Name and Title: Dr. Lesley Farmer, Professor of Library Media

School or Organization Name: California State University Long Beach

Co-Presenter Name(s): --

Area of the World from Which You Will Present: California USA

Language in Which You Will Present: English

Target Audience(s): librarians, higher education

Short Session Description (one line): School librarianship in Sweden can serve as a microcosm to see the factors and dynamics of change and how to deal with such change.

Full Session Description (as long as you would like):

Sweden has about 4000 school libraries, which are funded and managed by local authorities. The first national library law did not exist until 1996 with the Act on Library Services, which focused on public libraries. Many library associations lobbied for legislation that would support school libraries, and the National Authority for School Improvement funded pilot school library development. As a result, the Education Act of 2010 made the school library mandatory. Additionally, all Swedish curriculum was revised in 2017 to strengthen digital competence, and school librarians are responsible for supporting and empowering student in their linguistic and digital skills.  

Recent national reports pointed out the important function of school libraries and librarians, and identified the knowledge and skills needed by school librarians. However, the reality is that several schools might share one collection or be served by an integrated public-school library, and about half of the students in Sweden have access to a school library that has at least half-time staffing; one third have no access to a school library. No legal set of qualifications for school librarians exists in Sweden, and decisions about librarians are made at the local level. Because school libraries are answerable to both state school and library law, planning and governance are complicated, and no clear guidelines exist. 

So it is no surprise that a librarian shortage exists for both school and public libraries. Preparing school librarians has lagged behind the regulations. Five universities in Sweden offer library science programs, and Borås is the biggest, as well as the leader in school librarianship. I knew of this situation to some degree, which was my impetus to work with Borås school library science faculty for my sabbatical. The faculty are overhauling their curriculum so I worked with them, with special attention to preparing school librarians with teaching backgrounds and strengthening their media literacy efforts.

School librarianship in Sweden can serve as a microcosm to see the factors and dynamics of change and how to deal with such change. They are working at a scale that they are comfortable with. Some efforts are deployed quickly on the national level, such as workshops for principals to become more aware and knowledgeable about school library functions and needs. Other tasks, such as establishing qualification baselines and credentialing school librarians, may require greater incentive to make the effort. Many structures are in place but need systematic coordination in order to insure high-quality school library service for every student.


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