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Abstract

This paper discusses the role of libraries in the implementation of the Norwegianization policy towards the Sámi and Kven minorities in Norway. This question has not been written about or debated in the library history of Norway. The hypothesis is that the libraries had a dual function: they were both seen as an instrument of Norwegianization by the government, but were simultaneously places where modern ideas about democracy, equality and emancipation were made accessible to the minorities. Ironically, the schooling authorities’ efforts to learn the Sámi and Kven to read and write Norwegian, contributed to the rise of a reading and writing Sámi and Kven public from around 1890. Both groups had a high reading proficiency and in public-, school-, and private libraries the Sámi and Kven found a rich selection of books that argued for a more egalitarian society. There are methodological challenges in this research. Minority voices are often silenced in archives and libraries. Researchers have to carried out empirical studies and closely read archival documents in order to seek out alternative interpretations in documents that have been interpreted in a conventional way.

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