Libro Futuro

From the “BookCafè” to art cinema. Librarians on the go. Mario Coffa interviews Kirsten Boelt

Intervista in italiano

Kirsten Boelt has been director of the Aalborg Library and member of the board of directors of the Danish Library Association since 1998 and is currently vice president. Over the years she has participated in many important projects including that to develop cooperation between public libraries and school libraries and has participated in the search for new ways to develop children’s libraries. She was a member of “Biblioteksrådet”, an advisory committee at the Ministry of Culture that deals with the development of libraries in general and the collaboration between public libraries and university libraries. Board member for the project Reolen, an ebook lending portal. She has been involved in IFLA for 8 years and currently holds the role of secretary of the “Libraries for children and teenagers” section.

Kirsten, to start: what does it mean to be a librarian in Denmark?

Library staff in Denmark have many tasks. You stand at the service desk in the library to serve the visitors and help them to find their way in the library, finding information and good novels and whatever mission they may have. Besides this many of the staff is engaged in projects to develop library services. One example is finding new ways in stimulating the joy of reading in preschools. Library staff plan and complete many activities for and with the library visitors. The digital dissemination takes more and more time as the library meets the users digitally and the library have ebooks, audiobooks etc. In addition to this we have the more classic tasks as the logistics in lending and returning of materials, buying materials and so on. Working at a library offers many possibilities to expand your skills and try new challenges.

You have been a member of the Association of Danish Libraries for many years and are currently its Vice President as well as a member of IFLA. In your opinion, what is the most important task that the reference association for the profession must have?

The Danish Library Association is a lobby organization. Members of the association are municipalities in Denmark, which means that politicians from the municipalities and library professionals (who also can be personally members too) join the association. It is a very strong collaboration and a cornerstone in Danish library policy discussions in Denmark. So it is not only the profession but more important working with library development and creating political attention in order to underline the libraries social significance. Right now there is an important discussion about the necessity of a Danish cultural policy.

Although recently retired you are an active professional and in fact you are currently chairman of the board of directors of an art cinema in Aalborg. But how many skills can these librarians have? So can we really look beyond our work to broaden our skills?

A person working at the library can have many competences and skills. Working at the library in a municipality as Aalborg means that you get a large network among the cultural institutions. I and many of the staff in Aalborg work together with the theatre, the museums and the cinemas etc. When we look at the art cinema we have had many collaborations, e.g. talking about a novel, watch the film and meet the instructor and the author. So it is very natural for me to engage in some of the cultural institutions now when I have more free time and still have the connection to my former colleagues at the public library.

On your Facebook profile I read about an announcement to work at the Aalborg library for various profiles. It is currently difficult to find these opportunities. Can you explain better how people are recruited in your country and what are the requirements for being a librarian?

First I have to say that to work at a library you do not necessarily need to have an educated librarian. The libraries hire staff with very different competences. I can be teachers, people with different academic degrees, people with huge “service skills” and so on. We can teach the staff the important library skills after the employment. When this is said I have to underline that the library profession and deep professional skills still is mandatory in the libraries. The libraries must preserve the skills in e.g. information retrieval, the libraries social significance, literature dissemination, cultural activities etc. but we have to embrace the new demands from the society and develop the libraries and the staff to meet the demands. Actually is the most important competence in the staff the will and ability to change and to learn new skills while the libraries change as society change.

I was struck by the “Coffee book” project. Wonderful! What is it about?

We do not have a Coffee book – but we have a monthly cultural activity called “book-café” The book-café takes place in the library and more than 100 eager novel readers join. The café has a different theme every time. I can be Italian novels, Finish novels, the big classical novels etc. three to four from the staff have read the books and talks about them to the audience. The book-café is always accompanied with coffee, cake and music according to the theme. You can read more about Aalborg Public Libraries here:

Over the years you have been involved in school libraries and ebooks (Reolen project). Can you briefly tell us about these experiences?

Over the years I have engaged myself in different kind of developing the library services. The project concerning school libraries was about how to integrate school and public libraries in one building. We started the debate       and came up with ways to establish the collaboration between professionals at the schools and at the public libraries.

In Denmark there are quite many integrated libraries now. See some examples here: eReolen started as a project where Aarhus Public Libraries was in the lead of the project group. I joined the group together with colleagues from Copenhagen Public Libraries and we started to negotiate with the publishers. Long story and mange negotiations  later we now have a united association where all public libraries in the country are members, and now all citizens have access to e books and audiobooks. The Digital Public Library provides homepages, infrastructure and digital content to the public libraries. It is a very important backbone to all libraries, actually no library can exist without this.

What would you recommend to a young student who would one day want to work in the library?

I will always say that a job at a library is one of the most challenging and exciting jobs one can have. You work to give the citizens more competences to master their lives, to improve their education, to give ideas to leisure reading etc. It will be fine if you have a degree in humanities, artistic or similar degrees. If you have some library knowledge it will be extra fine. One thing is more important than anything: the deep understanding of the libraries role in society, the libraries social significance.




Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa
Mario Coffa archivista e bibliotecario, laureato in Conservazione dei Beni Culturali presso l’Università degli Studi di Perugia (2005) e diplomato in Archivistica e Paleografia presso la Scuola di Archivistica dell’Archivio Segreto Vaticano (2010). Dal 2010 Lavora per CAeB (Cooperativa Archivistica e Bibliotecaria) presso le biblioteche dell’Università di Perugia come bibliotecario e come archivista presso l'Archivio Storico del Comune di Gubbio. Si occupa di Biblioteche Digitali e formazione in ambito di biblioteconomia digitale. Nel 2014 membro del Comitato Esecutivo Regionale dell’Associazione Italiana Biblioteche (AIB) sezione Umbria, membro del gruppo AIB sul portfolio professionale e nel triennio 2017-2020 Presidente eletto di AIB Umbria. Dal 2020 membro dell'Osservatorio Formazione dell'Associazione Italiana Biblioteche. Autore di diversi articoli e interviste per Insula Europea sul tema degli archivi, delle biblioteche e del digital lending.


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