Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen Main Library

An amazing city of canals, parks, statues and gardens, Copenhagen meshes seamlessly with the sea it abuts. 

Like a clean, spacious, verdant Venice with more spires (about the only way to get a view in this flat country), it’s incredibly Green.  Loads of wind turbines stand offshore, there’s an astounding 100% sales tax on cars (300% on sports cars), and you’ll see far more cyclists than at the Tour de France (check out the bikes in front of the library *).   Plus the Danish are the happiest people on earth.  I fell in love with Denmark and the library.

I walked passed Københavns Hovedbibliotek** several times – looking through the windows it resembles a shiny upscale mall.  The light sculpture/revolving door and expansive view of the four open floors and glass roof above didn’t jibe with my previous library experiences. 

It’s so hip and modern compared to the huge, beautiful old buildings typical of the city.  Airy and capacious with plenty of natural light, the main floor has a large service desk, 20 minute express computers and a piano.  There’s a small café with counter seating facing the street outside – perfect for people watching.

Adjacent to the café is a large eating area (though food is allowed anywhere in the building), with wonderful Danish design and illuminated shelving for new books.  Their periodicals section could be in a nightclub or museum.

Even materials handling equipment becomes an exhibit.

The library is very, very busy and I saw users with armloads of materials at the automated checkout stations.  Patrons pick up their own reserves and there’s wi-fi everywhere or you can book an internet computer for two hours per day. 

Remote system-wide services include phone, email and chat reference.  They have e-books and an astounding number of databases.  Fashion, Danish history, Digital yearbooks, Games and Media, Exports Manual, Adventure Index, GreenFILE, Hobbies and Crafts and Home Improvement Reference Centers are just a small sampling of the online resources.  There’s also access to information on living in Denmark (including political asylum) and a portal for immigrant women. 

Joining is free to anyone with an address in Denmark and pamphlets in seven languages plus foreign language materials in Greenlandic, Urdu, Persian, German, Arabic, Swedish, Turkish, Norwegian, English etc. attest to the library’s commitment to the large international population here.

Everything is so utilitarian and practical – from chairs with arms that fit neatly over tables adding perfect half moon circles in light, sturdy materials to these easy to push book carts that can be raised to make a level surface.

Yet it’s so entrancing.

Everywhere your eye is drawn to sleek furniture and fixtures. Sculpture and art is scattered in unexpected places and it’s not the traditional stuff that abounds in this old city. 

But the old is not forsaken, from the top floor there’s a bird’s eye view of Copenhagen’s red tile roofs and bronze domes. 

There’s so much on offer here – Manga, books, music CDs, Playaways, graphic novels, MP3 machines, comic books, Playstation CDs, videos/DVDs and audio books.  Watch TV on a big screen, try out a new instrument (or start your own band?).

There’s also a larger black and white performance area equipped with seating, spotlights, microphones, speakers, a podium and other A/V equipment.  The walls are covered by artwork in shades of gray that complement the decor.

You can browse the enormous media area where Astrid Mortensen helped me with answers to my endless questions (and kindly let me take a snapshot).

Copenhagen Libraries’** calendar shows a wide variety of events – movies, exhibitions, concerts, dances (with free lessons beforehand!), songwriting nights, a Sixties Party, writing clubs, classes, book sales, a Maternity Café (with baby massage), craft workshops and lectures.  The system consists of 21 libraries – this main one and 20 branch locations.  They also provide library service in hospitals and the prison.  Home delivery is free for those that qualify or you can pay for it if you’re too lazy/busy to come in.  Legal aid, Homework Help, a Public Nurse and Consumer Advisory Services (purchase guidance, consumer´s rights, and complaints procedures) are also available.

Materials can be borrowed and returned to any location.  Overdue items are discouraged with long borrowing periods (14 days for popular materials, 28 days for the rest) and hefty overdue fines (1-7 days overdue is $4 for adults while 8 – 30 days costs $24!). 

Getting back to the tour of the main library, the youth area is functional but enticing.

Even here in the middle of the stuffed animals and toys, cool art and design is all over the place.

A three level step-stair structure is perfect for climbing or for a small storytelling group.  There are quiet little crannies and corners to get lost in.

Children’s cultural events on the website include toy/clothes swaps, homework cafes, the Summer Reading Program and storytimes.  There are old shoe workshops and programs on how to build things out of scrap and junk that sound fascinating.

Such bounty!  And gilding the lily, there’s a place they sometimes used for music and they now have funds to convert it into an outdoor sidewalk café type of area.   Just one more reason to visit this spectacular facility.

I must admit, after hearing about Aarhus’s library (if you haven’t watched it, the video is a must-see), I had high expectations for Danish libraries, but this stylish hangout provides more than I could have imagined.   What a magical spot.

*I couldn’t take a photo from outside because as you can see from perusing Google street view (search it for “Krystalgade 15, 1172 Copenhagen K” if the link doesn’t work), it’s a very busy street, (as you may have realized by now, I don’t post pictures of people without their permission).

**You probably can’t read Danish, but on bottom right of page see the “In English” button, or search “Københavns Hovedbibliotek” in Google for a more extensive English translation.  Also click here for more pictures of the library.

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1 Response to Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen Main Library

  1. Pingback: These are a few of our favorite things (at public libraries) | The Librarian is In

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