A true veteran in the Barents Cooperation

There is quite a variety of cross-border activities in the Barents Region. Not all of them are part of the formal structures of the interregional and intergovernmental cooperation. It does not make them more important – rather the opposite! The Barents Regional Youth Council is one, the Barents library cooperation another.

Libraries in the Barents region started meeting regularly already 40 years ago. The meetings have been referred to either as the Barents Library Conferences or the North Calotte Library Conferences but the basis has been the same: namely improving the library services with the help and inspiration of cross-border cooperation. Librarians felt that similar cultures, indigenous and minority experiences, and kinship across borders were more important for a development in line with public needs and interests, rather than only far away capitals.

There has not been any establishment of a Barents library organization, but a biannual conference has developed into a forum for networking and generating ideas.
– In the late 1990s there was a EU-funded project, Berenice, aimed at building networks. It brought us closer by strengthening personal contacts and we still continue to learn from each other and help each other. The Barents Library Conferences do not only go across national borders but also across functional borders of scientific and public libraries, says Library Director Susanna Parikka.
The Barents Library Conference met this year in Rovaniemi. The theme was Libraries@Barents – Communicative and active! In the conference Dr. Regis Rouge-Oikarinen elaborated on how to be successful in cross-border cooperation arguing that it needs to be based on local needs, common challenges and mutual cooperation and have a grass-root connection.

One concrete example of the results of the cooperation over the years is a common bibliography of literature on Sami issues. In its early version it was just a list, but it then developed into a common search system for Nordic Sami bibliographies in the portal www.pohjanportti.fi. The project took the final step during this year’s conference when the Sami librarians agreed to produce a common search system for Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian and Russian Sami collections.

In addition, there have been and there still are library cooperation projects in Barents area between various combinations of countries. One nice example is the common mobile libraries with routes across the borders of Finland, Sweden and Norway. There is also a plan to launch a Facebook based service “Ask a librarian in Barents region” .

More information on the conference: http://blc2011.rovaniemi.fi

Liisa Hallikainen, Information Specialist
Mikko Hyötyniemi, Information Service Assistant

Arctic Centre, University of Lapland

Barents Library Conference participants visiting the Santa Claus Office in the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi.