Booktown Fjærland goes international

Gruppe bokbytur
Frå venstre: Kjell Arve Straumsvåg, Anna Maria Urbaniak-Brekke, Randi Finne, Bård Huseby, Marianne Supphellen, Sandra Opheim, Torgeir Skålid, Ivar Petter Grøtte

The Norwegian book town in Fjærland will become an international destination in the future, as the researchers at Vestlandsforsking have recommended in a report. In August, researchers and central Norwegian book-town people went to the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands two share knowledge and inspiration.

– The Norwegian book town in Fjærland has high ambitions. We will show that social, economic, and sustainable development in local communities is possible through the development of the bokby model, says project leader Anna Maria Urbaniak-Brekke in Western Norway Research Institute (Vestlandsforsking).

22 book cities from around the world are members of The International Organization of Book Towns, including Fjærland and Tvedestrand. The book town in Fjærland was one of the main players when the organization was created in 1998. Western research with partners develop an EU project together, and the organization was one of the results.

International views
Some of the book towns manage financially, while others struggle.
- We have looked at four European book cities that have been in continuous operation and can show a positive development over many years. We wanted to learn from them, which is why we went to Wigtown in Scotland and Sedbergh in England, Redu in Belgium and Bredevoort in the Netherlands, says Urbaniak-Brekke. 

The group wanted to observe, discuss and get answers to many questions about both financing the operation and tips for activities other than book hall.
- We got a lot of inspiration and very good internal cooperation already on the trip. We were welcomed by very nice people who are passionate about books and local development: owners of bookstores and organizers of cultural life and festivals. Now we are working towards an international project that aims to bring out the bookby model in Europe, and in the long run in the whole world, she says.

Expanded offer and activity
Earlier, Vestland Research with support from the County Council's VRI4 scheme has helped to identify the following goals that should form the basis for further development:
1. Develop and offer an extensive range of service and product offerings that do not rely solely on sales of used books.
2. Be a good and safe workplace with financial muscle to innovate.
3. Evaluate the starting point for offering activities throughout the year together with other tourism companies in Fjærland.

Anna Maria fotograferer
Anna Maria Urbaniak-Brekke.