There’s a new cultural hub on the east side of Oslo. You’ll definitely want to visit, but you probably can’t get in. Biblo Tøyen is a recently revamped youth library exclusively for kids ages 10 to 15. In 2019, the library was named one of the 50 coolest places in the world by TIME [Magazine] for Kids.
The concept behind the library’s brilliant architectural update was to create a cultural “third place” for kids, a refuge between home and school. Kids in grades 1 through 4 can attend a free after-school activity program called Skolefritidsordning (SFO), and Biblo Tøyen intended the library as a free and safe place for kids who have aged out of SFO, giving neighborhood kids an engaging place to kick back with friends, learn, create and be inspired. Whimsical seating areas made of old trucks, ski gondolas, and wheelbarrows are punctuated with imaginative displays to create an atmosphere that is equal parts funhouse and library.
The dream-like interior was designed with input from a psychological architect, as well as from library staff and neighborhood kids themselves. In any given week, kids can do homework, socialize, learn to cook, play chess, attend events like author visits, film nights, concerts and live theater, or explore and express themselves through art, performance and digital technology. And they can also check out books.
Rather than using an alphabetical or numerical system, books are arranged by subject on shelves that are suspended from the ceiling, so they can be rearranged easily. To make sure that no books get lost in the shuffle, Biblo Tøyen has implemented cutting-edge technology: each book has a scannable tag embedded in it, and a book drone flies over the bookshelves at night to track each book’s location.
If you’d like to visit, but are over the age limit, Biblo Tøyen usually hosts an open house day in the spring and fall. Be sure to wear your nicest socks to this shoes-off space. If you can’t make it in person, take a virtual tour.