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PhD student facilitates traditional Icelandic storytelling sessions across High Life Highland’s Libraries

Alda hosts crafting club for the local community at Inverness Library on Tuesday 14th November

Over the course of the last six months, High Life Highland’s network of Libraries have been working together with Alda Hrannardottir, a PhD student from University of Iceland.

This has been part of a UK-based placement, where Alda has been researching how rural communities engage with services such as Libraries.

In a cultural exchange, Alda has been facilitating traditional Icelandic storytelling sessions at various Library venues across the Highlands and Islands whilst conducting research for her studies.

These have come to form a Highland-wide programme of events in High Life Highland’s Libraries, with highlights including children’s Christmas storytelling, traditional Icelandic knitting (known as ‘Lopapeysa’), Icelandic Saga and Norse Mythology sessions.

Asuka McKenna, High Life Highland’s Network Librarian, shared: “I was one of the first Library staff members to meet Alda at Inverness Library, where she explained to me her research topic of rural community engagement with Library services and the origin of her interests in it.

“Though the purpose of her placement is to conduct research, Alda has volunteered her time helping out Library staff at locations across the Highlands and Islands, sharing knowledge and also parts of Icelandic culture.

“As I got to know Alda, I came to learn that she is a naturally good storyteller, particularly when it comes to Iceland and Icelandic culture. Alda explained that Icelandic stories and crafts are part of an oral tradition, similar to Highland cultural history – and that storytelling is usually an experience shared to get through the dark and cold Icelandic nights.

“I thought that regular Library users would be interested to gain insight and participate in Alda’s storytelling, so we began organising times and spaces for the purpose of sharing these experiences with communities across the Highlands which so far includes Inverness, Inshes, and Glenurquhart Libraries.

“I also discovered that she is a very keen knitter! Alda has already, and will again, be joining the knitting groups at Inverness and Glenurquhart Libraries, sharing ‘Lopapeysa’ – traditional Icelandic knitting techniques – and how to mend their jumpers and socks.

“The kitting group at Inverness Library on Tuesday 14th November filled the Library space with colourful and cosy knitting works, which was certainly a unique treat for everyone who witnessed the display.

“The wider Library teams and I are hoping to arrange Icelandic Saga and Norse Mythology sessions with Alda in the New Year. In the meantime, we welcome members of the public to join in on the sessions scheduled for early December.”

Alda concluded: “It has been an absolute pleasure getting to know all the wonderful people that work in the libraries and vans, no matter the size of the community they serve.

“I am the manager of a Library in a small community in the Icelandic Westfjords. Through my work at the library, and previous studying in Cultural Management, Library, and Information Science, I have gained much interest in how Libraries can play a role at enhancing the quality of life in small communities, and how they can encourage community participation.

“That is the focus of my PhD research at the University of Iceland. Since Iceland is a very small country, it is good for us to go abroad, gain new knowledge, meet new people, and see how things are done elsewhere.

“That is the reason why I chose to spend a winter in the Scottish Highlands and Islands. I got in touch with High Life Highland, was immediately welcomed and have had great help from their staff with organizing my work.

“Since early August, I have been travelling all over the Highlands and Islands, visiting their Libraries and riding with their Mobile Library fleet. It is obvious their roles in the communities are important and I hope they will get the appreciation and encouragement they deserve.”

Alda will be facilitating family-friendly ‘Icelandic Christmas Storytime’ sessions from 4-5pm on the following dates and locations:


Tuesday 5th December Inverness Library
Wednesday 6th December Inshes Library
Thursday 7th December Inverness Library