It has been my great (private) shame that I have lived in Bergen for a year and a half and had never explored Bergen’s public library (until this week). There. Now I’ve admitted it, and my shame is public. Hopefully this admission will benefit you, the newer international students, however, by preventing you from carrying the same lack-of-library abashment with you for months or more. If you’re lucky, you already know about this great resource! And if not… I was very fortunate to have a friend offer me an informal tour of the Bergen Offentlige Bibliotek and therefore I can now ‘pay it forward’ to you. Come, take my hand, let’s go to the library!
Image: https://snl.no/Bergen_offentlige_bibliotek Photo: Lars Mæhlum. limited
Bergen’s Public Library
Bergen Offentlige Bibliotek, the second largest public library in Norway, was founded in 1872. It has a main library in the sentrum as well as 6 branch libraries. The library contains about 700,000 resources available for library users including books, periodicals, sheet music, CDs, videos, etc., much of which is accessible online.
So why should you care about the public library?
Well, first of all – books are great and libraries are great. And this library has books aplenty (like ya do if you are a library). While the majority of these are Norwegian language texts, there is a fair selection of English language offerings, and even a small international section with books, magazines, newspapers and videos from many different countries. But, wait, just wait – if you’re not a ‘books’ person, there is much more.
Don’t get left out in the cold, get into the library. Photo: Stand Hiestand
DVDs and CDs
Of course, as many libraries do nowadays, there is also a selection of DVDs and CDs both in English and Norwegian (and a smattering in other languages as well). So, you can borrow these fine films and CDs for free if you run out of netflix or your spotify is on the fritz. Or if you just want to try out a Norsk language film and you can’t find one online. Some of these even have English subtitles – ooh, cheating! 😉
Okay, you might be saying, this is lovely, but now I want you to impress me. What else ya got? Well, here we go:
The library has board games, console games and handheld game machines that can be used in the library playroom and as well as some games that are available for check out. The library playroom offers the opportunity to play many types of games inclusively and interactively with other patrons as well as a cozy spot for playing video games.
You can use their workshop in order to utilize tools you may need for those ‘buildin’ projects that have been buildin’ up’. They even have a 3D printer. What! That’s right, a 3D printer. Amazing.
In order to use the workshop/3D printer:
- You must have a library card and fill out a form
- Book workshop time through the library’s website
- In order to use the 3D printer you must first complete a course (these are offered regularly and it’s ok to not speak Norsk, you can still take it!)
- You can’t receive help for the 3D modeling itself through the library staff. So you should know how to model, be willing to learn through self-study from library books on the subject, or come with finished 3D model (available online)
- For any 3D modeling you do, you must pay for the plastic by weight, this is usually a nominal fee
Did I mention they have a 3D PRINTER?! Photo: Stand Hiestand
Missing that guitar you left at home and dreading the Norwegian prices at the local instrument shop? Well, fear not, the library has you covered. You can check out a guitar with your library card for 4 weeks! Also, they have a room of special donated instruments that are much more rare (and generally from other countries/cultural traditions) these cannot be checked out but you can book time in their studio to play them.
Time to get the band back together… Photo: Stand Hiestand
They have a digital studio for all your recording needs. Got a pressing podcast to produce? The library has you covered. The digital workroom can be used for creative work or meetings and has a mac, smart board, synth, digital drum kits, and recording equipment as well as software to facilitate creative work on photos, games, movies and music. Cameras and other recording equipment may be borrowed.
- Again, you must have a library card and fill out a form
- Book studio time through the library’s website
Is all this making you hungry?
Afraid you could spend all day at the library and end up starving? There is also a reasonably priced cafe within the library called Amalies Hauge (Amalie’s Garden) that you can retire to for a pick-me-up.
Eat me. Drink me. Library. Photo: Stand Hiestand
Bored and broke?
How about a free movie night? Mondays at 18:00 downstairs in the sentrum (main) library you can join for a free screening. Take a look here for more information, or join their film-night Facebook group.
But what about specific International Student Needs?
Well, there are also several opportunities to practice speaking norsk and other languages. For example, Norsktrening (Norwegian Training), organized in collaboration with the Red Cross. Norsktrening is an informal Norwegian language practice for refugees and immigrants facilitated by Norwegian speaking volunteers. It’s free! All levels are welcome. No registration is necessary. Språkkafe (another informal way to practice norsk) and other choices are also available, check out some options here.
Convinced that Bergen Library is the greatest? Go get yourself a library card!
Anyone staying in Norway for an extended period is welcome to a library card, some privileges may be reserved for those with a Norwegian ID number though. For more information about the rights and responsibilities of being a member of the Norwegian library system, click here.
Come in from the outside and join the library. Photo: Stand Hiestand
To get a library card
- Go in person to get your library card or check out this link.
- You’ll need to show a valid ID to obtain a library card.
- Children under the age of 15 need a parent’s signature.
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.
And, what about checking out items? How long and what are the overdue fees?
- Books can be checked out for 3 – 4 weeks
- DVD’s and CD’s have a shorter check out time
- You may renew items up to 2 times if no one else has reserved them
- Overdue fees are kr 50 for ‘one reminder’ and kr 100 for needing a second reminder.
Need a funny library anecdote before you feel like the library is ‘approachable’?
Well, my friend tells me that tourists in Bergen often come into the library and enquire about train departures. They confuse the building with the train station on a regular basis. You would think that all the books and the total lack of trains would tip them off that they had gotten the building wrong by the time there were inside… Non-the-less, the friendly library staff sends them off in the right direction.
Let the library’s shelves embrace you. Photo: Stand Hiestand
Take a tour to get to know the library in person:
The first Monday (5:00 pm) and Saturday (11:00 am) each month tours start from the Learning Center in the basement.