Over the last 30 years, the number of public libraries in Norway has been halved. In tight municipal budgets they are often abandoned in favor of urgent needs such as nursing homes and kindergartens, and when Internet and digital technology becomes more widespread in daily life, the libraries struggle to show that they are still relevant.
Until one of my best friends told me how crucial childhood afternoons at the library had been to him, I somehow took the library for granted. He grew up with immigrant parents in a home without books and is today one of my most educated and well-read friends. According to him he would work at the shipyard as his father if it weren’t for the self-education he found at the library.
As a promoter of free knowledge and culture for all, the library may constitute one of the cornerstones of an enlightened public. Along with the teachers, librarians constitute some of the most important cultural carriers in the country, but to really fulfill that role can be hard under limited budgets.
All images © Jo Straube
By Jo Straube