Biblioteche pubbliche svedesi: organizzazione e servizi

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Andrea Vasco


The Swedish library system is usually grouped in two main sectors: public libraries and special or research libraries. At present, each county has a regional library which integrates the town library services through interlibrary loans, carries out some activities for children and teenagers, manages services for the handicapped and the blind, runs permanent educational courses and organises conferences and meetings for library staff and council cultural committee heads. The three regional loan centres are hosted in the county libraries of Malmö, Umeå and Stockholm. These centres are charged also with interlibrary loan from research libraries and Swedish libraries abroad. The Stockholm Regional Loan Centre is charged with lending literature published in the languages of Sweden's ethnic minorities. Umeå hosts the repository library for literature with low turnover and for extra copies of books.

The National Council for Cultural Affairs is responsible for government investment in the cultural sector and dispenses subsidies amounting to some 6 millions Swedish crowns to the three regional loan centres and the Umeå store library and circa 19 millions to the 24 county libraries (35% of county library activities are financed by government subsidies, the remaining 65% by the county councils) according to data for 1994.

The public libraries are linked by a loan chain, which gives them access to the resources of a certain number of library systems in Sweden. This structure was developed to improve co-operation between public and research libraries. The 286 public libraries in the towns form the base of this organisation. Above them, there are the 24 county libraries and finally the three loan centres which also deal with the access to research library materials. Today, each of Sweden's 286 towns has a public library service, with a total of circa 2,000 library units and 46 millions volumes. This system may consist of a main library, small or large branch libraries, "book-buses", libraries in workplaces and hospitals (run in co-operation with the county councils), a home-loan service for those with mobility problems who cannot go to the library, a service for health institutes, the army and kindergartens.

The tripartite library, which originated in Germany and is based on three level of density of deposit, is the structure which best characterises the Swedish library system. The most compact section is in the library's stacks; the second section is charged with the lending of library materials, with non-fiction classified and fiction in alphabetical order. The true innovation consists in the third section, the library "market": here the classification system is wholly eschewed and the literature is ordered in broad thematic areas. It is possible to group adult and children literature, fiction and non-fiction, books, serials and audiovisual materials.

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