The national library strategy for Sweden
Sweden’s national library strategy aims to strengthen the library sector, the ultimate goal being to improve access to literature and information for everyone. The National Library is a key actor on the state level.
Ever since 2011, the National Library (Kungliga biblioteket, KB) has been tasked with coordinating and developing the Swedish public library sector. In April 2022, when the government adopted a national library strategy for Sweden, the government also gave KB a new assignment: to suggest how collaboration in the Swedish library sector can be strengthened, as well as to contribute to the long-term development of certain national digital library services for prioritised target groups.
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With the national strategy, the government takes a comprehensive approach to consolidate work on the state level and lay the foundations for continued development in the library sector. KB is one of several government agencies with a national mission in the sector – the others are the Swedish Arts Council (Kulturrådet), the Swedish Agency for Accessible Media (Myndigheten för tillgängliga medier, MTM) and the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket).
The strategy gives an overview of the current challenges in the library sector and the need for development. It establishes that the library is a space open to everyone, offering free access to literature and information. The library is also a meeting place that promotes democratic dialogue, the dissemination of knowledge and freedom of opinion.
Three focus areas
The government highlights three focus areas that are considered central to the quality and development in the library sector:
- A library sector that is accessible and relevant for all
- A library sector that contributes to and follows the development in society
- A well functioning national infrastructure for the library sector
Each focus area is connected to certain targets and activities. The government lists what has been done, is about to be done or that the government intends to do.
The government underlines the importance of following up the activities carried out. The Swedish Agency for Cultural Policy Analysis (Myndigheten för kulturanalys) is tasked with evaluation and analysis.
Well on the way
KB has done a lot of the groundwork that the national strategy is based on and submitted its original proposal for a strategy – Demokratins skattkammare (“The Treasury of Democracy”) – in 2019. Since then, KB has already carried out many of the suggested activities, partly together with partners.
Activities that are ongoing or under way:
Through the Bibsam Consortium, KB negotiates licence agreements for electronic information resources on behalf of Swedish universities, university colleges, as well as public agencies and research institutes.
Bläddra is a free reading app offering digital books in the Swedish minority languages of Meänkieli, Romani Chib and Sami, and with plans to add Finnish and Yiddish as well.
Digitisation of cultural heritage
The bill Restarting the Arts and Culture in Sweden (2021) suggests, among other things, increased government funding to make more of Sweden’s cultural heritage digitally accessible and to step up preservation efforts. Read the bill (pdf on the government website). External link.
Digiteket is an education platform that was started as a project, “Digital first”, to provide training to public library employees. Currently focused on digital skills and media and information literacy, it is primarily aimed at public library employees, but open to everyone.
Operated by the libraries in Malmö, on assignment from KB. Read more about Digiteket (link to information in Swedish). External link.
Electronic legal deposit
A bill from 2021, Papper, poddar och … – Pliktmateriallagstiftning för ett tryggat källmaterial (“Paper, pods and … – A Legal Deposit Act for the preservation of source material”), suggests that the Swedish Legal Deposit Act and Electronic Legal Deposit Act be revised to include both physical and electronic materials. Read more about the bill (link to information on the government website, in Swedish). External link.
Libraries for national minorities
KB has been assigned by the Swedish government to establish libraries for the Swedish national minorities. The libraries are to be a resource for each minority group and for all of Sweden’s municipalities. Access to literature for children and young people should be prioritised.
Sweden’s official national minorities are Jews, Roma, Sami, Sweden Finns and Tornedalers.
Mångspråkiga lånecentralen (”the multilingual inter-library loan service”, MLC) is Stockholm Public Library’s government-funded assignment to provide loan services to other Swedish libraries. Read more about MLC under KB’s partners (link to information in Swedish).
National framework for disposal and preservation
The report Allt åt alla för alltid (”Everything to everyone forever”, 2020 – link to information in Swedish) identifies a need for Swedish research libraries to strengthen their collaboration on disposal and preservation of physical collections. The suggestion is that a national framework be established. Read the report (link to pdf in Swedish). External link.
On assignment from the government, KB promotes and coordinates the work towards open access to scientific publications. The aim is that all publications should be available online, free for everyone to read and reuse.
Världens bibliotek (“library of the world”) is an online library offering digital books in different languages. Operated by the libraries in Malmö. Visit Världens bibliotek (link to information in Swedish). External link.