In Sweden, schools and libraries historically have always been together. Today many schools don’t have libraries. It is a political question that has to be raised.
Sweden is (together with Chile) the country that has privatized most of its public sector in recent years, ranging from schools and hospitals, to kindergartens and elder care.
Many of these private schools are in Sweden called “free-schools”. They are run for example by private corporations, foundations, religious groups or as cooperatives. Many of them lack libraries, school yards, eating- and gym facilities. The teachers often lack the proper education. For the public libraries the free-schools are a problem. They use the facilities of the public sector, to save money, in a more or less parasitical way.
Together with the decline of many public schools in recent years, school results are falling. In the PISA survey, Sweden dropped last year from top to bottom of the EU countries. 23 per cent of all kids leaving Swedish primary schools after nine years have trouble with reading and writing. The results in reading and understanding text is especially troubling. Both public and private schools are part of the decline.
Without school-libraries there will be no free books for students that lack the economic resources. The Internet is not sufficient for a student to learn reading and writing. Without school-libraries, the schools lack an intellectual meeting place, and a perfect place for the children to spend study hours and to improve their reading. For the knowledge of reading and writing, books are essential.
This has to be raised as an important question in the 2014 parlamentary and regional elections in Sweden. The question of falling school results will be strongly debated, but as important is the question of the school-libraries. Today, 43 percent of the primary schools in Sweden don’t have a library. All political parties should consider this. The public libraries of today cannot, and have not the resources to take over the role of the school-libraries.