After an investigation carried out with help from the National Criminal Police (Rikskriminalpolisen), the library, known as Kungliga Biblioteket (‘The Royal Library’), was able to conclude that it had 21 titles with child pornography in its collections.
The investigation was prompted after the library was reported for violating Sweden’s laws prohibiting the possession and distribution of child pornography.
The library has thus found itself caught between two laws: that of preserving the materials and the prohibition of child pornography.
“We want to know if we should allow them to be available for viewing for research purposes, and if so, how we should determine who should be allowed to see them,” Communications Director Urban Rybrink told The Local.
According to Rybrink, the magazines determined to contain child pornography are locked up and “inaccessible” pending guidance from the government.
The library has sent a memo to the Ministry of Education and Research over whether – and if so how – the library’s collection of child pornography should be managed.
The existence of the National Library’s collection of child pornography emerged after a visit by the writer Valentin Bart in November 2008.
The collection at the library was built up in the years between 1971, when the possession, distribution and display of child pornography was legalized in Sweden, and 1980, when the law was repealed.
All of the library’s pornographic material has been placed off limits since 2009 when the investigation was launched.
Rybrink explained that the library hasn’t altered its practices in light of the child pornography scandal, as it is duty bound to maintain a copy of all printed material published in Sweden.
“That’s a duty we’re given by the government and which we must abide by. We have no influence over that responsibility,” he said.
“If anything, this episode may give reason for the government to think things over again.”
While the library has conducted an ongoing dialogue with the education ministry about the matter, Rybrink said the National Library has no idea how long it may take for the ministry to respond to the memo.