Facts about the library
Reykjavík City Library Overview
1. Some Facts and Figures
Address: Borgarbókasafn Reykjavíkur, Grófarhusi, Tryggvagötu 15, 107 Reykjavík.
Population of Reykjavík: (Dec. 2008): 119.547.
Population of the greater capital area: (Dec. 2008): 201.005 which amounts to about 60% of Iceland´s population, 319.368.
Libraries: 7, book-mobile and story-van.
Circulation: (2008) 1.034.000 items.
Library visits: (2008) 640.000.
Personnel: (2009) 108 individuals or 81 full-time.
Budget: (2009) 565.000 Icel. kronas. Thereof: salaries 350.000.000 Icel. kronas; books and other material 50.000.000 Icel. kronas. Income: 40.000.000 Icel. kronas and grants 750.000.
Opening hours in the main library, branches and bookmobile: (2009) 366 hours a week (less in June – August).
Collection / Stock: 500.000 items (kept stable).
2. History and Role of the Library
Reykjavík City Library, Borgarbókasafn Reykjavíkur, was established in 1919 and opened to the public on April 19, 1923. When founded it was called Alþýðubókasafn Reykjavíkur, Reykjavík Public Library, and it is one of the city’s oldest cultural institutions.
The establishment of the library is partly due to the sale of fishing vessels owned by the City to France in 1917. The Government of Iceland made it a condition for the sale that a part of the profit would be used to set up a library for the public in Reykjavík.
Gradually new library branches opened as the city expanded. From the start the library has lent out cases of books to ships and since 1969 a mobile library service has been operated calling at some 40 places all over the city. In 1973 a music library was established and the lending of music started in1986. A home delivery service for home-bounds started operating in 1974 and in the same year a library of audio books for the blind was established. This later became The Icelandic Library for the Blind, run by the state. In all library branches children have been offered story-hours and library orientation for children and young adults has been is an ongoing service for decades. In 2004 an Artotech was opened. The Artotech is a cooperative project between the City Library and The Association of Visual Artists, and the operation consists of renting out Icelandic contemporary visual art, for a resonable fee. In 2008 a story-van started running that vistits over 90 daycare centers yearly, schools, youth-centers and festivals.
Reykjavík City Library operates fully within the tradition of library services in the other Nordic countries, Western Europe and North America. The Library also operates in accordance with the Icelandic Public Libraries Act from1997 and the UNESCO Public Library Manifesto from 1994. The library also looks toward to the IFLA Multicultural Manifesto from 2008.
The library follows and adopts innovations in technology, services and material alike. Reykjavík City Library plays an important role in the cultural life of Reykjavík and it is the largest cultural institution run by the municipality.
3. Reykjavík City
The capital is located in the southwest corner of Iceland, on Faxaflói bay. It covers an area of 274.5 square km, including the city’s landmark, the mountain Esja. Of this, only some 46.5 square km are densely populated.
As befits a capital, Reykjavík is the seat of the government administration, legislative assembly, universities and other higher educational institutions. It also houses theatres, museums, galleries, corporate headquarters and a wide range of shops, and is the centre for both domestic and external transport services. The commerce and service sectors are the largest employers in Reykjavík.
In recent years, foreign citizens have moved to Reykjavík in growing numbers and a multicultural society is starting to form. Tourism is a growing industry in Reykjavik. Reykjavík was one of the European Cities of Culture in the year 2000. The Cultural Year was a real boom for cultural life in Reykjavík and resulted among other things in new premises for four cultural institutions run by the municipality.
4. The Library Today
The library system today is a main library, five branch libraries, a book-mobile and a story-van.
The library housing totals 6.726 sq m. The collection is about 500.000 items and it is the library's policy to keep it stable i.e. not let it grow. New acquisitions and weeding shall be in balance and all the material on display in open access. As of 2009, computers for the public with Internet access are 42, which is much less than a few years ago. This is due to the high private ownership of computers and home internet connections by the general public. In all libraries there is a ,,Hot Spot”, and people can bring their own laptops and access the Internet for free.
The library system for the whole country is called gegnir.is . Most libraries in the country (almost 100%) participate in this project where of Reykjavík City Library and the National Library-University Library of Iceland are far the largest. Machines for self-service/check-out are now in use in Reykjavik City Library.
The City Library is one of the supporters of hvar.is which is the Icelandic countrywide access portal to electronic databases and e-journals. Here one has access to foreign databases in nationwide access, full text journals, literary works works of English and American poetry, drama and prose, reference works and dictionaries. This access is free from any Internet computer within the country.
The year 2000 was a significant one in Reykjavík City Library’s history. Most importantly, the main library moved to new premises, on Tryggvagata 15 (Grofarhus). The main library’s premises are in an old downtown warehouse by the harbour. Neighbours are the Reykjavík Art Museum, Reykjavík Archives and Reykjavík Photo Museum. The library occupies 2,900 sq m of its own, plus 975 sq m jointly with the other institutions. These joint locales in the building is used by the library for various programmes for the public, such as exhibitions, meetings, seminars and creative workshops. The space is also used for staff meetings and continuing education.
At the main library, the music and film department is located, and the above mentioned Artotech. Holdings of the main library now (2009) amount to 191.743 items.
A new wing to the Reykjavík City Theatre houses a branch library which opened in October 2001. On the same site the city’s largest shopping mall and several cinemas are situated. An effort has been made from the start to cooperate closely with the theatre and theatrical material is an important feature in this branch library.
A new bookmobile (in Icelandic) that meets the demands of the modern age started running in the beginning of the year 2001. Two old bookmobiles (30 and 45 years old) stopped running.
In February 2004 a new branch library opened in one of the suburbs, in a fast growing centre.
In February 2008 a new story-van (in Icelandic) for children started operating.
A service agreement was made in the year 2000 between Reykjavík City Library and the libraries in Mosfellsbær and Seltjarnarnes. The former municipality is surrounded by Reykjavík and the latter borders the capital. In particular, the City Library made this agreement with the interests of people in West Reykjavík and Kjalarnes (which then became a part of Reykjavík) in mind, but all inhabitants in these three municipalities benefit from it. The people of Reykjavík, Mosfellsbær and Seltjarnarnes can now enter any of the public libraries in the area and (using the same library card) receive the same service at all premises. Regular deliveries are made between the libraries, enabling customers to pick up a book or other material in whichever library is convenient for them.
The library works in accordance with the new multicultural policy drawn up by Reykjavík City. It will work closely with all other organizations that deal with matters concerning people who move to Iceland. Teaching material in Icelandic fulfils the demand of non-native speakers, newspapers in many languages are stocked in the main library and in all libraries guests have access to foreign newspapers on the Internet.
On the Internet, the library has created an interactive web about literature (Icelandic authors writing today) literature.is . The project is maintained in cooperation with authors, publishers, the Icelandic Writers Union and the Literature Institute at The University of Iceland. Today more than 100 authors are presented on the web.
Various children's and family programs, events and activities are offered throughout the year, ,,traditional" and new such as story hours, seminars, artistic performances, ,,Poetry Slam". Some of these are aimed at using culture as a means to increase understanding between people of different origin.
Reykjavik Literally in English. For several years the library has hosted a walking tour in downtown Reykjavik where Icelandic literature, from the Saga period to newly published books, is introduced. These walks, weekly in July and Agust, are free of charge, but can be booked for groups for a charge all year round. Til baka
Anna Torfadóttir / September 2009.