Harriet’s Book Bus

Harriet is fortunate to have a library “book bus” (that might be “bookmobile” to you and me) service near her home in Norway. It will surprise no one here that she makes excellent use of it.

In November, the local paper did a story on the Book Bus, featuring an interview with Harriet. I asked her to share the story with us. Here is her translation with further thoughts and asides in parentheses.

Since I’m posting image captions in green, my buttinsky comments will be in red. I’m sure there will be some.

Tone and Harriet in the Book BusTone, the librarian and me.

The caption by the big picture reads:
The Extreme Reader, Harriet, considers the day of the Book Bus the highlight of the month.

“Extreme Reader”—How much do you love that? And look, everyone, it’s Harriet! Wave to Harriet!

People In Books (Travelers In Books) Deliver Literary Pleasure in Amtaland Each Month (Amtaland = The Land of The Amt. Amtstidende = The news from the Hamlet = Amt = a tiny village, but it is of a greater size nowadays.)

Do you know that hours of free enjoyment rolls in to a place near you every month?

The driver of the bus, Lise Gyldmar, thinks she has the job of her dreams. It is the rare combination of two professions: library staff (a non-librarian) and a professional driver. While she still was a driver of the bus between Oslo and Lillestrøm, her male colleagues spotted a Job Posting they thought may fit her.

“I sent in an application without any hope of getting the job,” says Miss Gylmar. Today she has no words to explain how good it is to be at work.

“I am really enjoying my work. It was hard to work as a route bus driver! This is just a pleasure! People look forward to our arrival! Often we see them standing and waiting for us.”

People wait for the books they have ordered from the “Fylkesbibliotekets” website (the website of the County Library) to have them delivered by the Library Bus. Or they want to explore the “snurrehylla” (= the spin shelves) containing films or look through audio books, CDs, the children’s book shelves, search for crime and mystery novels, or whatever else they are interested in. And if they do not have any special interest “i farta” (Idiom alert: on the go / on the move / at the moment), there are two workers on the library bus who have a lot of suggestions.

Harriet's book busThe Library bus is a welcome sight around the area of Nesodden and in Frogn.

Lise Gyldmar is not a professional Librarian, but Tone Sandum Lindh is, and she has toured this area with books for many years.

“The borrowers in Nesodden are very enthusiastic,” says Lindh. “Maybe it is in the genes?”

“Enthusiasm is inheritable! We have many “andregenerasjonslånere” ( = second generation borrowers) who have grown up with the book bus. People here make the most use of us: the more one is accustomed to borrowing, the more the borrower borrows.”

“andregenerasjonslånere”—an example of looooong Norwegian words that count as just one word during NaNoWriMo.

This is especially true for the lady who awaits the bus at the Alværn stop. At Alværn the bus stops in a residential area of wooden townhouses (“wooden townhouses” is not quite the right word), and Harriet Gleditsch climbs into the bus as she does every single month.

Harriet Gleditsch is what we call an Extreme Reader.

That’s what we call her, too!

“It is the highlight of the month for me when the Library Bus arrives with new supplies,” she says.

And supplies are needed to a person that, on average, reads one book a day.

“I use our ordinary library as well. But I grew up with The Library Bus, and I have become so familiar with Tone (the Librarian Tone Sandum Lindh). She finds books she thinks I will like to read. And she gets what I need: for example, the books I needed about the subject of children’s literature when I was preparing for the discussion in the American Reading Circle I am a part of via the Internet,” says Gleditsch.

Hey! That’s us! We’re famous in Norway!!!

One of the pleasures the employees have is meeting many types of people.

“It is very nice. Many of the regulars have this as a nice ritual,” says Lise Gyldmar.

The bus she drives was built as a Library Bus about twelve years ago and is named “Fia” (a girl’s name, and a character from a book for children). It is the “søsterbus” (sister bus) of “Finbeck” (a boy’s name, and a character from a book for children “Finbeck And Fia”) that was new in 2007.

“søsterbus”—that’s an example of the Norwegian tendency to smoosh multiple words together into one. Cool!

“Do the books stay in place on the shelves while you drive?” the photographer, Ruben Skarsvåg, asks.

That is not a problem. The shelves have a thirty-degree slope.

Norwegian Book Bus driverLise Gyldmar drives the bus for three weeks and uses the last week for maintenance. In this way she can keep within the time regulations for driving and rest time. She thinks she has a dream job!”

How she can have time to read a whole book in a day every day, Gleditsch explains, is because she makes reading a priority.

“It takes six or seven hours for me to read a book, and when I do not watch TV, I actually have that time. Moreover, I have learned speed reading, a way of reading without saying the words in your mind while you read, so you take it in faster. I use audio books as well, but that depends on whether I like the way they read the book,” says the “lesehesten” (= reading horse, that is a book worm, book bug, book monkey, and so on).

She wears out so many bookmarks that she has started to make them herself and will soon have an exhibition of them at the local library “Nesodden fastbibliotek” at Skoklefall. (That name is actually a historic reference and the actual place where the people lay down the sticks—the skokler—that connected the horses to the wagons, to let the horses rest.) Now she has a brimming bag of books.

I want to hear more about speed reading, Harriet. I’ve considered trying to learn it.

Everyone else, we’ll see and hear more about Harriet’s bookmark exhibition in the New Year!

“What are you most looking forward to read of all the books you have borrowed this time?”

“In general I like French and Japanese books, but I look forward to all of them, really. The biggest event is perhaps to come home, go through and study what I have brought back with me in the bags this time. I read them all. It is a luxury for me to be able to gorge on books in this way.”

Tone Sandum Lindh takes it as her obligation to give attention to literature that is not promoted in popular media.

“It is all about the very good Norwegian literature that does not get special help from the publishers.”

She calculates that the readers in Nesodden and Frogn borrow approximately 1000 books from the Library Bus every month. This is a lot compared to other places the bus serves. The bus is very much visited in the ten stops in Nesodden and Frogn.

One Thursday every month the bus stops at Alværn, Blylaget, Fjellstrand, Jaer og Myklerud, and two other places at Nesodden and Bøhlerengen, Dal and Kopperud in Frong.

“We have three regular ladies at the stop at Blylaget who turn up every time. It is only these three people who use the library bus at this stop. In our area, we rent out more than what is usual elsewhere.”

Boy in book busDjamahail Isaev (12) is looking for the book about football titled “Best I byen” (Best in town). Sandum Lindh does not have this book in the bus this time, but it can be ordered for the next time.

“Usually I rent movies and things with exiting action or football,” says Djamahail Isaev.

Nesodden and Frong represents exactly one ninth of the ninety stops that are spread around in the Akershus municipalities. A lot of people do not know about this kind of bus.

“We really appreciate our regular borrowers, but we understand that a lot of people can only use the library bus during certain periods in their lives! Most of the Library Bus visits are during the day; hence, it is more convenient for homemakers to use. But we are having more and more routes that cover late afternoons as well, so it should be more convenient for those who work.

“At Fjellstrand the bus stops between four pm and five-fifteen pm (4:00-5:14pm). At this stop you can get off your regular bus and onto the Library Bus before you go home to dinner,” says Lindh. She emphasizes that everyone, no matter regular or occasional use, are welcome in to the “Bokbussen”! (=The Book Bus, we like to call it that instead of The Library Bus, that is the official new name for the bus.)

Lise Gyldmar and Tone Sandum Lindh have been working since nine o’clock this morning when they left the starting point at Fylkesbiblioteket (The County Library) at Kjeller. (The name or word “Kjeller” translates as “the basement,” but it is a huge area and not a basement in a building! It has this duality in Norwegian as well.) In a very discrete cabinet they have a microwave to heat up their dinner.

“Usually we have our lunch break at Varden, but now the route has changed a bit to make new openings, and we have dinner at Blylaget instead. We are not going home until about 7pm tonight.

“But then we are almost closed on the weekend,” smile the ladies in the popular bus.

By Ann-Turi Ford
(Translated by Harriet)

Lise with books on the Book BusThe shelves in the bus have a thirty-degree slope so that the books will not fall out.


* One Thursday every month the Library Bus stops at Alværn, Blylaget, Fjellstrand, Jaer, Myklerud and two other places at Nesodden and Bøhlerengen, Dal and Kopperud in Frong.

* The next time the bus arrives here is at of November and 15th of December.

* see more details at

We had a bookmobile that stopped by the preschool I attended. I wasn’t much into books, but I found the bus and service extremely cool.

In the past year or so, there was talk of trying to arrange something like a Book Bus for the distant communities in the Mat-Su Borough where I live. I’m not sure what happened to that plan.

Does anyone else here have access to a book bus?

Thanks so much for sharing this story, Harriet! It’s an honor to know and e-chat with a famous Norwegian Extreme Reader!

Categories: Reading

4 replies »

  1. Very nice. There was a graphic novel I read this year called The Night Book Mobile. I can remember the last name but not how to spell it! Audrey Niffenegger (yeah google)
    OH and I didn’t blog much in Nov not because I was writing I had so much work going on! I actually finished half of my NaNo in the final 3 days and had 5 min in which to validate and win! I need to check back with my group I do believe they are going to try and hold writing groups throughout the year. So writing will be a New Years Goal with blogging, reading, stitching and crafting.

  2. Wow! Congrats on your heroic come-from-behind NaNo win, Ziggy! I cannot imagine doing that. I think the pressure of rushing would kill me.

    We have very similar goals for 2012. Maybe we can help each other stay on track.

  3. What a writing rush you had to be in! You did Olympics too! ( Jen said something about Olympics and gold medals) now we are three winners 😀 hurrah!

    My gloals is writing, learning about writing and crafts. And of course take care og my health and stay fit. ( a difficult job, actually)

    I look forward to this year of S4L events / blog and Book Club / reading circle 🙂

  4. Harriet last year the leader of the group had given us medals if we won. This year we got some erasers, stickers and rubber ducks!

    I’ll be doing an Olympic Stitch in May during the London Games 🙂