prisons. He is also chairman of the State Committee for the Subvention of Libraries. It is hoped that this committee will open an office in Copenhagen in May, 1910.