In times of digitization and a growing literary market of diversity the libraries enforce the information and knowledge and acces to literature. Digitization supports the literary conversation both on the web and at the library.
Since 2002, danish libraries have been running a collaborative website on literature called litteratursiden.dk. The growth has been explosive and today it has more then 200.000 unique visitors every month. Content is primarily being created by a bunch of dedicated editors and writers, but as a registered user you can write blogs and post comments or join an online reading society to discuss your reading experience with authors and other users. Its in important focuspoint in the strategy of not only giving acces to books and information. The live conversation on literary subjects is continued via Litteratursiden and the social media.
Ebooks and audio books have also become a part of the library. Through a platform called eReolen Danish libraries have given acces to loads of ebooks and audio books since 2011. As a part of this solution eReolen have a current dialogue with publishers on different business models. The popular and numerous borrows are by some publishers seen as a thread to the commercial market but obviously the challenge seems to be digitization itself, and not the libraries.
Literature in digital form
Today, literature is not only contained in books as we know them. This is shown by the experiments of digital publishing development. Sms-short stories, literary apps and digital literature is co-existing side by side with paper-books. At the same time the circuit of traditional publishing has literatly been revolutionized by all this technology: Today the distance between author and reader has diminished into one single click. Also, certain kinds of literature are living in closed environments and are hard to encounter without guidance. It is the duty of the libraries to expose and make visible all literary forms, digital as experimental. Some years ago I was part of the project “Litteraturen finder sted” (The literature takes place), which scrutinized the way new forms of literature became a part of the local library, it’s materials and physical facility. Focusing on terms like digital literature, self publishing and publishing at small press publish houses the project became a milestone for libraries doing more odd literature.
It has clearly become more difficult to navigate on the internet. Large and complex currents if information makes it hard to choose what to read and what to believe and there is no longer a limit between those who publish and those who doesn’t. Therefore it is more important than ever, that libraries take action upholding the role as one of the last information filters of our time. In my perspective, libraries must inspire people to read the many good books buried in the shadow of bestsellers. It is crucial that libraries act different than commercial players of the market by choosing certain books from others and sharing their knowledge on these books both in the digital and physical library.
The library as curator
Deep reading experiences are easily missed when you focus on one type of literature and we are kept in the same kind of reading even more if we use the “customers who bought this book also bought”-function on amazon. It automatically finds the bestsellers and makes it a lot harder to cross the line into unknown lands where reading surprises you. At Litteratursiden we see an increasing demand of lists entitled “books similar to Jo Jo Moyes” (or other popular writers). The good thing about these recommendations is that they are handpicked by a librarian, not a machine.
At the physical library we also try to facilitate in new innovative and digital ways. The librarian increasingly becomes a curator who brings literature up front through different digital platforms. In collaboration with authors and other parts of the literary society interaction between readers and works is made possible – sometimes the reader/user is even asked to co-produce becoming a part of literature itself. In this way, development of digital technology is helping us creating more conversations and meetings at the library with literature as the main subject and at the same time it ensures a better and healtier society in times when gathering around literature seems more essential than ever.
By Lise Vandborg
Translated by Thomas Vang Glud