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News | 15 December 2023

School library

Meet Karin Wannerud, librarian and library coordinator at IES
Karin Wannerud, library coordinator at Internationella Engelska Skolan, explains why school libraries are important and why IES welcomes the government's proposal to make staffed school libraries mandatory for all schools in Sweden.


The school librarian at IES Solna, Karen Wannerud, also has an important role coordinating the work of all school librarians throughout Internationella Engelska Skolan - structuring the agenda and facilitating information sharing. She leads ongoing work to produce a policy document to spearhead IES’s library activities in the future.

Last year the union DIK published a report about school libraries in Sweden, where they claimed that big independent schools did not have school libraries with librarians to any extent? But IES runs most of the big independent compulsory schools in Sweden, and has libraries with librarians - was the report wrong?

First of all, I welcome all these studies and I think it’s really important to take measure of reality in order to decide and structure our work going forward - especially now when we really need to push for literacy and reading in Swedish schools!

DIK based their report on annual figures published by the Royal Library and the underlying data in turn is taken from questionnaires sent out to all schools in Sweden. In the IES case this meant that the call for input in many cases got caught in spam filters and lost in cyberspace. Where no answer was provided, this was interpreted in the DIK report as an absence of a school library in that school, which suggests a large number of hidden statistics. Unfortunately, I do not believe we are alone in this scenario but we have now done the following to remedy the situation:

  • A complete list of resident librarians and their contact details has been shared with the Royal Library, and people responsible for the statistics, to make sure the questionnaire has a recipient.
  • One of our kind and bilingual librarians has translated the questionnaire and supporting text - we are good to go! 

The truth is that IES has well-equipped libraries with generous opening hours in all our 46 schools. In 42 of our schools we have dedicated library staff and 70 percent of them are educated librarians. We have several librarians with two degrees, either as teachers or within another relevant field, which makes us a wonderfully strong and diverse resource for IES. 

What about the staff who are not librarians?
Several of our colleagues without a degree in library and information science have work experience or degrees, and are attending courses to strengthen their library expertise. 

How does that compare to the average in schools in Sweden?
Well, the statistics from The Royal Library are pretty clear on this, and it’s a bleak picture that they are sharing. The law states that all schools must have access to a school library but it does not say anything about having a dedicated librarian to support teachers and students. Your question is hard to answer since there’s little equality today in Swedish schools - it depends on where you live and if the principal decides to spend their budget on equipping a modern library with educated staff, like we have in the IES schools.

The Swedish government has proposed that school libraries with librarians should be mandatory in all schools. What do you think about that?
The decision is long overdue in my opinion but not surprising. It IS a step in the right direction for sure, but without more governmental funding and a local school management that believes in the importance of an in-house library - I doubt a law will be enough to change declining national literacy figures. 

To be quite honest, it feels good to be on the right side of this though. IES is already on the road of change whilst politicians and other stakeholders are still wobbling on the sidelines. I’m not saying that we are content - we are battling the same issues as the rest of the country but we are able to move faster to implement change.

Are all books in your libraries in English?
No, not all - the libraries mirror the schools they are in, and are completely bilingual. Though if you twist my arm I would probably say that the selection is slightly larger in Swedish - partly because we have a fantastic tradition in Sweden to produce and publish really high quality childrens’ and youth literature. I mean Astrid Lindgren left an amazing legacy - don’t get me started! 

Why are school libraries important?
We provide a function to support teachers in their role as educators. Helping students to fulfil their citizenship and become fully-fledged members of society and critical and free-thinkers. To provide a safe space to breathe and slow down in a world that is sometimes spinning too fast. Last but not least to be a gateway to other worlds and minds, past and present. 

Why should a librarian choose to start working at IES?
Join IES if  you want to be a part of an experienced, diverse and generous community of librarians where things are moving faster than elsewhere. The international setting provides us with a global flair, and finally because you are a lifelong learner too!