Organising lgbtq+ events at Täby public library, Sweden

Tamara Laketic, librarian and convenor of Täby lgbtq+ working group

The public library of Täby consists of one main library with an additional five branch libraries. Täby, a municipality with roughly 70 000 inhabitants is situated approximately eighteen miles (thirty kilometers) north of Stockholm. The decision to establish a lgbtq+ working group was conceded during the autumn of 2018; with the aim to create a rainbow-shelf, a shelf containing lgbtq+ related literature, for each library; as well as creating lgbtq+ related events. In the following text you will read about the challenges that Täby public library faced since starting its lgbtq+ program in 2019.

The working group arranged its first event in October of 2019. The event consisted of an interview with the queer author Moa-Lina Croall where they talked about their latest literary creation ‘I mitt namn – En bok om att vara trans’ (“In my name – a book on to be trans”)  accompanied by a discussion regarding the term queer (to be critical towards the norm), and its many meanings/definitions. The main objective being to raise awareness of the term queer in addition to uniting, and enlightening the people of our community.

Täby bibliotek, by Annica Clemens

Three days prior to the event an appeal to cancel it was sent by Steven Jörsäter; a representative of the right wing party Sverigedemokraterna to the head of the Culture and Leisure Department, as well as to the library director. Jörsäter argued that the event should be canceled due to its supposedly leftist values, and agenda. The aforementioned leftist values, and agenda was based on the term normkritik*. He argued that the term normkritik was used by left wing parties, and therefore made the event into a political event which the library is not allowed to host. The department of Culture and Leisure in unison with Täby library decided to hold the event as previously planned.

The event was held as planned with satisfactory attendance. The event received nationwide media attention in the following week due to Jörsäter’s appeal.

A few months later in December of 2019; Jörsäter proposed a bill to change the media policy of Täby library to the City Council. He argued that the following sentence in the media policy was political, and that it could be used to politically distort the library collection: “We distance ourselves from media that strongly violate human rights and everyone’s equal value; public interest, historical context, and literary value can justify exceptions” (Motion 16/12/2019). The bill was later declined by the City Council.

Fast forward to October of 2020. The working group in collaboration with the children’s department had booked an event titled ‘Bland drakar och dragqueens’ (Among dragons, and drag queens). It is an event where a drag queen reads fairy tales out loud aimed mainly towards children under the age of seven. The event has been quite popular in Sweden, and has been held at several libraries throughout the country.

Täby library received an email on the evening prior to the event it contained information from one of the citizens. The citizen informed Täby library that the Neo Nazi organisation Nordiska motståndsrörelsen (Nordic Resistance Movement) had posted a message of protest arguing that the event was propagating pedophelia among other accusations, on the entrance to the library. They had also sealed off the entrance by using their own barricade tape which carried their logo, and website. The police acted promptly, and by the time the staff arrived in the morning, all traces had been removed.

The event was held as planned under police surveillance due to the threat. The event gained media attention, and a day later the entrance was covered in heart shaped sticky notes containing messages of love, and protest towards NMR. This was a response to NMR by Liberala ungdomsförbundet Norrort (Youth wing of the Liberals).

Foto by Liberala ungdomsförbundet Norrort

Täby library has been able to organise one lgbtq+ event without any backlash during the November of 2020 when the actress, and trans activist Saga Becker talked about her debut novel, and how it is being trans in Sweden. The interview was filmed, and posted online. The hbtq+ working group has planned lgbtq+ training that will be held in March 2021.