Sweden and its Nordic neighbors are among the world’s most literate countries. These nations boast a range of newspapers and public libraries, as well as provide convenient access to computers and strong educational resources to its residents.
Access to books and resources might be harder to come by for some, though, especially those living on the remote islands of Stockholm’s archipelago—the largest group of islands in Sweden and the second-largest in the Baltic Sea.
To combat this obstacle while continuing its prioritization of literacy, twice a year the Stockholm Library Service rents a boat for a week and brings books to 23 inhabited islands. Each spring and fall, the boat is packed with approximately 3,000 books and sets sail along Stockholm’s eastern seaboard as an aquatic library.
Once docked, residents hop aboard to return previously borrowed books as well as check out new ones—some even requesting books ahead of time—with this resource conveniently in their backyard. Once all the returns and checkouts have been made, the boat departs for its next destination.
Sweden’s book boat (bokbåten) began serving the community in 1953 after officials deemed establishing local library branches throughout the archipelago too expensive. The boat’s trial run garnered much praise and attention from the local media, and was even featured in a short film shown during Book Week in 1954. Six boats have served as literacy carriers since the initiative’s beginning. Rödlöga has held that honor since fall 2016.
Know Before You Go
Sweden isn’t the only Nordic nation to feature a book boat; Norway’s program began in September 1959. Epos was built specifically for this function and has been delivering books throughout Norway since 1963, sailing two tours between September and April with 6,000 books aboard.