Libraries, as public places, have possibilities to become the most lively places of the local community, because they offer services to the whole society. Libraries offer the most essential condition of community activities: a meeting place.
In Budapest, on 19th April 2011, Prof. Ragnar Audunson lectured about the PLACE project. The title of his talk was „Public libraries as meeting places”. The event was organized by the Department of Library and Information Science, Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the Eötvös Loránd University. The lecture was translated by Agnes Hajdu Barát.
I would like to write – without attempting to be comprehensive – about some interesting parts of this lecture. They inspired me to think about the social role of libraries.
The Norwegian professor talked about the PLACE („Public Libraries as Arenas for Citizenship”) project. I would like to highlight one of the most important aims of this project. The questions are: how do libraries become real meeting places in a multicultural local communities? How can they help the communication between people with totally different cultural and religious backgrounds? How can they help to solve integration problems of immigrants? (As I wrote it, I realized that he did not mention the word „problem” related to this topic…)
Before answering these questions, I pinpoint some facts about Norway.
The North Germanic Norwegian language has two official written forms, Bokmål and Nynorsk and both of them are recognized as official languages. They are both used in public administration, in schools, churches, and the media. This rather special situation is complicated by many dialects and the fact that 11% of the population are immigrants.
Most immigrants in Norway come from Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Russia and Afganistan. About 25% of the population of Oslo are non-Western immigrants. There are some schools, where 70-80% of the students are immigrants.
It is interesting that muslim women are allowed to go to libraries (in contrast to other public places), because muslim families think that libraries are safe places. For these women libraries are places where they can learn the local customs and socialize. Even a superficial knowledge of muslim customs reveals how important this might be. It proves that that „meeting place function in the library has a different social profile and has a potential of creating communities across social, economic and ethnic cleavages”.
I was taken by Mr. Audunson’s attitude of supposing goodwill related to everything. He stated that he would leave his wallet on the table, because he assumed goodwill. In his opinion, this trust should be the basis of society. And it must be the same for politicians, too: „A” party and „B” party have to suppose goodwill behind the other’s steps and decisions.
Another interesting feature of the PLACE project is that students and PhD students took part in it for years. It would be good to have more similar projects in Hungary. This way students would have a glimpse into the real world of libraries by taking part in this kind of projects.
You can find more information about the PLACE project, about Norway and about this lecture in English and in Hungarian in the bibliography:
You can hear the whole lecture and find the power point presentation of the lecture on ELTE BTK KT Blog:
Svanhild Aabø, Ragnar Audunson and Andreas Vårheim: How do public libraries function as meeting places? Online: https://oda.hio.no/jspui/bitstream/10642/335/2/503013.pdf
Beszámoló Ragnar professzor úr előadásáról az ELTE Egyetemi Könyvtári Szolgálat honlapján (with pictures and the power point presentation of the lecture). Online: http://konyvtar.elte.hu/web/hu/node/1987
Beszámoló Ragnar professzor úr előadásáról az ELTE BTK honlapján: http://www.btk.elte.hu/hir?id=NW-855
Bodrogi Enikő: Nyelvi jogok Norvégiában. Online: http://klimala.web.elte.hu/18/10MBodrogiEniko.pdf
Norway. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norway
Koller Inez: Migrációs tendenciák Európában
Ragnar Audunson: The public library as a meeting-place in a multicultural and digital context: The necessity of low-intensive meeting-places. Online: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?articleid=1465043
Tóth Máté: A könyvtár mint találkozóhely – A PLACE projekt. In: Könyv, könyvtár, könyvtáros. 2009. 7. sz.
 Ragnar Audunson is Professor in Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences and was the president of European Association for Library & Information Education and Research (EUCLID)
 Agnes Hajdu Barát is a college professor at the Department of Library and Museum Pedagogy, Institute of Adult Education, Gyula Juhász Faculty of Education, University of Szeged, and a guest lecturer at the Department of Library and Information Science, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest.
 From the power point presentation of the lecture, that you can find here: http://elte-lis.blogspot.com/2012/04/prof-ragnar-audunson-eloadasa.html