I got a taste of this pretty Austrian metropolis many years ago, a few years after their 1976 Winter Olympics. Bigger now, it retains its charm. A short walk from the pastel houses lining the sparkling Inn River I came to the Stadtbücherei Innsbruck (SI).
Behind a facade of stately structures, tucked into an ivy smothered cobbled courtyard with a little playground and covered bike racks, lies the sheltered entryway. Taking advantage of the brush rug protecting the marble lobby tiles from shoe grit, I perused posters of district happenings before meeting Dr. Markus Jäger, who spoke perfect English (as usual, all translation errors are mine).
Markus studied political science and has a PhD in American Literature and Culture and has been here five years. He worked at SI as a student and oversees children’s and teen books, much of the social media presence, public relations and group visits. The latter are often set up by Sonja Unterpertinger, who, though employed by the Tyrol, has an office here running Servicestelle für Lesepädagogik encouraging reading in youngsters using outreach to schools, workshops and Markus’s introductory tours.
The interior is stunning. Geometric walls and ceiling set off the cushy overstuffed sofas and armchairs by classic forest green lamps.
SI is under the cultural branch of city government, has 6000 members and costs 19 euro per year, but a family card is 23€ and kids and the retired pay eight. Everyone can checkout up to twenty items (books go out for three weeks and audiovisual (magazines, CD Roms, audio books, DVDs, games, music CDs) for a week), reserve for less than a euro and renew.
This area of Austria has some very small libraries organized by town churches but independent of this stadtbücherei. The unified catalog has their holdings and via Innsbook, users can borrow at any location and return to the same institution.
As we headed into Youth, Markus told me they lend a wide choice of board games but PC ones were abandoned as everyone gets them from the internet now.
Stacked primary hued boxes hold picture books and make for flexibility in presentation and odd angular seats promise parents a padded perch. A perfectly positioned skylight illuminates the stage.
Tuesdays to Fridays mean school tours and storytimes, all done before the ten a.m. opening.
English, French, Turkish, Russian, Spanish, Italian, and Serbo-Croatian titles spark curiosity about our wide world. Adults can choose from these tongues and I spotted German as a second language and Farsi too. Europeans are close to so many destinations that their huge travel book section has overhead signs directing you to Africa and the Americas, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe etc.
Movies and music are easily browsed in carts on wheels. Lacking a meeting area, the omnipresent mobile shelving is handy for evening events as it can be shoved around to create all kinds of spaces. The portable stacks are used all over and in Kid’s they have an accordion room divider as well.
Crime fiction is their biggest seller so there are recommendations stands by the door. Online, SI has a journal database and offers e-books and e-audiobooks but evidently in this country, publishers can prevent electronic sales to libraries, even though the Austrian Library Association does pay royalties to authors.
Display subjects range from running to Kafka to International Women’s Day to sustainability to LGBTQ topics.
I see interesting touches everywhere like sleek chrome support columns and coat racks. Four internet computers arranged in a pod and one for word processing are for cardholders – show yours at the desk and you’ll get the keyboard, or a wifi password.
The website has snaps of all personnel and describes their roles. Additionally it links to Seitenwechsel (Page Break to us) the twice yearly newsletter, annual reports and Sommerleseclub, the adolescent summer reading initiative.
Facebook has promotions for Innsbruck Reads (a yearly project where they give out 10,000 copies of the selected novel for free) and for new magazines and titles, a prose festival, contests and “Bloody Valentine”, a crime author talk. Studded with quotes about libraries, votes on boys’ and girls’ favorites, photos of people enjoying lectures or a good book, new interns and hires, staff posing in an array of T-shirts for World Book Day, foreign colleagues and readings from local writers (often sponsored by corporations), it’s very active.
We chatted for a bit to Christina Krenmayr (in June, she was in charge of the digital end of things, but now she’s the new Head) . She has a Mag.a – an Austrian master’s degree. It is possible to get a master’s in information science, but to join the team you need the equivalent of a high school diploma plus twice a year you’ll spend a paid week in Salzburg for continuing education. Also, you must do a library course with a final presentation.
Markus’s presentation was a model for a new library (and one will be completed next year). A big part of its premise was that a public library is a mirror for diversity – he mentioned the collection only had Catholic volumes in the seventies and early eighties, but now carries all religions.
Select from periodicals in English, French and Italian as well as all the German newspapers.
Markus mentioned it’s a very social venue to come and read or meet friends. Noise is acceptable as people should feel welcome. They have an educational function and strive to reflect the needs and wishes of inhabitants.
A few thousand refugees call this region home. Many come to study German and they can checkout two items. Markus co-organizes wer bist du? (Who are you?), a series allowing students to learn about the cultures of representatives from different nations and the advantages of diversity. It’s also designed to welcome the newcomers and ease integration.
Programs include games afternoons, readings, poetry slams and storytelling for adults.
The second floor is teen and adult nonfiction but it gets awfully hot in summer because of all the glass. Low shelves of coffee table tomes ensure natural light is plentiful, not just from the panes above.
The ends of tall steel and wood cases have tilted ledges for suggestions and a conference table seats eight.
As attractive as it is, SI has been in this building for eighteen years and it’s much too small – about 590 square meters (6350′ square) for patrons and 100 for offices and technical support. Austrian library standards are two units per resident, but they’re physically confined to 55,000 for a population of over 130,000. The city approved the future stadtbücherei three years ago. At the entrance to the aldstadt, by a popular shopping mall and public transport, it will be at the base of the new cultural center with some local archives and the Andechs gallery and will be quadruple the size and more modern, e.g. self check…
There’ll be study rooms and an event hall (so staff can stop shifting furniture). New hires will supplement the team of eleven working Monday to Friday plus the three on Saturday.
What a wonderful place and after moving into the new digs, they’ll be even better equipped to fulfill the Stadtbücherei Innsbruck’s Leitbild (motto) envisioning a “city library for all” that embraces their multilingual community.