Written by Ciara Ní Riain
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Skagen library is top of the list of libraries to visit in Denmark – literally. Denmark’s most Northerly library is a much-loved community space which serves a rural population of 8,000 that swells to over 50,000 in tourist season.
Right on the tip of the Jutland peninsula where two seas visibly meet, Skagen is known for its artists and for its magical nature and light.
It is also a must-see, must-be-seen-in tourist destination. Every summer, it buzzes with an eclectic and egalitarian range of visitors – anyone and everyone including hitchhikers, football teams, folk music fans, cruise ship passengers, families, school groups, bikers and the Danish royal family.
The local library is as egalitarian, lovely and welcoming as Skagen itself. It’s located in Kappelborg Cultural Centre in the town centre – just turn left at the Denmark’s best and best-kept skateboard arena and playground.
The user-friendly, wheelchair-friendly library has a great selection of books, music, films and games, including material in a range of world languages. There is free WiFi, free computers and a choice of reading and study areas.
The children’s department is a wee delight – dress-up clothes, toys, art materials, beanbags and a magical little cubby hole in which to crawl and read your book without being bothered by grown-ups.
The library’s book sales are another delight – held a couple of times a year in the basement, you never know what you might find on sale there. Like the door from the old children’s library, hand-painted by a local artist with fantasy figures.
The library assistants and librarians are truly a part of the local community. They host activities ranging from knitting circles to book clubs and computer courses to author talks. They host fabulous, fun creative workshops for children. They host conversational groups for foreigners who want to practice their Danish. They host special events together with local community groups and actively promote the activities of local volunteer groups.
They know a lot of their visitors by name, offer you cinnamon biscuits at Christmas, invite locals to provide reader recommendations for displays and are world champions at reuniting visitors with their lost property.
It is characteristic of the sense of community ownership at this library that printing and copying services work on an honour system. If you print or copy during self-service opening hours, you pay the (nominal) price by popping coins into the little money box screwed to the wall.
Similarly, during a heatwave (yes, it’s true that the sun doesn’t shine in Denmark for seven months, but then it does all its shining at once) they’ll leave a nice note on the table during self-service hours to let you know that it’s okay to open the window, just remember to shut it please before you leave.
Photo courtesy of @aggiehh