The initial post in my new blog comes from the café (it’s lunchtime). I wonder if that’s paradoxical, but conclude that it isn’t. Even 30 years ago, after the main library in my hometown Trondheim was refurbished (and expanded, from a quiet, dark shelf-filled place to a bright, vibrant place clad with white marble and windows), the library café became a hangout for all kinds of existences, also school kids with time to spend but no money for a coffee refill.
The kind of place Furuset Library has become, is epitomised by the café as much as by anywhere else – perhaps more than anywhere else. This is no longer only a library. The official new name is Library and house of Activity (FUruset BIbliotek og AKtivitetshus) – something akin to the Ideastore in Tower Hamlets, London perhaps. It is far more than a library, particularly for children and youth, but also for all other people: babies and their parents on leave, knitters, bike mechanics, what not…
The atmosphere and sociality has changed completely from five years back, when I did a first round of fieldwork. Paradoxically, again, the number of visitors has more than doubled (and the number of books perhaps halved?). But while I last time could slip unnoticed around for the whole (irregular) six months of fieldwork, it took me no more than two days now to realise that I will have to get used to an identity as a regular. Two days in the café, and they know how I want my coffee.
I recognise the same people from day to day in all sections of the library. It’s probably a little bit different because of school holidays, but still, I’d be surprised if I’m not on to something: I suspect, that more than anything else, the library has changed into a kind of village. People come here to sort out practical affairs. Many read newspapers or browse around for books, pick them up at the pick up shelf or hand them in at the machine. At the same time, many also seem to drop by just to hang around, alone or to meet someone, by chance or appointment. Just the kinds of activities I would guess constitute the village square. (Have I read too much Lefebvre lately, or am I right? I’ll find out during the autumn.).
The main objective of this research is to write a book on the public library, – the Norwegian public library in general and the suburban public library in particular. I wonder how I can incorporate into this plot the changes that have taken place here. This is undoubtedly a very special (not only) library.