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STOCKHOLM

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

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.

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/imagebanksweden.se

“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”.

READ ALSO: Join The Local Sweden's Book Club – learn about Sweden through reading

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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SWEDEN AND INDIA

IndiskFika: The Indian dance group taking Sweden by storm

IndiskFika are a group of Indians in Sweden with a shared passion: dance. Two of the group's leaders tell The Local how they came to be finalists in Talang, one of Sweden's top TV talent shows.

IndiskFika: The Indian dance group taking Sweden by storm

“We’ve been very passionate about dance from childhood,” says co-founder Ranjithkumar Govindan, who shortens his name to Ranjith. “I’ve been dancing from childhood, like first grade. So once we got into our professional lives and career, I wanted to continue my passion.”

“Like Ranjith, I have been dancing since the age of three, ” adds Aradhana Varma, who joined the group in 2020. She’s been competing in and winning dance competitions back in her hometown of Mumbai ever since. 

With just a handful of members back in 2019, the group now numbers over 50, including dancers, videographers, choreographers, editors, and production crew, and they are still growing.

Listen to Aradhana Varna from IndiskFika on Sweden in Focus, The Local’s podcast. 

Click HERE to listen to Sweden in Focus on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

Govindan says started by dancing at various events in Stockholm alongside fellow Indian dance enthusiasts before the idea came to form the troupe. “Then, one fine day, me and one of my friends, Vijay [Veeramanivanna], said ‘why don’t we do a cover song?'” he remembers. 

“He’s very passionate about camera work, cinematography. I’m very passionate about dance,” Govindan says of the collaboration. 

Their initial idea was to take advantage of their location in to shoot dance routines out in Swedish nature, in the same way that Bollywood movies sometimes shoot routines against European scenes such as Swiss mountainsides or Italian plazas. 

“Indians are very famous for movies, like Bollywood, so we wanted to do a cover video of a particular song from a movie which was going to be released. Since we are living in Sweden, we have plenty of opportunities to cover good locations and nature, so that was an idea,” he explains.

The name ‘IndiskFika’, (“Indian fika”, a fika being a Swedish term for a coffee break in the middle of the day) came from Govindan and Veeramanivanna’s wish to combine Swedish and Indian cultures. 

IndiskFika performing in the Talang talent show. Photo: TV4

“We started with five to seven people in 2019, that was the first thing we did, and we did a shoot and edited everything, then we realised that if we wanted to release it, we should have a name,” Govindan says.

“So we started thinking ‘what name should we pick for this team?’. We came up with the idea IndiskFika. Everyone knows about fika in Swedish, right?” 

Their videos, some of which have over a million views, became popular both among Indians at home and among members of the Indian community in Sweden, whose interest helped the group grow further.

More and more Indians living in Stockholm started asking to join, and soon they were doing live performances:  one at the Chalmers University in Gothenburg, and another at the Diwali celebrations held by the Västerås Indian Association. 

When the pandemic hit, IndiskFika didn’t let it stop them. They started planning a digital one-year anniversary for the group, and began looking for other groups to collaborate with. 

That was how Govindan began collaborating with Varma, who had been performing with a different dance team. “I had been performing at various events like Namaste Stockholm with a different dance team based in Stockholm since 2017, but during pandemic, everything had come to a halt since it was a tough time for all of us,” she explains.

When new people joined IndiskFika, it gave the group a new impetus. “That’s when the boost started,” Govindan remembers. “We became stronger and stronger. So, so many things happened.”

IndiskFika first came to the attention of ordinary Swedes with an article in Ingenjörenthe members’ magazine for engineering union Sveriges Ingenjörer. Many of the group’s members are IT engineers or students at KTH, the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. “They did an article about us, about the engineers continuing their passion for dance, so that reached a more Swedish audience,” Govindan says. 

This led to more in-person performances, which in turn caught the eye of the producers responsible for Talang at Sweden’s broadcaster TV4.

“The Talang people said ‘we read about you and we’ve gone through all your YouTube videos, why don’t you come and participate in Talang 2022?’. The rest of the story you know. We participated in Talang, and we got a golden buzzer from David Batra in the prelims, so we went direct to the finals.”

David Batra, a Swedish comedian with an Indian father, is known for comedy series such as Kvarteret Skatan and Räkfrossa, as well as Världens sämsta indier (“World’s Worst Indian”), a series where he visits India, alongside public broadcaster SVT’s India correspondent Malin Mendel, and tries his hand at living and working in the country.

Batra is also one of four judges on Talang, whose golden buzzer meant that the dance team were awarded one of eight places in the final – four are chosen by votes and four are chosen by the Talang judges.

The group were among the top eight teams in the finals on March 18th, but for Indians in Sweden, reaching the final was a win in itself. They were invited for a fika with India’s ambassador to Sweden, where they were treated to both traditional Indian and Swedish treats.

The IndiskFika troupe on stage at TV4’s studios. Photo: TV4

Many of the group’s members work full-time alongside dancing, which can be difficult at times.

“It’s not easy to be so dedicated by spending extra effort after office hours, with hectic weekend schedules for rehearsals especially when everyone in the team has a full-time job,” Varma says. “There’s a lot of things that take place in the background from logistics to costumes, hall bookings, co-ordinating everyone’s availability, social media activities and so on.”

Like many foreigners, though, Govindan and Varma have taken their time adapting to life in Sweden. 

“All I knew about Sweden was that it was one of the cold and dark countries,” Varma says. “Eventually you start liking it, and you know, everything is worth it for the summers that you get here. The fika tradition, the amazing work/life balance, the nature, that’s the best part that we have here.”

“I didn’t have much of an idea about Sweden,” Govindan agrees. “The temperature, where I come from, throughout the year is between 25 to 40 degrees. In terms of temperature, nature, the people, everything is different.”

“India is very rich in culture, right?” Varma says when asked about the differences between Swedish and Indian culture. “We have a lot of colours and a lot of different flavours and you know, that’s the kind of performance we gave. That was the plan: to give a very energetic, powerful, and colourful performance.”

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