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Dutch woman barred from borrowing books

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16:22 CET+01:00
A Stockholm-area library is being sued by Sweden's Ombudsman against Ethnic Discrimination (DO) for refusing to let a Dutch woman check out more than two books because she wasn't Swedish.

Täby municipality has treated [the woman] unfairly by limiting the number of books she could check out of the municipality's library,” writes the ombudsman in documents filed with the district court in Attunda near Stockholm.

Now the ombudsman wants the municipality to pay 60,000 kronor ($7,500) in compensation for what it sees as “discrimination on account of her ethnic background”.

The woman, who moved to Sweden in 2006, had been hired last spring by the municipality to work as a home language tutor.

In April, she went to the local library and found three books she thought would be helpful for her lessons.

But when she came to the counter, the Dutch national was told by the librarian she could only borrow two books because she lacked Swedish citizenship.

The woman explained that she had a valid Swedish personal identity number (personnummer) and even provided documentation from the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket) confirming the number, as well as her address and the date she moved to Sweden.

“The library staff member answered that that wasn't enough and that immigrants aren't allowed to borrow more than two books because [library staff] couldn't check what they did with them,” reads the complaint.

Further investigation by the ombudsman revealed that the library's policy only placed the borrowing limit on people who lacked Swedish personal identity numbers because of the difficulty it created in tracking down missing books.

Nowhere in the regulations was there any stipulation limiting the number of books people could borrow on account of their citizenship.

But the ombudsman countered that according to Swedish law, an employer is liable for discriminatory behaviour by one of its workers even if that behaviour contradicts the employer's stated policy.

In the eyes of the ombudsman, however, the library's policy is not the issue.

“Regardless of which borrowing rules were officially in force in Täby municipality, [she] has quite simply been denied the possibility of borrowing more than two books from the municipality's library on account of her citizenship,” writes the ombudsman.

When contacted by The Local, the woman declined to comment on the case until after a the court had reached a decision.

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