With Oslo’s brand-new main public library soon to be built near the Opera House at Bjørvika, the current library, which was damaged during the July 22 bombing in 2011, is already preparing for the move and shelving some of its book collection.
Construction of the new Deichmanske Library, named for its original benefactor Carl Deichman in 1780, is scheduled to start in December this year and be completed in 2016-17. The new library will be spread over six floors and flooded with light from atriums and openings. It will feature reading rooms, new media workshops, lounges, diagonal views over the city and Oslo Fjord, cinema, children’s areas, games areas, a restaurant and much more.
According to its website, the “Diagonal,” as it’s called, will be a “dynamic building, whose content is shaped by the people who use it.” Oslo-based architects Lund Hagem Arkitekter and Atelier Oslo won the competition to build it. The building alone is estimated to cost NOK 1.53 billion (around USD 250 million).
It will also house the Deichmanske collection, now in the public library right next to the former Office of the Prime Minister. The building was damaged during the July 22, 2011 bombings, as was the adjacent government complex that was attacked, but reopened again just over two months later.
Paradoxically, though, the library’s current collection of 800,000 books will need to be downsized to an estimated 500,000, before the move goes ahead, even though the new library will be four times the size. That figure also includes its collections of journals, cds and DVDs, which means that around 300,000 won’t make it to the new library.
Library head Liv Sæteren sees this downsizing as postive, and a normal part of their work as librarians. “Now we will have time and the opportunity to do what is a natural and less visible part of a library’s activity,”she told newspaper Aftenposten. She wants to make sure that everything that remains is relevant for readers, as well as freeing up space for the collection to grow again. All of the precious rare books will, naturally, be kept.
Sæteren recognizes that it’s a sensitive topic for many. “But this is not a book massacre … it’s a very proper process,” she said, and described her management of it as “terribly conservative.” Many books have already been sold in the library’s flea market, or donated to institutions or other libraries, and are only discarded as a last resort.
In the new Deichmanske, more of the collection will also be available on the shelves, whereas in the current one, 30 percent of the books are in storage and many are out of date or unloanable.
One of the aims for the library is that it will “consolidate Oslo as an international and multicultural capital,” according to civic boosters. The Bjørvika district, already popular with tourists and locals for the Oslo Opera House, will also be the location for the new Munch and Stenersen Museums. The top of the new Deichmanske will be visible to people arriving at Oslo’s Central Station,which is adjacent to the new library site.