New public library world champion named
It all started with an endowment of 6,000 books in 1785. Today, Deichman Bjørvika in Oslo has been named as the world’s best new public library.
When the Norwegian Chancellor and businessman Carl Deichman bequeathed his collection of 6,000 books to the citizens of Christiania (now Oslo) in 1785, he could hardly have imagined that – 216 years later – his legacy would have become a unique public library on six storeys centred around an automatic book-sorting system. Had he lived today, he would have been thrilled to see that his bequest became the foundation for the world’s best new public library in 2021.
The Public Library of the Year award is presented annually by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) in collaboration with the Danish software company Systematic A/S, which also sponsors the award with a USD 5,000 prize. This year, 32 libraries competed for the award, five were nominated and the winner, Deichman Bjørvika in Oslo, was announced on 19 August at the IFLA World Library and Information Congress, where IFLA president Christine Mackenzie presented the award.
Thankful library director: “The ultimate proof of a world-class library”
Knut Skansen, library director at Deichman Bjørvika, is honoured that his library is the recipient of the Public Library of the Year 2021 award:
"This award is the ultimate proof that the city of Oslo has given its citizens a world-class main library. Deichman Bjørvika is the crowning achievement of a comprehensive and sustained effort to develop Oslo’s libraries, and today I would especially like to thank all of my colleagues who have worked so hard towards this goal for such a long time, as well as all the politicians in Oslo who have understood the library’s importance and made it a priority. This award recognises everything that they and the City of Oslo have done for people in the Norwegian capital. Both as Library Director and a citizen of Oslo, this makes me extremely proud,” he says.
On the choice of Deichman Bjørvika, jury chair Jakob Lærkes says:
“The Public Library of the Year award is all about paying tribute to role models, and the winning library – Deichman Bjørvika – is a shining example. A beautiful and impressive building which serves as a beacon for future library buildings. Deichman Bjørvika more than lives up to the criteria for the award, and the international jury was particularly impressed by how the building combines environmental awareness with architectural flair. The library is a new paradise for books and reading, while incorporating advanced technological solutions. Deichman Bjørvika shows how libraries can function as institutions that bring people together in towns, cities and local communities.”
Automatic book-sorting system means more time to help citizens
The modern library also caught the attention of Systematic, which sponsors the award. Martin Brøchner-Mortensen, Group Senior Vice President and representative for Systematic, was both proud and pleased to be supporting the development of the libraries of the future:
“Deichman Bjørvika is more than just an architectural gem in Norway’s capital city. It’s a smart design, which is built up around a fully automatic book-sorting system that enables employees to spend their time servicing citizens rather than simply handling books. Libraries are important for our society, and at Systematic we take great pride in supplying IT solutions to our more than one million library users.”
The building is situated on Oslo’s harbour front between Oslo Central Station and Oslo Opera House. The library was designed by two collaborating architectural firms Atelier Oslo and Lund Hagem, who were commissioned to design a building that would inspire visitors to explore all the new facilities and activities on offer.
Santi Romero Garuz, jury member and head of library architecture at Diputació de Barcelona, Spain, highlights the high degree of user-friendliness and the future perspectives of the building as two of the main reasons why Deichman Bjørvika was selected as the award-winner.
“Over and above its spectacular design housing modern technological solutions, the choice of materials, energy solutions and the multifunctional rooms testify to the fact that the library has been built with an eye for sustainability – and the future,” he said.
Deichman Bjørvika has 13,500 square metres of floorspace spread across six storeys which are all dedicated to different kinds of learning.
The library has about 450,000 different materials, the bulk being available to borrowers via a self-service system.
The first floor is the busiest, with a restaurant, café, information desk and the fully integrated lending machines. The floor below houses a cinema and an auditorium.
The second floor is designed for young children, who can listen, read and romp about in the magic dungeons and playroom. The third floor is home to ‘the people’s workshop’, where it’s possible to engage in creative pursuits with everything from 3D printers and sewing machines to music and sound studios.
Everything becomes quieter as you move upwards through the library. The fourth and fifth floors are arranged with reading rooms and study rooms, carrels and classrooms, and where, in addition to quiet contemplation, it’s possible to take in the magnificent views of Oslo Fjord and the city.
The Public Library of the Year award is presented by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) in collaboration with the Danish software company Systematic A/S with the aim of paying tribute to new public libraries.
The award is presented to a library in any country worldwide which has excelled at combining open and functional architecture with creative IT solutions while at the same time involving digital technologies and local culture.
To qualify for the award, the library must be newly built or housed in buildings which have not previously been used as a library.
The award ceremony takes place at IFLA’s annual congress, which this year was held virtually. The award comes with prize money of USD 5,000 (almost DKK 32,000/EUR 4,200), which is sponsored by Systematic.