This birth took place 1st January 2014 and at the same time in both Norway and Sweden. We are talking about the two countries’ library laws that were revised with new, radical formulations that promote democracy through debate and exchange of opinions in the public library.
The Norwegian law, combined with signals by the Minister of Culture, even gives the chief librarian status as an independent editor of library debates, in line with newspaper editors.
The law proposal was not uncontroversial. The debate raged about the chief librarian’s new status, in both the professional and the general press. Would the chief librarian still be overrun by the city council? Have librarians the right skills and attitude? However, a great number of libraries have now taken the plunge and organise debates. They experiment and gain experience. They do it so well, that the chairman of Norwegian PEN, William Nygaard (best known as the Norwegian publisher of Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” and for having survived an assassination attempt against him in 1993), said that the library has comea long way in a short time with its own debate profile. And mayors and administrators have publicly approved the new free position of the chief librarian.
Surprisingly very little has been said or written internationally about this innovative new service and policy. However in the latest issue of ISC – Information for Social Change – I have an article titled «The New Independent Norwegian «Debate Libraries» (page 4 ff ), hoping that other library communities and associations will consider it.