Model Programme for Public Libraries

Kultur styrrelsen



Gilleleje Library

Photo: Per Ransdal Hansen

Cultural synergy in interplay with local forces at Kulturhavn Gilleleje

In 2016, Gilleleje Library moved to Kulturhavn Gilleleje (The Harbour of Culture), a newly built cultural centre by the harbour in Gilleleje, a town in Northern Zealand with 6,633 inhabitants (2017). In addition to the local library, the building contains a cinema and a restaurant, with additional space for exhibitions, music and theatre events as well as meetings and debates. The local tourist association is also located at the centre. The construction and operation of the cultural centre – apart from the library and the restaurant – have been facilitated through a local, private financial investment (Gilleleje Brugsforening, a consumer co-op) and the day-to-day work of a group of more than 220 volunteers and a salaried coordinator.

The cultural centre constitutes the second stage of a three-stage construction project, which, in addition to the cultural centre, creates space for homes and private companies – including shops. The operation of the centre is based on a philosophy of collaboration and co-creation in such a way that large activities and events are reflected in all options at the centre. For instance, a Cuba-themed event included Cuban music, Cuban food and a demonstration on cigar rolling.

Organisation and finances

The overall responsibility for the cultural centre's finances and operation rests with a foundation established by Gilleleje Brugsforening. The financial basis for the cultural centre included an agreement with Gribskov Municipality that Gilleleje Library would be relocated to the cultural centre for an agreed number of years. The library is represented on the co-op's board.
The cultural centre is only expected to be self-financing in the long term, despite the huge efforts put in by volunteers in the planning and operation of activities at the centre.

Physical settings

The architectural firm Skovhus Arkitekter has designed the cultural centre, which consists of a two-storey building and one large space, in addition to the two cinema theatres, the toilets and the restaurant kitchen.
Selected architectural elements are used repeatedly both indoors and outdoors. For instance, the colour black is used throughout, but the expression has been lightened by the use of vertical strips of Superwood – a special type of impregnated spruce. Another thing that enhances the light impression of the centre is the deliberate work with lighting everywhere, aimed at avoiding drowsy and institutional light.

The large staircase unites the two floors, creating a gathering point in the open space. Photo: Per Ransdal Hansen

Collaboration between volunteers and hired staff creates synergy

The centre as a whole is open from 7 am to about 10 pm, when the last film ends at the cinema.
The long opening hours are made possible by the work performed by the volunteers. The majority of the volunteers are senior citizens with widely different backgrounds and networks, who the cultural centre can call on to help with events and exhibitions. The volunteers are affiliated with subject groups, each with its own coordinator, which are included in collaboration and coordination across the centre. The number of groups varies, but has never been less than 10.
A secretariat group helps the salaried coordinator. Other groups are, for instance, Debate Forum, the Music and Exhibition groups, the Children's group with the library as its coordinator, and several cinema groups. The tasks involve both preparation of activities and being on duty when the activities take place.
Library staff form part of the groups that work with the most visitor-orientated activities in order to strengthen collaboration across the centre.

The open entrance hall. Photo: Per Ransdal Hansen

The library

From the very beginning, the architectural firm behind Kulturhavn Gilleleje involved local cultural associations and the library in the planning of the cultural centre. The library's overriding requirement was that top priority should be given to space for people and life (activities), regardless of the age of the users and whether they wanted to visit the library alone or in big or small groups. Space was also required for the library's materials, as one of the municipality's other libraries had already reduced its collection seriously in connection with a conversion to a combined school and public library. The final solution met the requirements, and the users have acknowledged this by visiting the library more often than ever before. In the former location, 1,100 people would stop by per week. Now, a similar number visit every day.

Kulturhavn Gilleleje seen from the canal. Photo: Per Ransdal Hansen

The library has rooms both on the ground floor and on the first floor. The interior design reflects the library's desire to encourage people to stay, immerse themselves and socialise. Both upstairs and downstairs, there is room for people to sit down to read or work – alone or together with others.

Small groups of armchairs invite people to sit and read. Photo: Per Ransdal Hansen

The chairs and tables at the library have been selected in collaboration with the other players at the centre to create a recognisable and cohesive style for the centre across functions and activities. In order to aid in the selection of furnishing and colours, the architectural firm had prepared a colour palette and rough layout sketches.

The bookcases and part of the fixtures and fittings have been created for the library in a collaboration between architect, construction management and a carpenter who was associated with the construction project. The same goes for the lighting in the bookcases, where an LED light strip is mounted under each shelf, throwing a soft and warm, yet clear light over the book spines.
In order to improve the presentation of the individual book titles, 10 screens have been mounted on the bookcases, displaying a changing selection of front pages of books that are currently available at the library. The digital communication is to inspire library users, including those who visit during the unmanned opening hours, and make it easier for them to find reading material.

The screens show a changing selection of book titles currently available at the library. Photo: Per Ransdal Hansen

The general principles for the interior design are flexible solutions supplemented by fixed bookcases along the walls, and bookcases used to delimit 'book houses' in selected places. This has ensured both openness and shielding, and also facilitates a quick rearrangement of parts of the library. Photo: Per Ransdal Hansen


The preliminary experience from the operation of the cultural centre has presented challenges, for instance in relation to defining the role of the board in the building, and in terms of coordinating cultural and commercial interests among the board members, most of whom only have experience from one sector. In that connection, discussions with the former chairman of the board of the Royal Danish Theatre have been very valuable.

In relation to the work with volunteers, it has also been necessary to create a streamlined infrastructure for the task solution. The consultancy firm Inger Fair A/S has contributed to this, and the volunteers are now represented on the board of the cultural centre.
The volunteers are currently in need of an intranet for communication with each other. This should be solves during 2018. Finally, more resources are needed to update the cultural centre's website and its visitor-orientated communication.

The bookcases have built-in LED strips under each shelf, which cast a clear and pleasant light onto the books. Photo: Per Ransdal Hansen

Workstations encourage group work. Photo: Per Ransdal Hansen

Photo: Per Ransdal Hansen

If you want to enjoy the view, you can take a seat by one of the large windows. Photo: Per Ransdal Hansen

The large window sections and the light woodwork create an inviting space with a high ceiling and room for activity. Photo: Per Ransdal Hansen

07. Mar 2018 at. 15:31

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