Nordic, geeky and cool

Åke Nygren reports back from what must be, quite literally, the coolest library conference in Europe. Collaboration and innovation were key themes at the Helsinki Midwinter Darkness Camp.

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I have been in a deep frozen Helsinki and felt the geeky Nordic heat. Let me explain.

This winter the Nordic countries have suffered the coldest temperatures for decades. Even in Stockholm, my home town, which usually is rather grey and damp this time of year, we have all experienced an absolutely white Christmas, with loads of snow and temperatures falling below 15 degrees Celsius.

In January I went to Helsinki, in Finland, the homeland of Santa Claus. I wasn't of course expecting anything else but even more coldness and darkness than back home. And man, was I right! Walking in Helsinki was like entering a deep freezer. It therefore goes without saying that the event I was heading to, Helsinki Midwinter Darkness Camp 2011 couldn't have been named more aptly!

But hey, Finland isn't just coldness and darkness; it's also a land of light and warmth. The Finnish saunas, as we all know, give warm hope to the frozen. The shiny snow, together with the friendly attitude of the Finns, bring light into the darkest corners of our winter depressed souls. And a really geeky event like Helsinki Midwinter Darkness Camp (#hmdc11) can definitely add some extra heat: a bunch of techie library geeks from Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, longing for some innovative light in the midst of a long dark library winter, meeting on the beautiful island of Suomenlinna, and sharing their wildest ideas about library technology development.

Nordic. Geeky. Hot.

Technology development in a digital networked age equals fast decisions, effective clustering, fewer formalities and more focus on results. And more fun!  #hmdc11, with its inspiration taken from the open source movement and the entrepreneurial social media scene, showed very well that the library world too has the potential to develop a culture of doers, inspirers and matchmakers.

It all started in Gothenburg, at IFLA 2010.  Some enthusiastic informal meetings between representatives for ongoing and upcoming library projects in Sweden and Finland - Kista Idea Lab, Cycling for Libraries, POD Project, Helsinki Library Labs, Kirjastokaista, Nordic Gaming Day - led to an agreement to meet again in Kista in October. The theme would be Nordic co-operation between library labs.

The idea became a virus: more and more people showed interest and very soon Idea Camp Kista 2010 was born, an un-conference inspired by the Nordic Camps project (http://nordiccamps.ning.cin), arranged by Kista Idea Lab ( and hosted by Digital Art Center (

Afterwards we all agreed that Nordic co-operation was here to stay. Very soon an invitation came from Helsinki City Library for a follow up event: Midnight Darkness Camp 2011, yay! It all happened fast, in a spontaneous way, with a collaborative feel and with maybe the most important factor of all when it comes to networking: passion!

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