Stockholm's international library is moving and not everyone's pleased

The Local Sweden
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Stockholm's international library is moving and not everyone's pleased
The international library has long been a meeting place for immigrants and multilingual readers. File photo: Melker Dahlstrand/

Stockholm's international library is moving to a new location, with the council citing costs and greater ease of hosting events as the main reasons for the change. But critics have said this will be detrimental to Stockholm's literary community and speakers of multiple languages across the whole country.


"We are currently relaunching our international library because at the former venue there wasn't such a big possibility to have activities, but this will be easier at the new venue on Kungsholmen," Jonas Naddebo, Stockholm's Vice Mayor for Culture and Urban Environment, told The Local earlier this year.

The proposed activities include language exchanges such as those already held at many city libraries to help newcomers meet Swedes and practise the language, and readings aimed at children.

In a statement announcing the library's move from its current central location near Odenplan, the city's municipal council said that book loans from the international library had fallen by more than a half since 2009. Naddebo said that the relocation "would mean a location closer to public transport, which will hopefully lead to more people visiting the library".

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In effect, the international library will be joined together with the existing Kungsholmen library close to the Fridhemsplan transport hub. 

The move has been strongly criticized by some, including Dagens Nyheter's literary critic Viola Bao, who described it as a "closure" of the institution, which had been the largest of its kind in Europe. 

"Besides running the international library, the staff are on hand to give advice and be a resource for all public libraries and users across the whole country, who can also order the library's books via long-distance loan. The closure is therefore also a national issue," wrote Bao.

Other warning voices of the threat the move posed to included journalist and editor Björn Wiman, author and journalist Isobel Hadley-Kamptz, and literary critic Victor Malm. More than 3,000 people have signed a petition against the library's move, including authors, publishers and members of the Swedish Academy.

The international library currently has a collection of 200,000 books in over 100 languages, and not all of these will be moved to the shelves of the new location.

"The public space at the new location is just as big in the new space, but the big difference is the closed stacks," head librarian Daniel Forsman told The Local.

"The majority of the 120,000 books in the closed stacks will be moved to another closed stack location where they'll be available upon request; some will also be moved to other libraries in Stockholm."

Some of the books from the current international library's closed stack location will be got rid of or 'weeded' however, which means they would either be recycled, donated, or destroyed.

"Those will follow our normal policy that applies to all Stockholm libraries. The policy takes into account condition, whether they're of importance for the collection, and whether it's being requested or not – out of the 120,000 at the international library, about 46,000 haven't circulated in the last five years," Forsman explained.


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