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The public library – space and heart for all

Immigrants in Berg Municipality have Norwegian friends. They are active in the local society and far more than the average in Norwegian communities are working.

The number of visitors at the library rocketed and the locals became more open, feeling safer and happier. The establishment of a common meeting place caused the good results.

The locals, bergsværingene, both new and old, have now a common meeting place; The Berg public library. They get access to everything a traditional library offers, in addition to getting included in activities that different groups and organisations are arranging. The ordinary days at the library have increased visitor numbers, both by locals, but also from the neighbouring municipalities.

The leaders in the municipality are engaged

- The library means a lot for Berg Municipality. They have activated the people and the village, created a role as a part of integration. It has become a success. Without the library we wouldn´t have managed with integration, says the mayor Roar Jakobsen. The librarian is an important person in developing the municipality.

The library as the hub for inclusion

The municipality gets good feedback; the library is a good place to stay.
- It has done something with us; meeting different people and different cultures. Residents have become more open to people with another skin colour, culture and religion. People have changed; because they interact with others. Immigrants enrich our societies, says Brita Esaiassen, librarian at Berg Municipality.

Good strategies for the library

• Common meeting place for groups and organisations.

• Language evenings for practicing Norwegian and creating networks.

• Knitting evenings where a great grandmother from Mefjordvær teaches Eritrean young girls to knit mittens. Locals meet across generations.

• Workshops in cooking and baking at the village school. Making dishes from different homelands.

• Film and café evenings; with different themes as skiing and fishing. Café evenings with board game.

• Cooperation between library and integrations services gives financial support to the purchase of literature from countries where the immigrants come from.

• Cooperation with schools and culture school, local writers, musicians and photographers, yarn dealers for the knitting evenings, the different groups in sports clubs, business gardens, community health services, independent enthusiasts, health organisations and other organisations in the municipality.

Remarks from research

• The diversity becomes more pronounced when the population becomes more international and the number of people in working age is increasing. The effect is that the locals at some places have become more open and tolerant, which again affects the identity of the place and the local culture.

• Immigration to rural municipalities provides better conditions for maintaining public and private enterprises.

• To make the new residents wanting to stay and to create good places for all, it´s crucial with local policy focusing on what makes places appealing.

• Immigrants´ local identity is often weak. If the municipality wants to make this feeling stronger, it need to act, start projects, working in different sectors at the same time. Arenas for adolescence, and involving volunteerism and businesses are such essential projects, for example.

• Immigrants with friends in the majority population and who participate in voluntary organisations, have a much higher employment percentage than immigrants without such networks.

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