Greta Renborg

Greta Renborg (1921-2005) could be called the driving spirit of Swedish libraries. She devoted her whole life to mass education and the development and promotion of libraries.


Brief biography

Greta Renborg was brought up in Stockholm and, after working on a farm looking after the accounts, she took a position as a clerical worker at the City Library in Uppsala. That was the start of a superlative library career, marked by her enthusiasm, curiosity and initiatives. The year was 1946. Her burning interest for fiction and its dissemination was a factor that soon led to her being asked to start up a library for patients at the University Hospital in Uppsala. Having qualified as a librarian in 1953 she travelled to the USA and her sojourn there convinced her that libraries had to work actively and systematically in order to reach out into society. As far as "marketing" libraries was concerned, she was a pioneer and on her return she took on the management of the first PR division of the Stockholm City Library.

Not only did her ideas bear fruit in individual libraries, Greta Renborg also began to write and teach. At the The Swedish School of Library and Information Science in Borås, where she became a lecturer in 1973, she conducted courses for aspiring librarians on PR issues. Mass education was her baby and she pushed for the establishment of workplace libraries, all the time broadening her own perspectives by travel and networking with colleagues both in Sweden and abroad. Her life's work and professional experiences can be traced in a dozen books and innumerable articles.  

In 1993 she was awarded an honorary PhD at the University of Gothenburg and from 1987 onwards the Swedish Library Association has annually awarded the "Greta Renborg Prize" to the "library that has succeeded best with library promotion, or to an individual, or group of individuals, that have excelled in the field and who work in the spirit of Greta Renborg".

Greta Renborg with a typewriter in her lap
Photograper: Ulf Renborg?

Greta Renborg's donation to Uppsala University Library

Greta Renborg bequeathed all her personal papers and gave a large financial donation to Uppsala University Library. A main purpose, according to her will, is to "enhance knowledge about the use of individuals' personal records" and to make these personal archives more visible at libraries as a source to be used, as well as promoting them, their far reaching scope, preservation and accessibility.

It was to this end that the Library organised the seminars "Archives of individuals and organisations in Swedish libraries" in March 2008 and "What every librarian should know about the archives of individuals and organisations" in November 2009. The Library is continuing and intensifying its work with the personal records of individuals and organisations.

Reading list