In January a survey of the Swedish public libraries opening hours was carried out; it showed that four out of ten public libraries in the country are open less than 20 hours a week. This means that they are not always very accessible to the users, despite often being the only institution for culture and information available in smaller towns.
In the last few years, the public library commissions have been increased, at the same time as the municipalities continue to close public library branches and reduce opening hours. The public libraries are given more to do and less time to do it.
Limited opening hours limit visits
The budget limitations for the library operations in municipalities often lead to branches being closed in order to increase the quality and focus the activities within the given budget at the other libraries and, e.g., extend the opening hours there.
Limited opening hours at the public libraries means that not all user groups can visit the physical libraries. In total only 13 percent, that is 144, of the country’s public libraries are open on Sundays and 38 per cent are open on Saturdays.
The journey to a library that is open at the weekend is many miles for a lot of people. And yet weekends are often the only possible times that e.g., parents and children can visit the library together.
Limited to online functions
Access to public libraries is not equal for users in Sweden. There are great differences between different counties. The often long distance to the nearest public library in combination with the short opening hours does not promote the use of the libraries.
The users are limited to the functions they can use online. Often the book bus is the solution but the number of book buses has not increased despite the closure of public library branches.
The survey was conducted from a user perspective and the results show that 844 of the approximately 1,118 public libraries in Sweden have shorter opening hours than 40 hours per week. A total of 480 public libraries are open less than 20 hours per week. A total of 209 public libraries are open less than 10 hours per week. Only 24 public libraries are open 60 hours or more per week.
The conclusion is that the public spaces, which public libraries are frequently described as, often are closed.