Inside the International Library in Stockholm
Lisa Ferland describes why the International Library in Stockholm is more than a library—it’s a cultural center and a home for all. Escape from the hustle and bustle of city life with a good book in the quiet hush of the International Library in Stockholm.
Developing a love for reading
When I was a child in upstate New York, USA, my mother frequently took me and my brother to our local library. She was in graduate school studying education while working full-time and raising two kids under the age of eight.
Every few days, we’d walk through the familiar library doors that guarded our second home.
Before my mom headed off to a cubicle to study, she helped the two of us pick out a stack of books—any books we wanted. We’d find a quiet spot in the kid’s corner and start reading the books on our own.
With the towering stack of books between us, my brother and I were happy to get lost in the pictures and stories held in our laps for an hour, maybe two.
The love for reading is like a thick tree root system. Once it is established, it is difficult to destroy.
That same love for books and libraries washed over me when I walked into the International Stockholm Library or Internationella Biblioteka during their annual 2019 Children’s Book Fair (barnbokmässa).
A library rich in diversity
The hushed whispers of the library echo off the shiny and clean linoleum floors. Stacks of books line the walls and metal shelves.
As I walk through the rows of books, I notice titles printed in Arabic, Chinese, Thai, and Hindi. Foreign to me but familiar to so many who call Stockholm home.
The International Library in Stockholm is one where everyone—tourists and locals who speak any language—can feel welcome.
I wander up the wide staircase to continue my search for books. There are children’s books, adult books, and DVDs, and CDs in every nook and cranny of the building.
The library spans three floors, each complete with a help desk at the top of the stairs. Meeting rooms are available on every floor and are available to rent.
A cultural center in all languages
Språkcafes (language coffee hours) are available every week for people to gather and practice their Swedish. I notice advertisements for children’s fairytale book readings in different languages—Turkish, Chinese, Russian, and Polish.
There are local author-readings posted on the bulletin board as well. The International Library in Stockholm is a hub of international culture and acceptance.
The library is also a quiet place if you’re looking to de-stress from a noisy day in the city.
Language can be both a barrier and an open door, and our cultural identities are often defined by the language(s) we speak.
Not only do children get a chance to learn about their culture in their native tongues but others get to learn about other cultures and languages.
Language affects culture and culture affects language
Learning another language is essential for international cooperation and communication. As cities and countries grow in diversity, we must facilitate knowledge of one another’s cultures and perspectives.
Anthropologist Ruth Benedict said, “The trouble with life isn’t that there is no answer, it’s that there are so many answers.”
One can feel the immensity of so many answers when they see the volume of texts, newspapers, and magazines written in so many languages in the library.
Language is an opportunity to pass on traditions, holiday celebrations, and other social norms that are specific to a country.
The International Library in Stockholm has over 200,000 books in over 100 different languages. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, submit a request. The Stockholm interlibrary loan program is extensive.
Visiting a library is a great way to meet new people, read good literature, and learn something new.
Before, I was a little girl sitting in the library for hours on end, grabbing book after book. Now, I write books for children that my younger self would want to read.
As a writer, it is my privilege to create those stories for my children and others like them.
International Library in Stockholm
113 80 Stockholm
Calendar of events: https://biblioteket.stockholm.se/kalender/bibliotek/Internationella%20biblioteket?start=20
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Lisa Ferland’s first children’s book When the Clock Strikes on Halloween brings the magic of the American tradition to kids around the world. You can pre-order the book with extra bonuses until May 15, 2019.