The importance of Public Libraries in Sweden was very visual as we toured the Cultural Houses in Stockholm, Sundsvall, Hornosand and Kista. People bustling about in all the areas enjoying performances, services, museum exhibits and yes, books.
I was very curious about the structure of funding for the Houses because they all appear to be well stocked and well-staffed. Digging a little deeper into why these institutions can provide exemplary services to their communities a few things surfaced; The Cultural Houses have been important throughout the history of Sweden and in 1997 the Government passed a National Library Act. The Act regulates the assignment and responsibility for all publically financed libraries in Sweden. If a library is publically funded it is open to all citizens. This includes public, school, university, and special libraries all opening their doors to all uses in the community. As we toured around we began to wonder about the literacy rate in Sweden. If people have all the resources for lifelong learning at their fingertips does that make a difference? Does that contribute to the Countries 95+% literacy rate? In doing a little research I found studies from other Countries who are comparing their literacy rate with those in Sweden and indeed they do attribute libraries as having a huge impact on Lifelong Learning and its effect on the literacy rate in Sweden.
Sweden has been combining services of libraries, museums, teen center, and all arts since the 70’s. Communities look at what the needs are and begin to structure the Houses to fill the gaps in their services and begin to pull the services that are necessary to the users together under one roof.