Friday, May 28, 2010

Exciting things at Aarhus Public Library

Today I will catch up with a post about the Oeiras a Ler conference held in Lisbon, Portugal 20 to 21st May in their Municipal library (picture of part of the building on the right). Mette Kirkegaad Jensen talked about “Play Time” at Aarhus Public Library (Denmark). The focus wasn’t information literacy, but her talk definitely made me want to visit, so I am going to share some of it! The library website is at, see also e.g. Flickr. She described a number of initiatives, with some of them focusing on the theme “Team family”. The idea is that since in Denmark mostly both parents are working and the children spend a lot time at school, and people want some “me time”, then they have to work hard to get time together as a family. So they have an initiative “Families at play in the library”.
One of the areas in the library is “the storage room”, an area at the front of the library with drawers and cabinets filled with things that people could play with, wear or examine (including jewellery and old computer games). The parents can become nostalgic for their childhood (e.g. playing those old computer games) and play together with their children. Although the children took to it immediately, apparently the parents can be more reluctant to do something so playful in a library.
They also have a children’s interactive library. This includes:
- a “story surfer, a floor area with big buttons at the side, each of which represents a word (I think things like “adventure”). You can press up to three buttons, and circles of light with pictures of books are projected onto the floor: where the circles intersect are books that might interest you and you can get more details.
- A “bib phone” where you can hear what is on an RFID tag on a book. The idea is that people can leave messages for each other on the book.
- “Interactive table” with a 2D map of Aarhus, and when you place girl or boy dolls on the map you can see a video about that place. The idea is to get children interested in the city’s history.
You can see some of the interactive things I just listed in a video at
Another feature is the Gobelin tapestry. This is a compilation of portrait photographs that takes up a wall. You an take a photo of yourself and add it to the “tapestry”; the arrangement changes as you walk past. Mette also mentioned formalised social networking e.g. a computing club for children and a “Spotmobil” (small library caravan) that travels to music festivals and other events for young people (see
Finally they have a website featuring “Ask Olivia”: Olivia is a “14 year old girl” but actually has librarians providing the answers. However, teenagers seem to like the portrayal of a young girl and ask her a lot of questions. Aarhus library does a good amount of market research and Mette said that “co-creation with users is a must”. She stressed that even in library 2.0 people are more important than data, and “it is more of a mindset, not just about technology.”

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