Robert L. Hansen: Denmark. .

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in: Popular Libraries of the World. Edited by Arthur E. Bostwick. Chicago, 1933, page 76-87.



Librarian, St. Louis. Public Library


Publisher's Preface
library authorities in other countries have in many cases established, as settled policies, practices with which we in the United States are still experimenting.

THE real development of Danish public libraries did not begin until 1920, when the Danish library law was passed, but their history dates back more than one hundred years. At the end of the 18th century the first collections of books for the general public were often installed in schools and kept up by voluntary gifts and loaning fees, only rarely by public allowances. These libraries have lost their original character and have become merely libraries of entertainment for the people, while the educated classes make use of the club or circulating libraries. About the end of the 19th century there were approximately 1,100 libraries in the 1,697 communities of the country. Among about 75 provincial towns of the country only twenty?six had public libraries of their own. In the 80's six public libraries had been established in the capital, Copenhagen; they served the reading needs of the public with a budget of 16,000 Kroner
At this time, a professor in a Gymnasium in Jutland, Andreas Schack Steenberg, who, as librarian of his school, and without the slightest knowledge of library work in other countries, had conceived the idea of granting general public access to the school library, succeeded in having other State schools follow his example. By 1892 he had conceived the idea of a system of public libraries to serve the whole country, and with this in view he procured information on conditions in other countries. Dr. Edvard Reyer in Vienna, who had just published his book, Volksbibliotheken, introduced Steenberg into the library system as it had developed in the Anglo?Saxon countries. Steenberg was enthusiastic for this work as it was carried on in England and above all in the United States, and from then on he became an ardent pioneer for the adoption of Anglo?Saxon ideas on Danish soil.
As a pioneer in this field in 1899 he was asked by the State to join a committee which had been formed in the 80's for the distribution of small allowances among existing libraries. In 1900 he was able on the basis of his experiences and studies in other countries ? he did not visit the United States before the publication of his book ? to publish a small work on the history and institution of public libraries. The work shows clearly Steenberg's careful and prudent character. He is enthusiastic about American libraries, and urges that the methods of the large countries might be imitated with small means. Although this work marks the beginning of modern library work in Denmark, it must now be doubted whether Steenberg would ever have been the man to lead the development into the right directions alone.
His principal idea was put into definite shape by other people, but he had the pleasure of taking part in its development. In 1909 Steenberg was nominated by the Ministry as Counsellor in library matters and as President of the State Library Commission, which then became an independent institution. In the following years he established a number of new libraries and introduced improved methods of administration.
The foundation of future progress was laid by the chief librarian of the Royal Library, H. O. Lange, who in 1909, in a lecture, stated in a nutshell the idea of our whole future library development. He said:
"The library system in a country like Denmark should form an organically connected whole, which begins with the school libraries and comprises local reading rooms with reference libraries, travelling libraries, as well as larger libraries centrally located for the larger districts, but also in a close connection with these libraries for research work."

Starting with this fundamental idea, Lange proposed that a series of active centers be established ? at least one in each county, in wellorganized cooperation with the local public libraries on one hand, and the research libraries on the other. "These libraries," he said, "should extensively take care of the library needs of the district and deal with elementary, as well as higher, reading materials, but the use of books from research libraries which generally are not sent out should be allowed in the reading rooms provided safety is sufficiently assured. Besides this, they should form a link between students and large libraries and at the same time a local bureau of information for all people craving knowledge within their district." Lange intended these provincial libraries to have collections up to 50,000 volumes. Furthermore, he planned to have each one located in the capital of the county, where it should serve at the same time as a library for the city.
Lange's plans were somewhat opposed by the representatives of the community libraries, because they were afraid of centralization and suppression of the small independent community libraries. Steenberg and his collaborators, however, accepted this plan enthusiastically. Five years afterward they succeeded in obtaining an annual State allowance of 5ooo Kroner for two central libraries.
Lange's plan was the subject of vehement discussions within the Library Union, which had existed since 1905. As this union ? probably the only one among all library associations of the world ? is a union of libraries and not of librarians, and as the small country libraries formed an overwhelming majority, one can easily understand the resistance against the new type of library and the fear of the influence of the professional librarian. Lange's and Steenberg's propaganda, however, during the years of the war, resulted in the establishment of new libraries in the cities, and in larger and larger allowances by the State, as well as by the city; also in an ever?growing number of central libraries. The local allowances rose in the years 1910 to 1918, from 35,000 to 200,000 Kroner and the State subsidy from 12,000 to 100,000 Kroner. After the war, interest in the new libraries resulted in the passage of the Danish Library Law of March 5, 1920, amended in 1923 and 1931. It is a so?called subsidy law, but, at the same time, by the conditions for receiving an allowance, it sets forth what the Danish State demands of a public library.
Libraries are subsidized by the State according to the following provisions:
A municipal, independent, or association?owned library shall grant books for home reading free of charge or for a small annual payment to the inhabitants within its area. Within such library the governing body appoints and dismisses the librarian and other assistants, and fixes salaries. But in the Central libraries the Minister of Education must approve choice of the librarian and fix his salary.
One library in each town or parish may receive a state grant providing it receives a regular local grant of not less than 75 Kroner, though children's libraries in national schools may receive grants irrespective of the presence in the area of other state?subsidized libraries. State grants are, as a rule, annual, but in special cases a grant may be made upon the re?organization or establishment of a library.
Grants are computed thus: 80 per cent of up to 15.000 Kroner, of the regular local grant of the last year; 40 per cent of the next 10.000 Kroner; and 20 per cent of the regular local grants exceeding 25,000 Kroner. Local grants may include the lettable value of library premises put at public disposal without charge, as well as the value of lighting and heating supplied gratis.
Central libraries, which assist in the work of local libraries by the loan of educational literature to individuals, by traveling libraries, in guidance in matters of a technical kind, and in other ways, may receive a further Central library grant, constituting one?half of the principal grant but not exceeding 6,400 Kroner. The annual grant to the Faroe Islands is provided for in the state budget, irrespective of other provisions.
The Library Director, who is at the head of the State Inspection of Libraries, computes and distributes state grants and, in cooperation with the Library Council composed of twelve additional members, organizes the training of librarians.
The proposal for the annual grant to be provided for in the state budget is submitted to the Council by the Library Director before it is sent to the ministry. The Council shall be consulted by the Minister on matters of vital importance to the libraries dealt with in this act, just as the Council may of its own accord submit proposals to the Minister on such questions.
The law of 1920 contained special provisions for the municipal libraries in Copenhagen and for some large municipal libraries in the provinces, which annually were given a special grant. The present law subjects them to the general rules for grants. For the municipal libraries in Copenhagen the total grant of the State in 1930?31 was 132,436 Kroner.
In general it may be said of the law that it is not objectionably compulsory. The individual communities are not forced to establish libraries, nor must the libraries necessarily be municipal. Neither free lending of books nor the existence of reading rooms is obligatory. The most important object of the law has been to urge strongly the institution of new libraries or the reorganization of old ones. Under the direction of the State Inspection of Libraries, the law has brought about a complete reorganization of the library system, especially in the cities. Although a number of central libraries had already been established, the founding of such libraries according to special concessions authorized by the law to institutions of this kind was now really set in motion. In 1919 there were seven; today there are 27. In the following decade general progress was enormous. In 1919 there were 67 city libraries; in 1929, 80. These had 294,000 volumes; in 1927, 703,000. They circulated 1,113,000 volumes; in 1929, 3,142,000 volumes. The local subsidies amounted to 123,700 Kroner; in 1929, to 667,200 Kroner. In the country the number of libraries was increased from 602 to 766 and the stock of books from 383,000 to 929,000. The circulation rose from 735,000 to 2,916,700 volumes and the local subsidies from 75,200 to 486,000 Kroner. The resulting increase of the State subsidy was ninefold, namely, from 105,000 to 920,250 Kroner.
To the above?mentioned statistical information must be added the fact that the number of books circulated in the rural districts was increased by approximately 475,000 volumes lent by the central libraries to 20,000 individual borrowers in the country; also by about 100,000 volumes in book?boxes sent out by the central libraries.
Some other city libraries have also been active in the rural districts. The number of adult borrowers in 1919 to 1920 was about 1/19 of the population; today it is about 1/6. The circulation has increased from approximately i 1 volumes to about 5 volumes per inhabitant without regard to what has been borrowed from other libraries. Circulation of special literature in the city is between 40 and 20 per cent and in the rural districts 15 and below, the average being about 12 per cent.
The expenses resulting from this progress were distributed for 1930?31 in the following way:

Copenhagen &surroundings Provincialcities Other libraries
State grant 127.759 kr 602.555 kr 214.938 kr
Municipal grant 925.287 kr 531.541 kr 192.981 kr
Other local grants 6.198 kr 160.182 kr 141.249 kr
This makes a total of 945,243 Kroner from the State, 1,649,809 from the communities, and 307,629 from other local sources. Thus the total cost of maintenance of the Danish public libraries in that year was 2,902,681 Kroner.
The above?mentioned figures prove that the economic foundation of the library has completely changed, and therefore also all the activities of libraries. Old worn?out libraries have been replaced by well bound and well ordered collections which comprise all non?scientific special literature. The larger libraries have a trained staff. Most of the central libraries, as well as many ordinary city libraries and some in the rural districts, have buildings of their own, and the central libraries very often are noteworthy, containing valuable artistic decorations provided for by the wealthy Ny Carlsberg Foundation.
While the rural and the city libraries have to provide for themselves exclusively, it is, as has been said before, the duty of the central libraries to provide for the whole district, without cost, the type of special literature which smaller libraries are not supposed to have. Moreover, they provide these libraries with fiction that is specially valuable or rarely read, and they lend at a small extra cost current fiction, if so desired.
The methods of circulation outside the city limits is different in different libraries. Some of them lend from their stock directly to individual borrowers who call at the library personally; some of them send the books to individuals in the rural district. Furthermore, some have installed traveling libraries in rural communities, or they give to librarians from these places when they call at the central library a collection of books of their own choice. Finally some of them have begun to make use of their own, or of borrowed, library vans, which either provide the traveling libraries with new material, or distribute, at special points in the rural communities, directly to individuals. At the same time they give on these tours technical instruction to those rural librarians (almost always teachers) who desire it.
Furthermore, the central libraries have gradually begun to act as mediators between all sorts of public libraries or users of libraries on the one hand, and the large State or special libraries on the other.
Every interested reader, no matter where he lives, can get every work which his central library does not possess, if this work is in any of the State or special libraries. In a Bureau of Information in the offices of the State Inspection of Libraries, Copenhagen, one can at once find out where the work is to be found, and it can then be sent directly to the rural library. The Bureau of Information, furthermore, borrows foreign books from abroad if they are not to be found in Denmark. The number of requisitions in the year 1931 was more than 3,000, 80 percent of which could be handled with the cooperation of Danish or foreign libraries. The State Library in Aarhus functions as a kind of leading center for the central libraries and, like the Royal Library, it receives current Danish books as deposit copies.
With regard to rural libraries it must be admitted that organization and money are properly used only in a very small number of places. Of approximately 750 smaller libraries, no more than 150 may be called modern in the sense that they could take care of the whole population of the community. This does not exclude the possibility that it may be taken care of, only it is done in such a way that the individual borrower applies to the central libraries. The others are still existing in the same way as before the law, practically as reading circles which furnish desired fiction to a certain group in the community. It must, however, also be added, that in recent years great progress has taken place in this territory, due possibly to the fact that the central libraries now have become firmly established and are in a position to take up the work in their rural districts. Instruction in elementary library science is given in some places at the normal schools. As soon as the entire younger class of teachers, from which almost all librarians in the rural districts are recruited, shall have received such instruction, the rural libraries will also devote themselves to modern library work.
Before the Library Law was put into force, the Royal Library and the University Library in Copenhagen, as well as the newly founded State Library in Aarhus, had to function in a wide measure as ordinary public libraries with reference to Danish literature, also in great part for popular foreign literature, which had to be bought to satisfy popular demand to a certain extent. After the stock of the city libraries has been put in order these libraries can devote their entire strength to the purchase of foreign special literature and at the same time protect the Danish books acquired by obligatory contribution.
In 1924 the Great Library Commission was established, whose task it was to organize scientific libraries. This commission worked out a plan by which all libraries of the country were united for cooperation in the field of book purchase. This is gradually being put into operation by cooperation of the different scientific libraries among themselves on the one hand, and with these and the State Inspection of Public Libraries on the other.
As can be imagined, the technique of the Danish public libraries was bound to develop according to the Anglo?Saxon, and especially the American, models with which the pioneer of library affairs, A. S. Steenberg, had made himself familiar. There was at that time no other proved method and therefore Steenberg recommended to the Danish libraries Dewey's decimal classification, the Cutter numbers, and the American methods of cataloging, although all this had gradually to be adapted to Danish conditions. Thus, for example, the decimal classification was partly simplified so that it could be used without difficulty by our comparatively small libraries because these ordinarily have no use for detailed subdivisions; furthermore, it was changed in such a way that group 40 was reserved for geography and travel, while linguistics was inserted under group 8o; in this way more space was gained for the geographical and national topographical literature which in the public libraries is emphasized, while linguistics is not.
Moreover, they followed America in installing open shelves, the Browne charging system, and later the Newark system. An attempt was made recently to replace the latter by the Detroit system, mainly in order to relieve the personnel for more intensive service to the public. For this purpose our libraries have even abolished the large charging desk which is often an impediment to closer communication between librarian and borrowers. The librarian moves freely in the circulation room in front of his open book shelves, always present with advice if desired. The stamping is done in a special delivery room or at a small desk near the exit.
From the Anglo?Saxon libraries was also adopted reference work, although none of the Danish public libraries has as yet been able to furnish a special room for this kind of work. It is therefore done in the reading rooms, which perhaps give the impression of reference departments. It might be mentioned that the Scandinavian and more especially the Danish library system is often, especially by the Germans, reproached with its American character. That is to say, it is supposed to be especially materialistic and pays less attention to the humanistic education of the people. With regard to this, however, we must remark that the danger of such negligence is apparently not very great, because the libraries use at least half of their budget for the purchase of fiction and the circulation of the same is far more than half of the entire circulation.
Danish library?extension work comprises especially cooperation with schools ? above all in the form of advice to children on how to use books and libraries. To this is added a close cooperation with special school library associations in public purchase and distribution, which is administered by class collections of books. Within the adult education service the libraries are now in close connection with study sections, and also with the continuation schools and with the folk high schools.
Moreover, they try to make connection with all kinds of educational associations and institutions, and they make book lists for lectures, educational movies and exhibitions. At every opportunity exhibitions are arranged for animal shows, special courses, jubilees, etc. Finally, it must be mentioned that several city libraries have begun an already highly?valued work in hospitals.
The Library Law ordered that the State Inspector of Libraries should supervise the special training of librarians. Such training had already begun at the time of the old State Library Commission under Steenberg. It had, however, been amplified after the passage of the law and been made a fixed institution. It now takes place every year, in the winter semester, and so far about 250 librarians have been trained. The prerequisite for entrance into the school is generally a Bachelor of Arts degree and two years of practice at a larger library. Shorter summer courses are held for rural libraries (mostly for teachers) every year by the State Inspection.
As early as 1905 Denmark's Library Association was founded; but as at that time there were no real librarians at the public libraries, this association assumed the exceptional character of an association not of librarians, but of libraries (especially rural libraries, since there were only a few city libraries), which were represented by their boards of directors. An association of librarians existed under the name of the Danish Librarian Association from 1908 to 1916. It was continued as the Danish Library Association from 1916 to 1919, and contributed essentially to the passage of the library law in 1919, whereupon the association dissolved. The purpose of the present union was agitation for establishing libraries, for editing a periodical, Bogsamlingsbladet and for facilitating the purchase of books. Twenty?five percent discount was asked for and granted by the publishers; the discount is now 15 percent.
As the libraries after the passage of the law were growing and getting expert librarians, the latter joined the Association as personal members, and, to the disappointment of the original members, they gradually obtained a majority of votes. Through the establishment of municipal libraries in the larger cities, the representation of these increased, and their interests were not the same as those of the rural districts. Therefore, it was resolved to divide the Association into three groups: 1. An association of the larger libraries. 2. An association of the smaller libraries. 3. An association of administrators. Each of these may meet separately when circumstances demand it, and all meet only at the plenary session of the annual Grand Assembly. All groups, however, are represented in the Chief Administration, and all three groups pay their share of dues into a common fund. The common task of the Association is to publish a library paper, Bogens Verden, founded in 1918, and to labor for the improvement of the libraries, for example, by publication of book lists for all types of libraries, by financial assistance, by radio lectures, etc. The entire number of members is about 1,800. Besides the main Association there is, in most of the country districts, also a local library association affiliated with the national association, to promote libraries locally. These library associations must not be confused with the "library unions" in some cities and rural districts, whose only purpose is to manage and to assist the libraries of the town or of the district.
In the national association are found several librarians of scientific libraries as personal members; a service organization for the personnel of the scientific libraries, however, does not exist.


Bogsamlingsbladet 1906-18
Bogens Verden. I9I8.

Steenberg, A. S. Folkebogsamlinger. Kbh. 1890.
Banke, J. Folkebibliotekernes Historie i Danmark indtil Aar 1900. Kbh. 1929.
Lange, H. O. Bibliotekssagen udenfor København. Kbh I909.
D¢ssing, Th. Folkebibliotekerne før og nu. Kbh. 1924 (22 p. ill.)
D¢ssing, Th. The public libraries. In: Education in Denmark. Oxford, Copenhagen 1931.
Aarsbo, J. Folkebibliotekerne og deres Historie. In: Haandbog for Bibliotekskundskab. Udg. of Svend Dahl. v. 2. 1929.
The libraries in Denmark. Copenh. 1929 (22p.)
Rørdam, Valdemar. En Høstrejse. Indtryk fra danske Folkebiblioteker. Kbh. 1930 (ill.)
Hansen, Robert L. L'organisation des bibliotheques publiques au Danemark. In: La lecture publique. Memoires et voeux du Congres international d'Alger. Paris 1931. (Droz.)
Ackerknecht, E. Skandinavisches Buchereiwesen. Stettin 1932.
The entire Danish library law has been translated in Bucherei and Bildungspflege. 1931. p. 232?

Laerebog i Biblioteksteknik. Udg. af Statens Bibliotekstilsyn. Kbh. 1922.
D¢ssing, Th. Folkebibliotekernes Administration og Teknik. In: Haandbog i Bibliotekskundskab. Udg. of Svend Dahl. v. 2. 1927.
Decimalklassedeling, saerling til Brug i Folkebiblioteker. 2. Udg. Kbh. 1929 (Statens Bibliotekstilsysns Publikationer III)
Hansen, Robert L. og Sejerbo, P. Danmarks Folkebogsamlinger og Danmarks Biblioteksforening. 1905?1930. (Reprint of Bogens Verden. November 1930.
Dansk Folkebibliotekar?Stat. Udg. of Danske Biblioteksfunktionaerers Sammenslutning. Kbh. 1930. (Who's who in librarianship.)