From Iceland — The Village People: Shhhhhhhhhhh!

The Village People: Shhhhhhhhhhh!

Published March 23, 2023

The Village People: Shhhhhhhhhhh!
Photo by
Gitte Van der Meersch

The Village People is a series of micro-interviews with the people who make life in Reykjavík better. 

Name: Hólmfríður Gunnlaugsdóttir

Occupation: Librarian and specialist at Borgabókasafnið Grófinni. 

How long have you worked here and how do you like it?

I’ve worked at the City Libraries for 23 years. I worked for 10 years at Gerðuberg, and since then I have been here. It’s a very diverse job. 

For example, now I’m working on the first floor where I assist people with general service. Then I’m sometimes on the second floor, where the kids’ section is, which is a bit different. On the fifth floor are the academic books where we assist people with academic sources and the like. 

I also manage a project called Artótek in collaboration with SÍM (Association of Icelandic Visual Artists), where people can rent artworks for extended periods of time. If they end up paying the full price of the artwork, then they can own it. Right now we have around 200 pieces that are being rented, with approximately 10 pieces rented each month. 

The job is fun because it is so diverse and we take great care of the books. Arranging, displaying, and cleaning the books. Then we also fine tune the books on the shelves, as they can get mixed up. No day is the same. 

What other profession would you like to try, if there were no limits? 

Maybe gardening. Working with your hands outside. Digging like a mole. 

Physical or audio books?

I use both. I haven’t gotten the hang of electronic books, whether it’s reading on the phone or on a tablet. I prefer to listen to or read books. Turn the pages. 

Is there such a thing as too many books?

No, I don’t think you could say that. Although, sometimes you have to throw one out if you decide to get a new one. 

What would come as a surprise to most people about how things work here?

The libraries are changing a lot. We have a podcast studio and people come in here to record. To access it, you only need a library card. We also have workshops, where you can access various computer programs, like music programs. In one library, we have a sewing machine where people can mend their clothes. People are surprised when they find out we have more than books. 

Does it always need to be quiet in the library?

No, we try to keep specific areas where people can study or be in silence. You can’t make a ruckus. You can’t run around and scream, but you can talk. 

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve encountered while working here?

Sometimes when I’m arranging books you see all sorts of things used as bookmarks. One time I found a menstrual pad in a book. These days, you find less of these sorts of things.

Want to nominate a Village Person to appear in the pages of the Reykjavík Grapevine? Send submissions to

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