Sweden has some of the best literacy rates in the world, in fact (and don’t tell the US) democratic socialism puts the Nordic countries pretty much at the top of everything, including the wellbeing and happiness scales. The Swedes consider access to education and knowledge as a critical component to an individual’s future success, regardless of their economic background or geographical location.
And it’s this idea that inspires the bokbaten, a floating library that brings thousands of books to the people on the dozens of remote islands in the Stockholm archipelago twice a year. The service has been running since 1953, and every Spring and Autumn the Stockholm Library Service rents a boat for a week, loads it full of books and charts a course for the 23 inhabited islands.
When the boat docks at each island, residents climb aboard to return the books they borrowed during the last visit, and check out the library’s new offerings. The bokbaten carries around 3,000 books, and there’s also a facility for residents to request books before the boat sets sail.
And while the book boat is brilliant, Sweden also has a lot of rural areas and for that library buses travel around communities ensuring everyone has books. The country also develops impromptu libraries in places such as convenience stores and social gathering spots to ensure everyone has access to literature.
However, even in a nation of literature lovers such as Sweden, services can come under threat. Evidence of this problem is available in Finland, which just granted funds for an $11 million library, but cut funding to its thirty year book boat service in the process. Hopefully Sweden’s bokbaten will be around for years to come, ensuring Swedes have access to literature, no matter where in the country they live.