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Smart Community Engagement & Enablement

Keynoting the third day of Internet Librarian is Rolf Hapel, Professor of Practice, University of Washington Information School and former Director, Citizen Services & Libraries, Aarhus, Denmark, speaking about his experience designing the Dokk1 library, which opened in 2015. Its vision statement doesn’t even mention books or technology, even though the library has both.

Important to the library’s mission is community engagement. The cure for eroding community engagement, according to Hapel, is to move from informing to involving, from giving access to information to facilitating exchange and sharing, from consumers of democracy to active participation, from their problem to our problem, from concerns to opportunities.

Libraries should find ways to mitigate the social challenges caused by economic shifts, post-industrialism, new types of jobs, disappearance of old jobs, and gentrification. We forget that some people find libraries intimidating, since we think of libraries as welcoming. Hapel recommends developing an inclusive service planning model and a community assets map. Libraries are an excellent place to teach all types of literacies and to build trust and fight misinformation. Tools, such as non-partisan fact checkers, aren’t enough; we need to address belief systems.

At Dokk1, the reinvention of the library involves using flexible spaces for many different purposes, from concerts and lectures to hackathons, open data days, and literature festivals. Robots at Dokk1 (they have two, both named Norma) get people accustomed to what happens when everything is robotized. Manufacturing, he noted, has returned to Denmark, but the jobs are done primarily by robot. In the library, robots even do story hours for children.

The Danish Digital Library ( provides the same backbone for all Danish public libraries, allowing for collaboration on purchasing and unsiloing data. Its digital infrastructure puts information into meaningful containers. Moving forward, Hapel listed a dozen 21st Century job skills, which he grouped into learning skills, literacy skills, and life skills.





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