Like other public spaces in multicultural Sweden, public libraries have now become places where criminal and undesirable behavior like sexual harassment, drug dealing, and violence have become commonplace
A survey carried out by DIK (Trade Union for Culture, Communication, and Advertising) of over 4,700 librarians around the country has revealed some alarming trends.
According to the Swedish broadcaster SVT, “It is the third survey in a row that points to the same thing: Development is going in the wrong direction.
The most pressing problem according to the survey’s respondents is social unrest – defined as intoxication, fighting, and aggressiveness toward staff or visitors. The survey revealed that social unrest has increased from 73 percent in 2017 to 81 percent of Swedish libraries today.
55 percent of public library staff and 42 percent of responding school librarians reported that they had witnessed violent situations in the previous two years, an increase of 13 and 18 percentage points, respectively, compared to 2017.
While 18 percent of survey respondent said that violence occurs every week, four percent reported that violence takes place on a daily basis.
”Many want special treatment – free of charge, write off debt, borrow for as long as possible – and become aggressive when they do not get what they want,” said one of the surveyed librarians.
Stina Hamberg, DIK’s head of social policy, told reporters: “It can be less threatening situations like throwing a book at someone, but in the worst cases, it is physical violence against librarians or visitors – in fact, abuse.”
“Nobody should have to face these kinds of situations in their workplace,” Hamberg continued, adding, “Librarians are not trained for this, they work with reading promotion and information retrieval. Not dealing with drunk people, mentally ill or socially vulnerable people.”
Shockingly, close to half (47%) of those who were surveyed reported that drug dealing had occurred in their libraries over the past two years.
And, if that’s not disturbing enough, librarians also reported that it’s common to encounter men viewing porn or openly masturbating in front of computers.
While one in six librarians reported having been the subject of sexual harassment, one in five said that they’ve considered quitting or switching careers in the past two years.