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Sweden’s Floating Library “Bokbaten” Brings Books to People in Remote Islands

Bringing the gift of literacy to everyone.

  • Twice a year, a boat is rented to deliver thousands of books to 23 inhabited islands.
  • Residents can request books in advance and return those that they borrowed during the last visit.
  • Funding concerns endanger the future of the library.

Sweden is one of the countries with the highest literacy rates in the world. The government ensures that its people, regardless of economic background, are given equal access to education.

The nation’s dedication to its cause is very much evident in its boat library program. Sweden’s Stockholm Library Service has created the bokbåten, a floating library that sails thousands of books to remote islands in the Stockholm archipelago.

The library service rents a boat twice a year, in the spring and fall, and uses it for a week to transport thousands of books to around 23 inhabited islands. They have been doing this since 1953.

The residents of the islands can request books ahead of time. When the boat docks, they can check out the latest book offerings as well as return the ones that they borrowed the last time.

Onboard are three or four librarians who work shifts to operate the floating library. As expected, best-selling books are always in high demand.

The inside of the boat has tall wooden shelves housing the books, which include science, history, picture books for children, cookbooks, and large-print books.

There are large tables that display sturdy hardcover copies. There’s also a long check-out table and several book carts on wheels. Plus there are books in boxes, those that were ordered in advanced and are waiting to be delivered to residents.

This is not the only initiative of its kind that Sweden has. They also have library buses, which brings books to residents in rural communities. Impromptu libraries are also established in social gathering spots and stores.

According to a study published in the Journal Resource Sharing & Information Networks, the library boat “is of great positive value for children and adults because they can in this way take part in the modern public library. The book boat has an important function as extraordinarily good public relations for the library’s services and has the effect of promoting reading not only in the archipelago but elsewhere.”

The future of the library, however, is uncertain due to funding concerns, but people in Sweden are hopeful that the project will continue to educate future generations residing in remote locations.

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