Danish public library legislation

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Danish public library legislation

Director of the State Inspection of Public Libraries

Denmark's first Act on public libraries appeared in 1920 although, of course, the libraries had already been in existence for a long time. Throughout the country, associations, private persons and munici-palities had established libraries for the purpose of giving the popu-lation access to all kinds of reading matter. By legislating, the State recognized the importance of the libraries. The 1920 Act was the beginning of the road that was to lead the public libraries from their original status almost as libraries for the common people to their present day status as libraries not just for some of the people but for all of the people.

From voluntary local initiative to obligatory library
The 1920 Act developed in step with the libraries. Numerous amend-ments were made to the Act, but most of them were of a rather unimportant nature. Right up to the revision of the Act in 1950, the establishment of a local public library was a voluntary matter. The municipalities had absolutely no obligations in the area. Under the Library Act of 1950 on the other hand, the municipalities were re-quired to make adequate grants for the maintenance of an existing library. This was expressed in section 3 of the Act as follows: "A pub-lic library shall receive from the municipality a sum of such a size that this, in connection with other local grants and the State grant, is suf-ficient to maintain a library that can be approved in pursuance of this Act". The Act also directed the county councils to make grants to the public libraries having regard to the needs of these libraries.

The 1950 Act included a provision to the effect that, in municipalities in which there was not an approved public library on 1 April 1960, the municipal council should establish a public library in accordance with the requirements of the Act if this was demanded in writing by a minimum of 10% of the general electorate. This provision was the forerunner of the decisive advance made in the public libraries Act of 1964, with the introduction of the obligation on municipalities to establish public libraries.

The 1964 Act was the result of a series of round?table conferences. At that time, Denmark was also intended to have an Act on the research libraries. This did not happen, however, and although we have had a Public Libraries Act ever since 1920, we have never had an Act on the State's own libraries ? the research libraries.

Library legislation and the financing of the public libraries
The State
Ever since the first Act, the State made grants to local public libraries in proportion to the fixed local grants. The State's grant has always been in the nature of an encouragement, intended to produce as big a local grant as possible. In addition to rules on general grants, the various library Acts have contained many types of special grants from the State.

The 1920 Act, for example, provided for a State grant for the estab-lishment and reorganization of libraries, and contained a separate clause to the effect that the Copenhagen municipal libraries should be supported on the Budget. This support was fixed at 75,000 kroner of 5 times as much as the maximum grant to any individual library, in that it was stated in the Act that no single municipality could receive more than 15,000 kroner in total State grants. In 1920 the basic grant was half the fixed local grant.

With the revision of the Act in 1931, the ceiling on grants disappeared and thus also the grounds for giving Copenhagen a special grant, so after this. the Public Libraries Act also applied to Copenhagen.
As an innovation in the 1931 Act, the state introduced a system for regulation of its grants by introducing a new method of calculation, from that year, the State grants amounted to 80% of local grants up to a certain limit (15,000), 40% of local grants between this limit and the next limit (25,000), and 20% of local grants above this last limit.
The 1931 Act made it possible to obtain grants for children's libraries in the: primary schools without regard to whether there were other State supported libraries within the area in question. This provision
resulted in the existence of two library organizations in several mu-nicipalities, a children's library or ganization and an adult library or oganization. This did not, in itself, have to mean a poorer library service, but in some cases, the co?operation between the two organiza-tions left much to be desired, and unfortunate disputes arose. Other-wise, the 1931 Act deserves praise for determining that the libraries should now serve the whole population, i.e. that it should also serve children. The 1964 Act states that the public library of a municipality must be one administrative unit, municipality both adults and chil-dren.
Through the wars several adjustinents have been made to the rules for State grants for the public libraries. After a reduction in 1975 the State grant now covers 20% of total running expenses. Especially in the last few years, there has been a clear indication that direct State grants to-wards the operation of municipal libraries will soon be discontinued.

The municipalities
Most of our big municipalities have regarded the operation of a public library as a natural task. Even before the Public Libraries Act of 1920, many municipalities had big and well operated libraries. Municipal grants have increased with the increasing legislative pressure on the municipalities to improve the public libraries. Today, the municipali-ties more than cover the reduced State grant to the public libraries. But there are still a few of the smallest municipalities in the country that have not vet established libraries staffed with a full?time qualified librarian. However, it appears that the coming revision of the Public Libraries Act will alter this situation.

Charge to readers
In Denmark we have never had a statutory charge for loans from the public libraries. Bills for such a charge have been tabled on several occasions in the Folketing (the Parliament ) , but have always been rejected by a majority, and the risk of such a charge in the near future seem negligible. As a thought provoking curiosity, it can be men-tioned that our first library Act gave a special State grant to libraries that lent books free of charge. Today, the 1964 Act states that all use of a public library must be free of charge to any person who is resident in Denmark, regardless of address.

Structure of the library service
Denmark has had a certain library structure ever since the first Act on public libraries. The act mentions two types of public libraries: public libraries and county libraries.
County libraries have two functions: They serve as the public library of the local municipality and they supplement the work of the local libraries within the county by lending and obtaining books which the libraries do not possess themselves and by giving advise and technical assistance where necessary. The State has always been willing to make a special grant for these important library tasks, and the counties are required by legislation to make grants to them as well.
In 1970, a radical municipal reform was carried out in Denmark. This reduced the number of municipalities from 1,360 to 275 and at the same time reduced the number of counties from 22 to 14. In the li-brary sector, a revision of the Act followed the same intentions, reducing the number of county libraries to the number of counties, viz., 14, and made the areas covered by the county libraries the same as those covered by the counties themselves. This also enabled the county administration to be linked more closely with the administra-tion of the county library. However, this linkage has not vet been established but it is hoped that it can be achieved in the coming revision of the Act.

Branch libraries
In the biggest towns in the country, the library service could naturally not manage with only one service point. An approximately fixed pattern has developed with a main library located centrally in the town and with branch libraries in the outer districts. In the Act of 1964 it is directly suggested that the public libraries should try to locate themselves conveniently in relation to the population. Thus, in 2, subsection 3, it is stated that "when the size and nature of the area served make it neceessary, the library should endeavour to establish branches." And subsection 4 states: "the library may, moreover, estab-lish and run departments in commercial, industrial and other establish-ments and institutions in their areas or make arrangements for library provision in co?operation with them."
Adequate provisions for branch libraries has been made in many municipalities, whereas the establishment of libraries in industrial establishments and institutions has not been a success. One important reason for this is naturally the fact that Denmark has very few enterprises that are big enough to form the basis for a proper library.

Mobile libraries
Instead of static libraries, many municipalities, both of an urban and of a non?urban character have procured mobile libraries to provide the population with the library service to which they are entitled by law. Denmark now has a total of 63 bookmobiles.

School Libraries
The school library structure provided for in the Act of 1931, which enabled the establishment of children's libraries in the primary schools on condition that all the children's libraries in a municipality formed a single administrative unit, was altered in the 1964 Act. Quite simply, a new chapter on school libraries was added to this Act. Under the new Act, the children's libraries in the primary school were separated administratively from the public library's children's library service, and the public library resumed its old status as library for the entire population. The school libraries are now entirely under the administra-tion of the primary schools, and in the new library legislation that is on its way, the chapter on school libraries will be omitted. It is to be hoped that the school library system will spread to all educational institutions. It is a little absurd to have a statutory obligation to estab-lish libraries in the primary schools without having a similar obliga-tion in respect of grammar schools and other forms of youth and adult education. This situation should be changed.
At present, the public libraries and the research libraries must jointly provide the library service for students in Denmark, both as regards the students' basic literature and their supplementary literature. The basic literature rightly belongs in the educational institutes' own library.

Library personnel
The first Banish public librarians were trained in the USA and England, and the Danish public libraries have always looked to the west for their inspiration. This is clearly reflected in our working methods and our library habits.
However, without a Danish course of training for librarians, there were obvious limits to the requirements which the first Public Libra-ries Act could make to the professional training of librarian. It is therefore interesting to note that even in 1920, it was found so impor-tant to know who was to head the public libraries, that the person and pay of the librarian had to be approved by the Director of Libraries and, in the case of the county libraries, even by the Minister for Cultural Affairs at the recommendation of the Library Council. Certain rules were attached to this provision to the effect that a person could only be approved if he had spent a prolonged period in a well organized market town library or had followed a course for librarians.
With a single stroke, these provisions made the question of the training of librarians a problem of immediate importance. The first major course for librarians was held in 1918. and a real school of librarianship was established as a direct result of the 1920 Act, 9 of which required the Director of the State Inspection of Public Libraries with the co?operation of the Library Council to organize the pro-fessional training of librarians. This obligation continued to rest with the Director right up to 1956.
The National Library School opened on 20 September 1920. A 5?month theoretical course was offered, and the course was held in the State Inspection of Public, Libraries' school premises in Copenhagen and at several libraries. 30 students participated in the first course.
To return to the person of the librarian, both in the Folketing and in the general library debate, opinion was divided on the centralistic principle of approval. This was omitted from the Act of 1931, in pursuance of which only the chiefs of the county libraries should be approved by the Minister, while the appointment and dismissal of librarians and other assistants passed to the Library Board of the municipality.
The Act of 1950 returned to the centralistic principle. In pursuance of that Act, the local authority could only appoint a chief librarian after prior negotiations with the Director of the State Inspection of Public Libraries. This situation lasted until the present Act of 1964, which states that the appointment of a chief librarian shall take place after an opinion has been obtained from the director of Libraries. There is no longer any difference between county libraries and other libraries in this respect. In practice, the municipal council submits a list of the applicants' names to the Director of Libraries.
Apart from the chief librarian, Danish library legislation says little about library personnel. We have never had any tendency towards normative figures in the legislation. However, a couple of require-ments to the county libraries; for instance, in the promulgation of the 1931 Act, it is stated that a central library shall have not only the chief librarian but also at least the following qualified personnel: 1 assistant for the lending department and 1 for the reference room. These re-quirements were extended in 1950 to include 1 children's librarian and 1 county librarian, although, in the latter case, only when required by the extent of the county work.

Library media
The library legislation from 1920 to 1959 mentioned only books as the medium with which the libraries were to work. Not until 1964 were other media taken into account in the Act, the objects clause of which is worded as follows: "the purpose of public libraries is to promote the spread of knowledge, education and culture by making books and other suitable materials available free of charge." Here, in fact, the wording of the Act registered a development that was in full swing in the public libraries. Many libraries have long had a programme of activities including story?time sessions and theatrical performances for children, and film evenings and talks by authors for children and adults.
Gramophone records began to appear in the public libraries, initially in the form of language courses. Once the Act had been passed by the Folketing, this development gathered new impetus. The libraries established music departments, art departments and stocks of audio-visual media, and became community centres for all types of cultural arrangements.
The Act contains no directives on the form such activities should take, but simply allows for their provision with State grants. The municipal councils deserve a great deal of the credit for the development that has taken place in this field. On the basis of a far sighted library Act, our municipal politicians, together with the libraries, have created the modern Danish public library.
Not all municipaities have participated in this development because, as already mentioned, the Act contains no directives in this respect, but it is hoped that all the new activities and others will be provided for in the coming revision of the Act.

The Library Council and the State Inspection of Public Libraries
The Library Council and the State Inspection of Public Libraries have survived all legislative amendments and revisions. The Library Coun-cil. which has always been a broadly composed council with represen-tatives of the various types of municipalities, professional organiza-tions, research libraries and, in particular, the Danish Library As-sociation, has been, and still is, an advisory body for both the Minister for Cultural Affairs and for the Director of Libraries, taken in pur-suance of a number of powers bestowed on him by the Act, can be ap-pealed to the Library Council.
With regard to the Director of Libraries, the 1920 Act states very pre-cisely in 8 that: "the State's work to promote the cause of the public library in pursuance of this Act shall be in the charge of a Director of the State Inspection of Public libraries and of a Library Council."
And the promotion of the cause of the public library is exactly what the Director and, with him, the entire staff of the State Inspection of Public Libraries has always worked on.
Although there was a lot of money tied up in the municipal public libraries, the obligation to control the use of this money never became the task of the State Inspection of Public Libraries. The State Inspec-tion gradually built up a staff of librarians who developed into experts in the various library fields. The State Inspection of Public Libraries developed into a consultative and advisory organ for all the public libraries. And it is largely thanks to the work of the State Inspection that the Danish public libraries, despite their great variety, use almost identical working methods and techniques.
Over the years, the State Inspection of Public Libraries has initiated and, in co?operation with librarians. established a number of enter-prises that exclusively serve the Danish libraries. These enterprises include the Information Office, the Central Storage Library, the Danish Library Bureau and the Binding Centre.
As mentioned earlier, since 1956 the training of librarians has been taken care of by the independent institution, the Danish School of Librarianship.

Contingencies fund
One of the reasons for the success of the State Inspection of Public Libraries' initiative was the creation of the contingencies fund. The fund was established through one of those not particularly popular items on the budget in 1937/38. By means of a note, authority was procured for reducing the State grant to the public libraries by 2 %. In 1937/38 a sum of 35,000 kroner was raised in this way, which was to be used for the solution of the library service's joint tasks. The sum has grown in step with the State's grants and now amounts to about 7 million kroner a year. Rules regarding this contingencies fund have naturally been included in all subsequent library legislation.
In addition to the contingencies fund, legislation introduced in 1975 established vet another special fund known as the General Purposes fund. The principal purpose of this fund is to expedite implementation of the requirement contained in the 1964 Act regarding obligatory library service by qualified personnel. This requirement has not yet been complied with by all municipalities, but the General Purposes fund now gives municipalities the possibility of good financial support in the construction of their library service. Over a period of 5 years in, the first instance, the fund is calculated to amount to about 130 million kroner, and the municipalities can get up to 60 2/3% of their additional expenditure on developing their library service covered for the first 3 years.
The State Inspection of Public Libraries plays a central role in the work of distributing money from the above?mentioned funds because its consultants, by reason of their advisory work throughout the country, are in possession of extensive local knowledge.

Library legislation of the future
In Denmark, public library legislation is a continuous process. That, at any rate, is how the State Inspection of Public Libraries experiences it. Hardly has one Act been passed by the Folketing than we start preparing the next. At the moment, we are in the midst of the most extensive legislative work ever undertaken. A commission has been working since 1976 on the preparation of an entirely new library Act, which is to cover both the public libraries and the research libraries. The report of the Library Commission will become available in the summer of 1979.
The report will show that the commission has been unable to reach agreement on the most important points. We seem to be faced with one problem after another on the road towards a unified library service in Denmark.
However, regardless of the results of these efforts, I believe that the Danish public libraries will continue to have the possibility of de-veloping and thereby of reaching a constantly increasing section of the population.