Freedom of speech

Volume 48 NO. 3 2015

Photo: Annika HjerpeHelp us evaluate SLQ

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The libaries’ democratic function stands firm

Participation of secret service agents, media storms, ministerial inquiries and then, this February, the firings of arms, are some of the things that events in Danish libraries and cultural centres have encountered over the past couple of years. This, however, will not influence the character and nature of events to come in Danish libraries.

Swedish author and illustrator Stina Wirsén created in 2012 a fictional character, “Lilla Hjärtat”, who became a popular figure in her books for children. A few years later however it was criticised for being a racist stereotype. Photo: Ulf StromquistPower, violence, bodies and boundaries

In public discourse of late, also when the roles of libraries are debated, the topics of racism and anti-racism in Sweden are prevalent. In the context of our current climate, I allude to discussions exemplified by the inclusion or exclusion of Tintin in the Congo in the TioTretton Library in Stockholm and the discussions on antiquated norms and values with the re-release of early Swedish children’s and youth literature, the use of the Swedish ‘N’ word, and Stina Wirsén’s character Lilla Hjärtat (The Little Heart) with its debate aftermath regarding racist stereotypes.

Photo: CC0Transparency and redefining boundaries

In the last decades, international comparative studies have indicated that Finland has become known as the country with the least amount of corruption and relatively extensive freedom of speech. The transparency that began in the 1900s has been reinforced through political and administrative factors and through the internet as a new form of communication. At the same time, developments in the internet era have led to the redefinition of the boundaries of freedom of speech and to new facets of conflict.

From an open debate 2014 at Deichmanske Library, Oslo, about the library's new role after the ‘debate clause’ was introduced. Photo: Anders EricsonThe new independent ‘debate libraries’ of Norway

Both Swedish and Norwegian library laws were revised last year and included new, radical formulations that promote democracy through debate and exchange of opinions in the library. In Norway the chief librarian has even been given the status of an independent editor of debates, in line with newspaper editors.

Editorial: Freedom of speech: MORE than free and equal access to information

As a public institution of enlightenment, the library is in a position to safeguard one of modern democracy’s most important building blocks: Freedom of speech.

Workshop with Romanian librarians at Biskops Arnö in Sweden. Photo: Helena BergendahlViewpoint: Creating a library for children

It was in 2009 that, for the very first time, I came to Georgia, the little country that lies between the Greater and Lesser Caucasus on the Black Sea coast. The author Marie Oskarsson and I were both members of our respective boards – in my case for Svenska Tecknare (Association of Swedish Illustrators and Graphic Designers) and, in Marie’s case, for the Children and Youth section of the Swedish Writers’ Union.