A Pop-Up Library in the Stockholm Subway

By Barbara Theroux, President of Friends of the Library


Stockholm subway art. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

Many foreign cities are known for their beautiful subways, but I had never heard Stockholm mentioned in lists of the world’s top subways to see.  Our trip to visit Bibliotek Kista involved taking a bus and the subway. We researched the bus route and had enough money on the bus pass to get us safely to and from the library.  As we checked the map at the bus stop, a woman asked about the trip, what we wanted to do, and mentioned that we should be across the street to catch the bus going in the right direction.  We arrived at the Central station and went down four levels to catch the train to Kista.  At each landing and station we noticed art, sculpture, carvings and even a waterfall—ways to make our minds off of how deep underground we must have been.

We were intrigued to visit because this library, located in Citycon’s shopping center, Kista Galleria has been awarded the “Public Library of the Year Award 2015”. We also read that since the library moved to Kista Galleria in August 2014, visits to the library have increased by 300 percent, and book loans have doubled.

Rebecca, our guide to the library, met us within a minute of the phone call stating we had just gotten of the subway.  We rode an escalator directly into the library—and what a location!


Stockholm City’s library outpost in the metro station. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

A few days earlier we had seen a subway library—one of several that the Stockholm City Library runs.  This small library had places to sit, places to charge phones, and displays of books.  There were “Fast Food Packets” and “Slow Food Reading Bags”—programs that recommend several books on one topic or by a popular author.  There was also a place to pick up reserved titles–library users could go online, reserve book and request subway stop for pick-up.  As the historic Stockholm City Library anticipates remodeling, they have been testing programs at various branches, including the subways.  All part of looking at the needs of the diverse users and communities.


View from the Stockholm City Metro Library. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.




Internet in Sweden

By: Jim Semmelroth, Missoula Public Library Network Manager
 There are some big differences between Sweden and the United States regarding the infrastructure providing Internet access.  Here at the public library in Missoula, a DSL circuit costs us $110/mo for a 15 MB circuit, if I sign up for a 3 year contract.  And I would only have a few different vendors to choose from.  These costs can often be higher, and sometimes there is only a single vendor, for many of the more rural areas in the rest of Montana.  We also have a variety of infrastructure technologies providing service.  DSL and cable are common, fiber is rare, and wireless is often used for those hard to reach places.

Sweden is one of the best connected countries in the world.  As of today, fiber is already run to 80-90% of end users in the country.  Any of these users are able to purchase bandwidth at rates in the range of $40/mo for a 100MB circuit, and .5 GB and 1 GB options are available also.  A user can also choose from a dozen or more vendors from which to purchase bandwidth.


An example of technology in Sweden–A green screen room with computers for creating videos. Photo by Logan Castor Parson.

That is the background which, I think, explains why we saw fewer public access PCs in the libraries in Sweden than I see in libraries I have visited here in Montana.  Here in my own library, we have a room dedicated to public access computers with 21 stations in it.  We also have two other areas with public access computers and many other stations dedicated to specific tasks, genealogy, for example.  So in our main branch, we have 34 stations available for general surfing for the public.  The main group of those, in our Web Alley, gets about 85% usage.

In Sweden, I was struck by how few stations were made available to the public for general Internet access.  The main public library in Stockholm, the largest city in Sweden, probably had about as many stations available to the public as little ol Missoula.  We were in the library during a busy time and only about half of those stations were being used.  The other libraries we visited had fewer stations available, and those stations were not used as heavily as what we saw at the main Stockholm library.


Another example of technology in Sweden–a DJ station in one room of a library. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

I think our trip to Sweden has provided a snapshot of what the future of Internet access looks like here in western Montana.   There are currently some promising efforts being made here in Missoula to extend the reach of fiber, but a future comparable to Sweden is still quite a ways off.  As access to faster and cheaper Internet access becomes more ubiquitous here in Missoula, the need for the library to provide stations and bandwidth will diminish because so many more homes will have their own access.  The reasons why that future is so far off are more political and corporate than technological, but whatever the root cause, the end result is that the library will need to continue to provide access to the Internet.  Rest assured we will do so with as much bandwidth and as many stations as we can support for as long as the community needs this service.  And someday, in a brave new world, the Missoula community will not need this service as much as it does now.

Creating the Cozy: Seating Cubbies

By: Jim Semmelroth, Missoula Public Library Network Manager

Photo by Logan Castor-Parson

One feature commonly seen in the libraries/culture houses we visited is a kind of seating one might call cubby seating. This is a seat characterized by providing a sense of seclusion from the surrounding area.   This kind of seating is provided for all age groups, but specific seats are always aimed at a specific age group.

Photo by Logan Castor-Parson

For example, at the Kista library we saw a couple examples of preschool seating embedded in the stacks for that age group so that a kid can simply grab a book from a bin and settle down next to it on a comfy pad and read.  More spots are provided in the kid’s area for parents and children to sit together in a secluded spot as well.

Photo by Logan Castor-Parson

Cubby seating is commonly seen in areas designed for teenagers. An interesting style seen in the Kulturehaus downtown Stockholm is an egg-shaped or spherically-shaped shell, either sitting atop a single post on which it can spin or hanging from a single line, so it can sswing as well as spin.  This kind of seating provided excellent acoustic seclusion and was often placed next to a glass wall overlooking a large and crowded space so that it supported people watching as well.

Photo by Logan Castor-Parson

To a lesser extent, we also saw secluded seating in adult areas as well, usually combined with bright lighting.  These areas provide a quiet and well-lighted spot for the retired crowd to read newspapers or their favorite author’s latest release.

Photo by Logan Castor-Parson

A contemporary library must be many things to many people and cubby seating is certainly important.  Age-specific, acoustically and/or visually secluded seating adjacent to appropriate materials seems to be a common feature for libraries in both Sweden and Montana.

Author relaxing. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson

Kulturmagasinet: A Cultural Warehouse Made of Glass


The glass ceiling links together four old port warehouses. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

By: Hannah Motl Gimpel, The University of Montana spectrUM Discovery Area Associate Director

Located in Sundsvall, Kulturmagasinet is made up of four turn-of-the-century port warehouses which have been linked together by a glass roof to create a dynamic cultural warehouse. Within these glassed in walls, the main branch of the municipal library, the Sundsvall Museum, the Medelpad Archives, and the Museum of Photography exist harmoniously together under one roof.  The design of the building has won a number of awards including the Europa Nosta Prize, which is considered the Nobel Prize of architecture.

For me, the main takeaway points from Kulturmagasinet were as follows:


The Sundsvall Municipal Library. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

Bringing multiple disciplines together under one roof attracts new audiences and gives visitors a reason to linger. As our group toured through the winding corridors and open galleries of Kulturmagasinet, you could easily understand how this building has become a model for cultural warehouses. The spaces are open and inviting, yet uniquely distinct from each other, which creates multiple entry-points for visitors of all ages and from all walks of life. Additionally, the unique spaces result in visitors wanting to linger and explore in each area of the warehouse. Our group spent an entire day in the warehouse, and it still felt far too short. I think in order to properly experience all that Kulturmagasinet has to offer you would need at least three days.


The children’s area in the library. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

Joint programming adds depth to the visitor experience. Kulturmagasinet strives to bring together the various organizations in their warehouse through joint programming and monthly themes. For example, one month they had the theme “circus” which meant that the libraries picked books, led crafts, and told stories around this theme while at the same time the museums curated their exhibit halls around this theme and offered historical context on the history of circuses in the area. The All Under One Roof vision for Missoula’s library complex entails joint programming, so it was inspiring to see a cultural warehouse which is striving to create continuity between the various disciplines in their building.

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The “teen cafe” area in Kulturmagasinet. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

If you offer relevant services, you are relevant in your community.  Kulturmagasinet offers services that are responsive to the needs of their community. For example, the library offers language classes for the numerous refugees in the area as well as public access to the internet. The archives offer an area for families and tourists to research their genealogy and possibly reconnect with long-lost family members. The children’s area in the library offers a craft area, a hands-on play area, music sing-alongs, and a designated area for families to prepare food and eat lunch together. Additionally, the children’s area offers a special section of books for children with disabilities. There is also a separate “teen café” area that draws in the tween crowd and allows them to have a space of their own. Overall, the resounding theme between all of these sections was relevancy to their community. By being responsive to the needs of the community, Kulturmagasinet has become a pillar in the city of Sundsvall.

A Warm Sundsvall Welcome

By Barbara Theroux, President of Friends of the Library

Yesterday, as our group traveled from Stockholm to Sundsvall, I realized that we are in Sweden at an interesting time: All the major Swedish newspapers front page headlines (and in some cases) the entire front page covered the news of internationally-acclaimed crime writer Henning Mankell’s death.

This news, at the same time the winners of the Nobel Prize are being announced, with the most anticipated prize being the one for literature.

The literary genre, “Nordic noir,” exists in part because of Mankell, and informed the writing of one of the most popular Scandinavian authors, Stieg Larsson.  Swedish authors have gained a wide audience in the U.S.  Our hosts from Kulturmagasinet in Sundsvall organized a short historic walking tour of the town square followed by a lovely

Our welcome dinner with culure, library, museum, and government leaders in Sundsvall. Photo by Logan Castor Parson.

Our welcome dinner with culture, library, museum, and government leaders in Sundsvall. Photo by Logan-Castor Parson.

dinner.  Combining nine Americans and six Swedes made for wonderful conversations.  At my table we talked about Pipi, Elsbeth, Ove and the 100-year-old man–which led to a discussion of the Swedish vs American versions of the movie The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  I learned that the Swedes very much regretted not being able to see, hear and meet 2013’s Nobel Prize for Literature winner, as her health did not allow her to travel and accept the award in person.  But, I was able to tell them that Alice Munro, whom I’ve met, was a wonderful, gracious person and writer.

Kulturmagasinet in autumn light. Photo by Logan Castor Parson.

Kulturmagasinet in autumn light. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

Prior to the trip, I had been looking forward to seeing the Kulturmagasinet–several warehouses together under one roof, similar to the concept we’re exploring in Missoula. This provides  a free space for all ages to learn, experience, and come together–while also hosting an annual book festival and various outreach programs.

It is wonderful to be part of this trip, but even more exciting to be a part of bringing “All Under One Roof” into reality in Missoula.

Cultural Warehouse Model Driven by Magic of Storytelling

By: Honore Bray, Missoula Public Library Director

Storytelling is a fundamental part of both libraries and museums, and it should add to the magic visitors should experience at both. Kulturhuset in Stockholm offers such magical experiences for all ages.

Stockholm’s museum-library culture warehouse is alive with rich color, texture, and features that add creative excitement. Young children crawl through nooks and

crannies, finding the perfect place to settle in for an adventure of their choice, while others climb the spiral staircases leading to the perfect read for the day. Moving through the seven libraries in the Kulturhuset, the experience is special and varied for every age, a totally different feeling than the Central library, which offers a historical perspective.

Story room at Stockholm library.

Story room at Stockholm library.

The children’s storytelling tower is painted in deep blue, featuring a painting of fairy tale whimsy filled with the whine of the subway bringing the dragon to life.  Since the 1920s, residents of Stockholm have had the opportunity to view this beautiful site. As Stockholm’s Acting Director of Culture Inga Lunden told us: “Every child has the right to have a story told to them and every child has the right to tell a story.” With the great spaces created in the Stockholm Libraries, children of all ages are experiencing magic every day.


Story reading nooks at Kulturhuset.

Twenty-first century libraries will continue to meet the needs of the communities they serve as libraries have for the past centuries. As Lunden pointed out, the difference today is that partnerships will be driven by the needs of diverse users and communities. She feels the strength or muscle of the library will be provided by the strength of the partners’ creating the whole, which is certainly the goal in Missoula.

Kulturhuset: An Incubator for Creativity and Community

By: Holly Truitt, the University of Montana spectrUM Discovery Area director

CulturehouseToday we had a guided tour of the Kulturhuset, a hip, inviting facility in the heart of Stockholm. Part library, part theater, part community hub, part art gallery, and soon to be part fine art museum, it is unlike any facility I have visited in my almost ten years in the field. Partners under its roof have been co-evolving and co-creating since its origins in the 1970’s.

Three points of inspiration from the Kulturhuset model and practice:

  • Learning spaces can be more like a stage than a room. Many of the learning-library spaces we visited were much like a stage located in one of the Kulturehuset theaters, ready to be adapted and changed to better serve and inspire learners: stacks on wheels in a music and comic book library to easily allow for a DJ’d music show, a “magic children’s library” that changes shape at the whim of the lead librarian with theatrical lighting, props, sketches, and currently a beautiful magic library wooden boat borrowed from a fellow Kulturhuset theater,
    Local family reads book in Magic Library

    Local family reads book in Magic Library. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

    followed by at least another half-dozen children’s spaces that each offer a unique experience and feel. Peppered throughout the building are amphitheaters that serve as visiting areas but easily transform into stages with seating for a performance, live readings, children’s story hour, or music.

  • Audience interests and needs should drive design. Any Goldielocks in the bunch would find their perfect spot in the Kulturehuset. Spaces are frequently divided by audience and interest. It has a space devoted to tweens – no adults
    Before-hours tour of Tio Tretton Area, which gives tweens a apace of their own in the Kulturhuset.

    Before-hours tour of Tio Tretton Area, which gives tweens a space of their own in the Kulturhuset. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

    allowed except staff educators – with lounge areas, drafting tables for drawing and making, a film studio, and a kitchen for cooking and doing homework after school. Its popular children’s area features a giant stop light that shines from its fourth floor location to let interested families know if the space is at capacity (green light) or not (red light), so they can decide if they want to make the long trek upstairs. And, signage in their library space for adults catalogs books by topics like poetry, humor, and science fiction.

    Signage in library for adults.

    Signage in library for adults. Photo by Logan Castor-Parson.

  • There is always room to more fully integrate. Although, it was mentioned that the Kulturhuset and its various entities could benefit from integrating more on a daily basis, it also was noted they regularly do thematic days that engage all the entities under their roof. On these thematic days, Inga Lunden, Acting Director of Culture for the City of Stockholm and mentor for Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, shared “they really show their muscle.” However, as an outsider, it also was easy to see how having libraries, theater and art under one roof has brought theatrical design to library science and fine art to library stacks. Marvelous stuff.

To learn more about this fabulous culture house in the heart of Stockholm visit: http://kulturhusetstadsteatern.se/English/About-Kulturhuset-Stadsteatern/