Interest and influence: identifying your stakeholders
Module 2: Building your Library Association
Topic 4: Association Stakeholders and Members
Stakeholders are those people or agencies that have an interest in or have some relationship with the library association. The ability to identify your stakeholders is essential if you wish to assess the importance of key people, groups of people, or institutions that may significantly influence the success of an organisation. This case study considers the landscape of library associations and institutions in Denmark to highlight the different stakeholders operating within and across the sector.
As you read the case study, think about the following issues:
- With what different people or organisations does a library association interact?
- Are the different stakeholder groups represented by more than one association?
- Is there scope for associations with specialised interests to work with other associations?
- How can library associations support library education?
The word ‘association’ refers to “a body of people organised for a common purpose” (Oxford English Dictionary). This means that an association will have a specific audience, or several audiences, with a vested interest in its ideas and its activities. Some associations may represent fairly general issues, while others may be very focused and specialised. An examination of one country – Denmark – demonstrates not only how the needs of a range of stakeholder groups are met by a number of different associations, but also how these organisations can collaborate to achieve strong outcomes across the library sector as a whole.
Denmark is a small country in northern Europe, with a population of 5.5 million. Politically, the country has a multi-party structure, where several parties are represented in the Parliament. Danish governments are most often minority administrations, governing with the aid of one or more supporting parties. This means that Danish politics are characterised by inter-party consensus (www.denmark.dk). Danish society is very citizen-focused with a strongly infused social democrat ideology: cooperation and agreement are valued more highly than conflict and competition. Interest organisations and associations generally form an integrated part of the political system.
The country enjoys a very well funded public library system, reflecting this socio-political environment. In 2000, a new Library Act was introduced. The legislative provisions emphasise the rights of the citizens to have free access to materials and documents from all public and academic libraries in the country, including music collections, multimedia materials and free internet access. Every municipality is required to have a library service and there is a very strong interlibrary loans program supported by a national bibliographic database (bibliotek.dk) covering the holdings of all libraries in the country. This all means that public libraries play a role on the political stage.
Compared to some other countries, library associations in Denmark have strong political traits. Until 1960 the Danish Library Association (Danmarks Biblioteksforening) was the main body in the library landscape, organising local politicians, library institutions, library staff and other groups with the general mission to develop and improve library services. The President of the association has always been a politician, rather than a librarian. The different groups had their own sections within the association. However, in the late 1960s, the increase in the number of library professionals meant that these groups began to form their own associations to specifically cater for their particular interests and needs. The changing social and industrial conditions in Denmark also made it difficult for one association to represent both employers and employees. Consequently, in 1968, the public librarians left the Danish Library Association and formed a trade union, the Union of Librarians (Bibliotekarforbundet).
The Danish Library Association is governed by a 54-member Council (35 being politicians from the local municipalities, 19 being professional librarians) and an Executive Committee with ten members (with a balance of politicians and professional librarians). It is an active association with a conference and seminar program, a publications division and it plays a leading advocacy role for public libraries. The association states that, as it has key people serving on a number of influential political committees, it is able to represent library and municipality interests more forcefully than the individual local authorities might be able to do. There is also an Association of Public Library Managers (Bibliotekschefforening) which looks after the particular interests of library managers.
Matters to do with academic and research libraries are the focus of the Danish Research Library Association (Den danske forskningsbiblioteksforening), founded in 1978. This body operates as a special interest organisation, organising issues of concern to research libraries in one section and issues of concern to library staff in another section. Activities focus on the areas of user education, marketing and user services, journals, interlibrary loans and professional registration (www.dfdf.dk). Around 90% of Danish librarians are members of the Union of Librarians. As a traditional trade union, it focuses principally on employment conditions and salary structures. Members are drawn from public libraries, academic libraries and the private sector, with part-time and unemployed librarians, students and retirees also involved. More recently, the Union has organised courses, conferences and seminars, often jointly with the professional associations. There are several special interest groups that reflect the diverse areas of library work, for example library management, reference work, children’s libraries and services to new immigrants and refugees.
Two other organisations are also important players in the library environment. As the national centre for library education, the Royal School of Library and Information Science is directly concerned with library students and LIS educators. The School operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, but the different library associations feed into the education process through three different channels:
- The Advisory Board
- The Governing Board
- The Accreditation Board
The Advisory Board, with representatives from the library organisations outlined above, as well as staff members from the School, has a number of key functions: 1) to advise the Ministry about issues at the school; 2) to advise the School in relation to requirements from the professional field; 3) to formulate desired standards, eg in relation to the content of master modules, continuing education and direction of research. The Advisory Board serves as a network that participates actively in the process of reconciling the different interests regarding educational matters for library and information science. Changes in educational programs will always be discussed in this forum. Although it acts in a purely advisory capacity, all parties find it extremely important to gain agreement on major changes.
The School also has a Governing Board, again with external representation. All curriculum changes and revisions are considered in these forums and fundamental changes have to be approved by the Ministry. The Ministry will seek the approval of the different associations. Ultimately, changes to the LIS curriculum have to go through an accreditation process, with the members of the Accreditation Board drawn from different sectors of the library and information science profession. The value of the library associations can be seen in building close connections between education and professional practice. In the area of bibliographic management, the Danish Library Centre (Dansk BiblioteksCenter or DBC) operates as a public company which manages the national bibliographic database and drives much of the technological development in Danish libraries. DBC shareholders include the Danish Government, local government authorities and major publishing houses.
While each of these organisations can identify its own specific stakeholder groups, the Danish library scene is one that facilitates cooperation and collaboration. Research activities, conferences and professional issues are very often approached from a position of national coordination, as has been seen in investigations into Internet filtering, strategies for safe use of the Internet, library client access to new music resources, and quality management in public libraries. In 1990, the different Danish library organisations established a new body called the Library Umbrella (Biblioteksparaplyen) to ensure there was a collective voice in the national political context, as well as in the international library community. There is also a special interest group within the Union of Commercial and Clerical Employees (HK Kommunal, Biblioteksudvalget) which represents the interests of library assistants. Last, but not least, there is the Danish Agency for Libraries and the Media (Biblioteksstyrelsen), formerly the Danish National Library Authority until it merged with the Danish Agency for Media in 2008, which is part of the Ministry of Culture. The Agency plays a key role in administering the relevant legislation, as well supporting the development of library activities and managing some subsidy schemes for libraries.
The number of library organisations in Denmark can be mapped to the different groups of people working in or associated with the sector. The organisational structures therefore support a wide range of stakeholders, either independently through various niche areas of interest, or collaboratively across the organisations. While it might seem that there are areas of overlap, there are certainly distinct areas of activity. However, through open communication and collaboration, the various players can work together to achieve effective national outcomes.
- Can you identify the different groups of stakeholders presented in the case study?
- What different ideas do the various library associations represent?
- How do the library associations contribute to LIS education in Denmark? How does this compare to the situation in your country?
- Try to draw a chart or diagram to show the relationships between the organisations. Can you compare this with your own local library landscape? Is it quite different or can you find some similarities?
Resource: Case study
Agency: Danish Library Association: Danmarks Biblioteksforening
Danish Research Library Association: Den danske forskningsbiblioteksforening
Union of Librarians: Bibliotekarforbundet
Danish Library Centre: Dansk BiblioteksCenter
Association of Public Library Managers: Bibliotekschefforening
Union of Commercial and Clerical Employees, Library Group: HK Kommunal, Biblioteksudvalget Library Umbrella: Biblioteksparaplyen
Danish Agency for Libraries and the Media: Biblioteksstyrelsen
Topic: Audience(s) of the association: stakeholders, members Keywords: stakeholders, members, associations, organisations, trade unions, public libraries, research libraries, government
Pors, N. O. (2006) The role of library associations and organisations in the changing library landscape. A study of corporatism in Denmark. Library Management, 27(1/2), 66-76.
Last update: 21 October 2012