The Swedish government’s work with archives and libraries has a long history. The first regulations for the National Archive were formulated in 1618, and the Royal Library has similarly ancient origins. National archive policy is intrinsically connected to the provisions for public access to official and public documents guaranteed in the Swedish constitution (see chapter 4.1.1), while library policies are connected to central aspects of Swedish cultural policy, such as equal access to culture, and public education. As a central feature of Swedish cultural policy, several recent debates on cultural policy have been relevant to this area.
As established in the Library Law (2013:801) §2 “Libraries in the public library system shall work for the development of a democratic society by contributing to the dissemination of knowledge and the free formation of opinions. Libraries in the public library system shall promote the position of literature and the interest in education, enlightenment, education and research, as well as cultural activities in general. Library activities must be available to everyone.” The same law also establishes that each municipality must provide its inhabitants with a public library. Other than municipal libraries, the legislation also covers school libraries, university libraries, regional libraries, and all other publicly financed libraries. In 2020, this included a total of 2201 libraries (35 fewer than the previous year). The coordinating government agency for this sector is the Royal Library, which also collects all printed works published in Sweden.
The library related issues that have been discussed in the last few years include access to school libraries. According to the library statistics of 2020, approximately 45 percent of pupils in primary and secondary school have access to a school library with at least part-time staff. For 2018−2020, the government allocated SEK 250 million annually to “increase the supply of and increase accessibility to public library activities.” In municipal libraries, there has been an increase in harassment and threats towards librarians. A survey conducted by the librarian trade union, published in 2019, showed that librarians’ work situation includes aspects of social unrest, insecurity and violations as well as hatred and threats, and that this situation was especially grave for female librarians, and in libraries in suburban areas (DIK 2019). Public debate concerning libraries and library policy has also included criticism of political bias in libraries. This criticism has been reoccurring, especially against left-wing political bias in the literature made available in libraries. A research study describing the left-wing bias of certain librarian organizations (Blomgren & Sundeen 2020) has also caused some debate.
Swedish public archives are regulated in the Archive Law (1990:782).The purposes of the state archives’ activities expressed in the Archives Act (Bill 1989/90: 72, amendment 1989/90: KrU29, rskr. 1989/90: 307) are:
- to increase the opportunities for access to public documents and other archival material,
- to clarify and strengthen the importance of archives as a source of information and knowledge about society and its development, and
- method and knowledge development within the archive area.
The coordinating government agency in this area is the National Archive.
In 2019, a government commission submitted the report Härifrån till evigheten: En långsiktig arkivpolitik för förvaltning och kulturarv (”From here to eternity: A long term archive policy for administration and cultural heritage”, SOU 2019:158). It proposed that the archive law should be revised, updating archive policy for a digitalized society and focusing on 1) the right of the public to take part in public documents, 2) the information needs of administration and justice, and 3) the needs of research. The commission also recommended that the Royal Library, the Swedish Institute, the Swedish Film Institute, the Swedish Performing Arts Agency, and the National Archive should be made jointly responsible for making a national inventory of audiovisual material and to investigate the conditions for an implementation of the digitization of the material.
Comments are closed.