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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Destination: Iceland

"I felt in myself a superabundance of energy which found no outlet in our quiet life."
--Leo Tolstoy, Family Happiness

The initial reaction of those I discuss my upcoming research trip to Iceland includes a combination of dramatic eyebrow raises, jaw dropping, and an exclamation of "oh wow", shortly followed by the dreaded question asked of a newbie researcher... "What are you going to do there?"


As part of my undergraduate Education studies, I was always wanting to study abroad to further investigate how schools operated, and it would have been a dream come true if I had received one of the overseas jobs that I had applied for. (C'mon Hogwarts...I know you need me as a librarian on staff). For this Graduate study, I'm taking things a step further and investigating the correlation between traditional and technological literacy skills in school libraries in different cultures. TRANSLATION: how does the comprehension of using technology correlate to understanding what one has just read, and how does this compare across different cultures?

Iceland is known for their literacy skills and love for reading. In fact, five titles are published for every 1000 Icelanders, making them the global leader for literacy. The capital, Reykjavik, became a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) City of Literature in August, 2011, and joined the ranks of other distinguished cultural literary contributors Melbourne, Dublin and Prague. Icelanders also celebrate Jolabokaflod, or the Christmas Book Flood, every holiday season in which gifts of books are given on Christmas Eve and the night is spent reading as means of frivolity. "Books are the backbone of the Icelandic tradition"says industry researcher Baldur Bjarnason, and shows that even though in most countries, a small portion of individuals buy a large amount of books, Icelanders stray from the norm and the majority buy books frequently.

Library use is also common. On average, Icelanders who live in Reykjavik will visit their library six times a year, and libraries appear to be well supported, despite the economic crisis in 2008.

Libraries in Iceland, or commonly known as Tara's finally getting to the point....

In 2005, the most comprehensive study to date provides data for key Icelandic libraries, as well as a history of their origins and use by patrons. Primarily focused in Reykjavik, these library systems are analyzed according to their classification

The first public library was created in 1955 when the Icelandic Parliament developed 30 library districts that separated the country. In each of these districts, public library services were intended to serve the small communities, but were hindered by the small amount of space allotted and materials provided for their library were small in quantity and did not suffice the public interest. Fees were often also charged for library cards, and libraries were also operated by volunteers, which paints a picture of how the budget for public libraries is maintained. Within the 2000's, redevelopment of the public library included open internet access, larger housing facilities for the space, as well as incorporating full time professional librarian positions to each facility. Almost all public libraries in Iceland are connected to the OPAC Gegnir (as of 2005), thus making the network more connected than in past years. The largest public library is Reykjavik City Library with six branches in the capital city that serves almost 651,000 annual visitors and circulates around 1.3 million per year.

Research Libraries
Because of the country's size, there are few libraries dedicated solely to the purpose of research. Many academic institutions, such as the Teacher's College at Kennaraskoli Islands have libraries that serve the students purpose, but none are developed and designed to cater to multiple levels of research purposes. (Such as mine.... phooey.)

National and University Library of Iceland
The National Library of Iceland was created to preserve the nationality of Iceland from the explorer's perspective Many manuscripts, Nordic bibliographies, and other texts that helped preserve the treasures such as the Eddas and Sagas and relay their information onto the general public and travelling minds. In 1994 the National Library merged with the Library of the University of Iceland to further strengthen information seeing across multiple departments; the schools of Theology, Medicine, and Law were in high need of information, and the best place to access this would be in one place, hence the merger. This library houses the National Collections of past Parliamentary documents, special collections and reference services, as well as large reading spaces and general academic research use.

School Libraries
Elementary school libraries were introduced in the 1970s as part of an integral program to convey information seeking skills and behaviors. During the beginning of this initiative, the government paid for 50% of the elementary school library's costs, including books, with having a goal of ten books provided for every student. School libraries in secondary schools (ages 16-20) were also being developed during this time frame, however, they were developed by donations of materials and funds, or with the latter being individually designated within the school budget. Recently, legislation has mandated that technology also be made available for virtual information gathering, thereby enhancing the belief that students will learn to become independent in their search for information and knowledge.

So what does this mean in terms of Tara's research??

The correlation between technological literacy and traditional literacy varies depending on the school culture. In diverse urban American schools, there may be more individuals who know how to operate the latest computer game or iPhone app, versus the text they should be reading in class. In comparison, Icelandic schools with smaller populations may not be as immersed in the technological aspects of literacy and prefer the written word version more. So---getting to the juicy part-- where is the line in which the balance of both can create the definition of a literate teenager ready to enter the adult world?

*cue cliffhanger*

Hannesdottir, S. (2005). Library Development in the Electronic Environment: Iceland 2005. IFLA Journal 31(2). 151-161.

Teicher, J. (2012, December 25). Literary Iceland Revels In Its Annual 'Christmas Book Flood' Retrieved January 7, 2015, from

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