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Social Problems in Swedish Libraries.

Who knew Swedish libraries are places where disruptive behavior is commonplace? That's the finding of a survey on bad behavior in Sweden's public and school libraries by trade union DIK, whose members include librarians and academics. The survey, based on responses from 1,618 members, paints a grim picture of the level of yobbishness in the country's libraries.

The survey's report notes that 93% and 80% of respondents have experienced social unrest in public and school libraries, respectively. The percentage of library staffers who say they have experienced violence or violent situations is 55% in public libraries and 42% in school ones. And 60% of respondents say these incidents occur when they are working alone in a library. One-fifth of female librarians polled say they have been subjected to sexual harassment or abuse in the past 2 years.

DIK's head of social policy, Stina Hamberg, says, "Disturbance, aggressive behavior, violence and threats are directed both towards library staff and other visitors. There is also a high frequency of vandalism, sexual offenses and drug trade." This is "due to the fact that other areas in society [have] failed [to take] care of vulnerable groups such as mentally ill [people] and abusers, or that there are not enough youth activities etc. The library is one of [the] few places left that is free and open to the public." DIK's chairperson, Anna Troberg, says, "We have created a course where both employers and employees together work to find ways to minimise the problems and to agree on routines for what to do when they do happen. Some libraries have guards ... however it is not a simple quick fix. Having a guard in the door actually increase[s] the risk of confrontations, etc. But, of course, if someone is a risk to other people they need to be removed from the library there and then."

In addition, Troberg notes, "[T]he society around the libraries needs to be strengthened. Mentally ill people need to be able to go somewhere to get help, and addicts as well. The social services need to work properly.... When all of this fails, to a greater or lesser extent, people that create problems end up in the libraries. Libraries are wonderful, but they cannot solve greater social problems in society on their own."


Back in 2013, online flight booking platform Skyscanner asked travelers what facilities they would like to see available at airports. Of the 10,000-plus people polled, 32% said they'd like a library, the third most popular option after a cinema (49%) and sleep pods (36%). According to RayHaber, a Turkish news outlet, Istanbul's airport has gotten the message and installed a library, which was opened recently by culture and tourism minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy. It's based in the domestic flights terminal and at launch held more than 1,150 literary works, 50 children's books, 500 books in English, and 550 Nobel Prize-winning works. Passengers who wish to borrow books will have to take out a membership at the terminal library. Borrowed books may be returned to a box at the airport or to a public library in Turkey.

The facility is managed by Turkey's ministry of culture and tourism. No sign yet of a beach though--in the Skyscanner survey, 12% of those polled said a man-made beach was the feature they'd most like at an airport.


Library provision in many U.K. schools is so below par that it is a "social mobility time bomb." That's the view of Waterstones Children's Laureate and author Cressida Cowell, commenting on a recent report on school libraries in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland commissioned by the Great School Libraries Campaign, which is run by CILIP, its School Libraries Group, and the School Library Association (SLA). Among the findings are that schools with a higher proportion of children eligible for free school meals are more than twice as likely not to have a designated library space on-site.

Cowell says, "Nobody has yet answered this question for me: if a child's parents cannot afford books, if there isn't a library in their school, and they don't have opportunities to visit a public library, how on earth can they become a reader for pleasure? We know from many, many academic studies how important reading for pleasure is to children's life prospects, so we need to do everything possible to encourage reading for pleasure in ALL children, not just in some children."

The report is based on responses from 1,750 schools. It finds that 90% of schools in England have access to a library space, falling to 67% in Wales and 57% in Northern Ireland. Some 95% of secondary schools, and 38% of primaries, have a designated staffer who runs their library. Additionally, 59% of school libraries are used as classrooms and 51% as meeting rooms for school business. More than half of the schools surveyed (55%) say that their library is open for 6 hours or fewer per day. Also, says the report, independent (tuition-based) schools are nearly twice as likely--at 83%--to have a dedicated budget for their library than state schools, at 42%.

SLA's CEO, Alison Tarrant, says, "In the report we lay out recommendations for policy makers, school library staff, and Senior leaders and the campaign will be working to ensure that everyone is aware of them, and taking action to encourage best practice from all those groups."


India has its first transgender library, in Madurai, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Part of the Transgender Resource Center, the library aims to raise awareness of the country's transgender community. According to India's 2011 census, there are about 490,000 transgender people in the country and 21,000 in Tamil Nadu.

John Charlton writes about technology, law, and education for several publications. Send your comments about this column to or tweet us (@ITINewsBreaks).


DIK report on Swedish libraries (in Swedish)

Skyscanner survey of most-wanted airport features

RayHaber article on the Istanbul airport library

U.K. school libraries report

Article on India's transgender library
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Title Annotation:International Report
Author:Charlton, John
Publication:Information Today
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2020
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