Web Magazine for Information Professionals

Down Your Very Long Way Away

We take a look at the library and networking facilities in more remote places around the world; in this issue, we feature the Faroe Islands.

The Faroe Islands is a small archipelago, comprised of 18 small islands, off in the middle of the North Atlantic, between Norway and Iceland. The total area is 1,400 sqr.km., and the population only 43,000. The population of the capital Tórshavn is approximately 15,000.

Although the nearest neighbour to the south is 300 km. away, the Faroe Islands has always maintained close connections with other countries. The Faroe Islands has to import most of its commodities, as well as to rely on regular access to export markets in Europe, USA, and other countries. This commercial intercourse has been the basis of the continued economic development and welfare of the Faroese society.

The Faroes is a modern fishing nation, and Faroese fishermen fish almost all over the globe. Fish and fish products constitute the major part of Faroese exports. Politically the Faroe Islands is a self-governing part of the Danish kingdom, but historically and culturally it also has close ties to Norway, and Iceland.

In 1948 the Faroes received Home Rule, establishing the present governmental structure. The Faroe Islands has its own ramblers Parliament (Løgting) and Government (Landsstýri). In accordance with the Home Rule system, Denmark donates a considerable subsidy to the Faroes, and assume responsibility for Foreign Affairs and Defence. Unlike Denmark, however, The Faroe Islands is not a member of the European Union. Over the last few years, the Faroes have been hit hard by an economic recession. Many people have left the islands, and the population has dropped by approximately 10%. Unemployment is high.

Fortunately this the downtrend appears to have levelled off at the present time, and many Faroese now hope that the exploitation of expected oil findings around the Faroes will make it easier for the community to emerge from the recession. Further information: the Faroe Islands. (http://www.sleipnir.fo/faroe/faroe.htm)

The Faroese Language. Education and Libraries

The language spoken here is Faroese, a westnorse language, closely related to Icelandic and Norwegian.

Since 1979 the Faroe Islands has administered its own education system. Many young Faroese, however, must still go to Denmark or other countries for higher education. For more information about research institutions in the Faroe Islands, visit the homepage managed by the Faroese University. (http://www.sleipnir.fo/research.htm) The Faroese library system is purely a Faroese affair, and has been since the introduction of Home Rule in 1948. There are 15 public libraries in the Faroes. Thirteen of them are small, and are only open a few hours a week. The largest library is the Town Library in Tórshavn.

The Faroese National Library ( http://www.sleipnir.fo/flb/flbst.htm) (FLB) is also situated in Tórshavn.


All year round, there is a daily air service between the Faroe Islands and Denmark, as well as a twice weekly flight to Iceland and a weekly flight to Scotland. In addition a car ferry sails once or twice a week between the Faroe Islands and Aberdeen in Scotland. During the summer there is additional car ferry service to Denmark, Norway and Iceland. The Faroe Islands has its own postal service, Postverk Føroya.

Útvarp Føroya, the Faroese radio, was established in 1957, and broadcasts in Faroese. Since 1984 the Faroe Islands has had its own television station, Sjónvarp Føroya. In addition the city of Tórshavn retransmits BBC World, MTV, Eurosport, and the Danish TV3.

The telephone network is highly developed, and since 1975 it has been possible to dial abroad directly from anywhere in the Faroe Islands. In 1993 the number of telephone subscribers was 23,256, or 517 per 1.000 inhabitants.

1994 marked a major improvement in telecommunication between the Faroe Islands and the outside world, when the Faroe Islands together with Iceland were hooked on the CANTAT-3 optical cable connecting Canada with Europe. This optical cable meets all standards for modern telecommunication (eg. ISDN), and provides the islands with a stable and efficient connection with the outside world. It is also used in data transmission, including the use of the Internet. Starting on February 29th 1996, the Faroese Telephone Company (TFL) will offer private users access to the Internet. TFL estimates that the total number of Internet users in the Faroe Islands will be about 500.

The Internet

The Faroe Islands was put on the Internet map in January 1995. The research institutions in Tórshavn, including the Faroese National Library, were connected through a 64 Kbit/s leased line between the Department of Natural Sciences at the University of the Faroe Islands and UNI-C in Lyngby, Denmark. At the moment there are two user groups, with Internet access through the Sleipnir-server, which is maintained by the Faroese University. These are 1) people employed by the above mentioned research institutions, who do have direct Internet-connection, and 2) dial-up users, consisting mainly of libraries, schools and educational institutions around the Faroe Islands.

For technical information about the Sleipnir-project, see the article “Faroe Islands now on the Internet” (http://info.denet.dk/nordunet/faroes.html) written and published in 1995.

There has not yet been any widespread use of the Internet in the Faroe Islands. Our considerations on how the Internet can be used effectively in the Faroes, is therefore in part based on our limited experience with the Internet at the Faroese National Library (FLB).

Obviously the Internet has meant an immense extension of communication possibilities. Internet is both a communications net and an information net, and thus can be used by the Faroe Islands in many different ways.

The use of Internet

Who will use the Internet in the Faroes, and to what extent? We expect use of the Internet to range from non-use to extensive implementation. We envision two major groups of Faroese Internet users: Faroese libraries will play a major role in the use and implementation of the Internet. Libraries will use the Internet on a full scale basis: for referance work, for on-line searching, and for on-line ordering of books and documents from other libraries and document collections.

In addition libraries have, we feel, an obligation to assist library users in use of the Internet. Furthermore libraries should expand their hardware to provide the public with free access to the Internet.

Although it might be an impossible task, Faroese libraries should try to sort and organize the information available on the Internet. Here we will be able to make use of the work in this field done by libraries in other countries.

The Faroese National Library

The Faroese National Library has used the Internet since January 1995, mainly for on-line searhing and ordering, and to a lesser degree for reference work.

FLB has its own homepage: FLB (http://www.sleipnir.fo/flb/flbheim.htm), containing information about the library, and with links to other Internet ressources. Here we also have published the first Faroese Internet guide (http://www.sleipnir.fo/flb/flbint.htm), including general information about the Internet, and the various Internet services, and how to search the WWW.

Still at the experimental stage, this is our first attempt at organizing information sources by subject headings on the Internet. Future plans include placing a searchable version of the Faroese Booklist from 1970- to present (approx. 3,000 records) on the net. Another of our projects involves setting up a computer in the library to provide our public with free access to the Internet.

Although the Faroe Islands is a small country, we have to be able to manage the Internet on the same levels, as in other countries. We have to have the same skills in using the Internet as users and institutions in larger countries. Unfortunately our ressources are quite limited, but we have to work with the available rossources. We need to keep ourselves informed of new development in the Internet, and to be aware of what information is available on the net, and we need to know, who is publishing all this information available on the Internet. We also need to be able to evaluate the quality and reliability of information on the Internet.

Unfortunately, the Faroes has not yet mapped out an official Internet strategy. At the present time work with the Internet depends largely on the interest and enthusiasm of certain individuals. While this is a beginning, work would proceed much more efficiently and effectively if we could from the start establish clear guidelines and strategies for cooperation in the distribution of information, including the Internet, in the Faroes. To a certain extent we lack the ressources necessary for extensive education and training in the use of the Internet. Hopefully this situation will soon change. There is a multitude of opportunities in the use of the Internet, especially for small countries like the Faroe Islands.