Playing together SOU 2010:11 Regional cultural activities with government support

Library operations There are around 1,300 public libraries in Sweden, of which 290 are central libraries and over 1,000 are branch libraries, and, every year, they clock up around seventy million visits and lend the same number of books or other media. The public libraries are administered by municipalities whose library services are complemented by county libraries, lending centres and legal deposit libraries. The county libraries are financed primarily by the county councils, who are responsible for them. On average, central government grants provide around a quarter of the necessary finance.

Central government grants to the county libraries originated with the 1930 Libraries Statute, which stipulated that a central library was to be established in every county. The Library Services Act (1996) states that every county should have a county library, while a stipulation of the 2005 Library Services Act stated that libraries and the public bodies responsible for them within the field of library services must cooperate and that municipalities and county councils must adopt library services plans. In the autumn of 2009, the Ministry of Culture initiated a review of the Library Services Act and began to examine how the Act has operated in practice. In 2010, the government intends to present possible proposals arising from the current evaluation of this Act.

During the 1960s, three lending centres were established, and these are located in Malmö, Stockholm and Umeå, serving southern, central and northern Sweden, respectively. Their function is to supply media and source material for articles to other libraries, arrange book loans and copies from libraries outside Sweden and provide help with subject and reference queries. They are financed entirely by central government grants that are regulated in the Ordinance on central government grants to public libraries (1996). The Swedish legal deposit library in Umeå is also financed exclusively by the central government, while the International Library in Stockholm is, in organisational terms, part of Stockholm City Library. Financed to 25% by a central government grant, it is open to the public but also functions as a lending centre, whose role is to complement needs for literature and documents in languages excluding Swedish as well as English, German, French, Danish, Norwegian and Sami.

Allocation of the appropriation

The Swedish Arts Council allocates central government support in the field of library services, while grants within the framework of the appropriation 3:1 Grants for library operations are regulated by two ordinances, one on central government grants to public libraries (1996) and the other on central government grants for regional cultural activities (1996). The purpose of the central government grants to the county libraries is to provide every citizen with very good access to books and information, as the county libraries assist the public libraries through complementary media provision, advice, information, further training and special services. In 2010, this appropriation will be total 49.1 million Swedish crowns. According to the 2008 Annual Report of the Swedish Arts Council, 41.4 million Swedish crowns in operational support will be allocated to twenty-three libraries, including funds for the lending centres and the legal deposit library. (…) In addition, a total of 5.4 million Swedish crowns in development grants will be allocated to fifteen of these libraries for their efforts to develop regional library operations, as well as an additional 0.9 million Swedish crowns to the public libraries for operational development. This appropriation is re-calculated annuallywith regard to price and wage levels.

A new model of cultural cooperation SOU 2010:11

Grants for library operations Assessment:With effect from 2011, the National Library of Sweden should be given responsibility for deciding on the allocation of grants for library operations within the framework of the new appropriation Grants for regional cultural activities. Central government support for library operations is given to institutions that are the responsibility of a regional or local public body. (…) Central government support for the county libraries aims to allow them to provide support for the development and co-ordination of public library operations. In 2010, the total appropriation is 49.1 million Swedish crowns, of which around 14.9 million is allocated to lending centres and legal deposit libraries including the International Library. (…)

In Time for culture, the government has announced that the National Library should be given a special assignment that involves responsibility for a national overview and the promotion of cooperation and development of library services, as well as for continuous monitoring of the work of the libraries in consultation with the county libraries. It is proposed that the responsibility for statistics relating to the public libraries be transferred from the Swedish Arts Council to the National Library of Sweden. On December 10, 2009, the latter body was mandated to draw up a plan as to how this assignment could be organised and imple- mented. This plan should, in addition, clarify the division of responsibilities between the National Library and the county libraries with regard to providing information and statistics in the area of library services. Furthermore, the National Library, together with the county libraries, should monitor the practical application of the Library Services Act (1996). This assignment also involves demonstrating, in consultation with the Swedish Arts Council, the organisation of continued central government support for library operations as well as the pre-requisites for clarifying the division of responsibilities between these two authorities. The National Library was to provide an account of its assignment no later than April 16, 2010.

The public libraries are the most heavily used cultural institutions in Sweden, and they provide important local venues for literature and reading as well as for local cultural activities in general and for disseminating public information to the citizens.With respect to operating grants for the county libraries, the committee of enquiry has considered allowing these funds to be distributed in accordance with the cooperative model that is being proposed, which thus means making them available to the Swedish Arts Council for distribution to the county councils. However, it is judged to be highly advantageous if this new assignment for the National Library in the field of coordinating library services initially also includes distribution of central government funds for library operations. Those funds that are currently distributed to regional library operations should, in our assessment, be incorporated into the new appropriation Grants for regional cultural activities as a separate item and be put at the disposition of the National Library. The important role of the libraries in acting as a bridge between culture and a wider social perspective should be stimulated. The cooperation between archives, libraries and museums should receive continued stimulation through the joint efforts of the relevant national authorities, on the one hand, and the regional institutions, on the other. (…)

Grants for municipal purchases of literature for public and school libraries, support for measures to promote reading, and for literary events

Assessment: Grants for municipal purchases of literature for public and school libraries, support for literary events and for measures to promote reading, should in the interim continue to be distributed by the Swedish Arts Council, as is currently the case (…). A condition for these grants is that the municipality must maintain the level of its own media purchases from the previous year and also have adopted a plan to stimulate reading by children and young people as part of a concerted effort involving libraries, schools and pre-schools. Support for measures to promote reading is governed by the Ordinance on central government grants for measures to promote reading (1998), wherein it is stated that these grants may be given to municipalities, pre-schools, schools, libraries, bookshops, non-profit making organisations and other associations operating in Sweden. Grants for literary events are governed by the Ordinance on central government support for literature (1998). Both these ordinances will probably be rescinded during the spring of 2010 and be replaced by a new ordinance on support for literature and cultural publications.

Promoting reading is a priority area for the central government, and the 2010 letter of appropriation for the Swedish Arts Council states that at least thirteen million Swedish crowns will be spent on measures to promote reading. At present, six major projects to promote reading are in progress, involving a total of fifteen counties. Priority is given to projects organised on the basis of a broad, concerted effort. Several of these projects aim to develop this form of cooperation between public and pre-schools, schools, children’s health clinics and the voluntary sector. Within the framework of the cooperation between the Swedish Arts Council and the county libraries, the county librarians adopted a number of joint development areas for concerted efforts to promote reading.

Editorial remark:
This extract is slightly foreshortened