Akureyri Library Nominated for Green Library Award

The Akureyri Municipal Library (Amtsbókasafnið á Akureyri) is amongst the libraries that have been nominated for this year’s IFLA Green Library Award.

The library is on the long list for Best Green Library Project for an intriguing project that is actually not related to books at all.

The “Freedge”

The project in question, “Frískápur” (a portmanteau of “frí”, as in “free, and “ískápur”, as in “refrigerator”), which is called “Freedge” in English, is an ongoing project just outside the library building with the aim of reducing food waste.

Individuals, businesses and organisations with extra food that they might otherwise throw away are encouraged to bring it to and put it in these fridges instead. Anyone is then welcome to pick up this food for themselves.

More than books to lend

Incidentally, books are not the only things you can check out from this library, either.

Speaking to RÚV, library project manager Hrönn Soffíu Björgvinsdóttir pointed out that one can also borrow cake forms, dishware, tools and board games. They even have a sewing machine, which guests are free to use on the premises.

Four Manuscripts, Forgotten for a Century, Resurface at National Library of Iceland

mansucript national library iceland

Four manuscripts have recently been discovered in the National and University Library of Iceland. They are believed to have sat in the collection for a century prior to their recent re-discovery.

A benefactor to Iceland

Willard Fiske (1831-1904) was an American archivist and scholar who was notable for his expertise in Northern European languages, specifically Icelandic literature. Upon his 1904 death, he left some 32,000 volumes to Cornell University. The Fiske Icelandic Collection at Cornell is internationally one of the three largest collections of Icelandic manuscripts and literature.

In addition to his Cornell bequest, he was also a significant early patron of Iceland’s National Library. During the course of his life, he donated some 1,500 volumes to the library, in addition to 2,500 further volumes upon his death.

The four recently re-discovered manuscripts from the collection were a part of the Fiske collection, and have sat somewhere in the archives for more than a century before recently resurfacing.

Four unique discoveries

One manuscript, Lbs 5338 8vo, contains an Ottoman Turkish-Persian dictionary composed in the 16th century by the scholar Ibrahim Sahidi. The text, which served as both a poetry dictionary and textbook, is well-known to scholars and is preserved in other manuscripts throughout the world. Consisting of 28 octavo leaves, the manuscript is believed to have been written in the 17th century. The text also contains marginal commentaries on the main text. There is one more Ottoman manuscript that was rediscovered, in addition to an Armenian gospel.

These three manuscripts were written on paper, and the fourth that was found, a book of hours, was recorded on vellum.

Books of hours were Christan prayer books used widely throughout Europe in the mediaeval period. One of the most common surviving types of manuscripts, they were used to record the canonical hours of religious orders and often combined elaborate illuminated illustrations alongside the text. The manuscript that was found in the National Library, Lbs 5336 8vo (pictured above), is highly decorated, featuring intricate initial letters and several full-page illuminations. Nothing of the provenance of the manuscript prior to its acquisition by Fiske is known.

With no concrete connection to Icelandic literary history, it is also a mystery why these particular manuscripts were included in Fiske’s donations to the National Library at the time.

“Happens all around the world”

In an interview with RÚV, Halldóra Kristinsdóttir, a manuscript specialist at the National Library, stated that such occurrences aren’t unheard of.

“These are incredibly beautiful manuscripts, and much effort has been put into its creation,” she said. “It’s a big question, why they were just found. But this happens in museums all around the world, something emerges from the collections that people didn’t know existed. These manuscripts were stored among the printed books that were delivered to the library at the beginning of the 20th century and had been stored with the books that they came with, and were not transferred to the manuscript section of the library until recently when a library staff member noticed that there were manuscripts here and not just printed books in these boxes.”

“It’s very exciting for us in Iceland to find these manuscripts because there aren’t many foreign manuscripts here. For example, the liturgical book written in Latin, there is no other such complete book known to exist in Iceland,” she continued.

However, Halldóra did state that while such finds are exciting, they are relatively rare, and we should not expect similar finds in Iceland in the near future.

The manuscripts have been digitized and can be viewed at handrit.is. They will also on display in the entrance hall of the National and University Library of Iceland in the coming days.

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Does Iceland Have a National Library?

national and university library of iceland

Yes, it does, but it’s more properly known as the National and University Library of Iceland.

It’s by the far the largest library in Iceland, but despite Iceland’s long literary history, it’s a rather new addition to Reykjavík. It was only established in 1994 by an agreement between the former National Library (established in 1818) and the University Library (established in 1940). Before the library took on its current form, the National Library of Iceland was housed in the House of Collections, which now houses a museum.

Debate began already in the 1950s that it was inefficient to have two major research libraries in separate buildings. The former location in the House of Collections was also considered to be insufficient for the future needs of the National Library system, so the decision was made to construct a new home for the collection.

After some economic setbacks in the 1970s that delayed the project, the first shovel was officially put in the ground in 1978. A fun fact is that Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, Iceland’s former president and the first democratically-elected female head of state in the world, helped lay the foundation for the building in 1981. As with many such projects, it ended up being delayed and over-budget. But finally, in 1994, the 50-year anniversary of Iceland’s independence, the new building was officially opened.

Now, the National and University Library houses a collection of around 1 million items of printed material and other media formats. Important parts of the library include its legal collection, historical documents, rare books and manuscripts, academic journals, and a comprehensive collection of nearly all Icelandic-language publications.

While it also serves as the research library for the University of Iceland, because it is also the National Library, it is open to all residents of Iceland.

Mayor Proposes Closing Reykjavík Municipal Archive for Budgetary Reasons

Reykjavík Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson has proposed that the Reykjavík Municipal Archive be shut down for budgetary reasons, RÚV reports. Per the proposal, the archive’s primary functions would be assumed by the National Archive and the dissemination of, and educational outreach related to the archive’s holdings would become the responsibility of the Reykjavík City Museum. If the proposal is approved by the city council, Reykjavík would be the first municipality in the country to close a district archive, and perhaps the only European capital not to maintain its own archive.

The Reykjavík Municipal Archive was founded in 1954. It stores over 10,500 shelf metres of documents and has also increased its digital holdings and services in recent years.

Under Icelandic law, municipalities are permitted, but not required, to operate a district archive. Iceland’s National Archives already oversees archival duties for municipalities that do not maintain their own archives. The mayor’s proposal suggests that the capital simply follow suit, as costs of effectively maintaining an archive are only expected to increase in order to keep pace with the demands of record keeping in the digital era.

In 2022, it cost the City of Reykjavík over ISK 170 million [$1.18 million; €1.10 million] to operate its Municipal Archive. It is expected to cost an additional ISK 10 million [$69,587; €64,910] to operate the archive in 2023. According to archivist Svanhildur Bogadóttir, however, the actual cost to run the archive is relatively low; a third of their budget goes towards the rent they pay the City of Reykjavík.

Reykjavík Archive does not have resources to fulfil its mandate, says private audit

The mayor’s proposal comes in the wake of an assessment conducted by auditing and accounting firm KPMG, which states that based on current funding, the Reykjavík Municipal Archive does not have the resources to fulfil its mandate. KPMG’s assessment suggests that beyond the basic savings associated with greater cooperation between the Municipal and National Archives, this arrangement would also lend itself to a number of additional benefits: better facilities, better use of staff expertise, and improved services.

Although they were aware that KPMG was conducting an assessment related to “strategic planning” for the Municipal Archive, none of the employees had any idea that there was talk of closing their place of work all together before the mayor submitted his proposal. One plan that had been on the table was for the Municipal and National Archives to be relocated to the same building, but in that scenario, they were intended to remain separate entities.

The mayor’s proposal does not outline will happen to the Municipal Archive’s staff—nine full-time and two temporary employees—in the event that the archive is closed.

New Cultural Hub Opens in Úlfarsárdalur Neighbourhood

Úlfarsárdalur swimming pool Dagur B. Eggertsson mayor

The City of Reykjavík’s seventh library and eighth swimming pool have officially opened at a brand-new cultural hub in the Úlfarsárdalur neighbourhood in eastern Reykjavík. The hub also contains a new preschool and elementary school. While most city libraries are open for around eight hours a day, the new library will have the same opening hours as the neighbouring pool: from 6:30 AM to 10:00 PM on weekdays and from 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM on weekends.

Úlfarsárdalur is one of Reykjavík’s newer neighbourhoods and it could be said that it is still developing. Some residents have waited years for the services that the cultural hub now offers. Reykjavík Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson attended the opening and even took a dip in the new pool. “It’s just wonderful, really great and unbelievable to have it connected with the library and cultural centre, fun to chat with people in the neighbourhood and feel their joy, and the kids’,” Dagur told RÚV reporters.

Reykjavíkurborg. Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson opening the new cultural hub in Úlfarsárdalur along with the neighbourhood’s younger residents.

The new buildings spread across some 18,000 square metres that house not only a library and swimming pool, but a preschool, primary school, athletics centre, and more. The library, for example, also contains a fully-equipped recording studio and the school houses a youth centre.


Time Capsule Displayed at Reykjavík City Library to Mark Lennon’s 80th Birthday

Ten years ago, on what would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday, four time capsules in the musician’s honour were sealed at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio in the US. RÚV reports that one of those capsules was gifted to the Reykjavík City Library, where, COVID regulations permitting, it will remain on display until around December 8, the day Lennon was assassinated.

See Also: Peace Tower Lighting Streamed from Reykjavík

The time capsules, which were created in a collaboration between the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Box of Vision LLC, and Yoko Ono, will be opened in 2040 on what would have been Lennon’s 100th birthday. They contain all of Lennon’s solo albums (on CD), some of his artwork, books about him, photographic materials, messages from his fans, and a message from Yoko Ono. The creators anticipated that CDs would be obsolete in 2040, so CD players were also placed in the capsule so that the albums could be played upon opening.

The Reykjavík City Library prepared a display with the time capsule and its many Lennon and Beatles-related holdings at its downtown branch to coincide with the lighting of the Imagine Peace Tower on Lennon’s birthday, Friday, October 9. In that capital-area branches are currently closed due to pandemic regulations, however, librarian and collection manager Sigurður Jakob Vigfússon made a short video presentation of the materials to whet local fans’ appetite while they wait for a chance to view capsule and perhaps borrow one of the library’s many Lennon biographies, or a Beatles or Lennon album on vinyl. (Sigurður Jakob notes that the time capsule itself cannot, unfortunately, be loaned out to library patrons.)

The other three time capsules are held at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Liverpool School of Art and Design, and at an unspecified location in Japan.

Herbal Fragrance Library Opens

Nordic Angan, or the Icelandic Herbal Fragrance Library, is now open in the town of Mosfellsbær, just outside of Reykjavík. The library is the brainchild of Elín Hrund Þórgeirsdóttir and Sonja Bent who, per a recent press release, put considerable research and effort into “capturing the sweet scent of Icelandic flora by distilling plants and trees and making essential oils out of them.”

Jonny Devaney

Visitors can walk through interactive fragrance exhibitions and “experience the aroma of Icelandic nature in a fun and unusual way, stimulate their sense of smell, and enjoy nature in an untraditional manner. The collection is the only one of its kind because there’s no other library that focuses solely on the sweet scents of Icelandic nature.”

Guests can also walk through the “Scented Shower,” an installation inspired by the Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku, or ‘forest bathing.’ The installation diffuses scents of the Icelandic forest into the air and allows guests to walk through a cool, aromatic mist of water and essential oils.

Jonny Devaney

The library has received funding from the Technological Development Fund, the Design Fund, and a grant for women entrepreneurs in Iceland and was in development for two years before opening.

The Icelandic Herbal Fragrance Library is located at 27 Álafossvegur in Mosfellsbær and is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 12.00-5.00pm. Admission is ISK 1,200 ($8.60/€7.60) per person.