Stockholm: Open Access to a World of Film: The New Library of the Swedish Film Institute

By Mats Skärstrand | Journal of Film Preservation, July 2006 | Go to article overview

Stockholm: Open Access to a World of Film: The New Library of the Swedish Film Institute


Mats Skärstrand, Journal of Film Preservation


On 18 September 2005 we celebrated Greta Garbo's 100th birthday. On that same day, the grand opening of the new library at the Swedish Film Institute took place.

The new film library, which is located at the heart of the building, is a three-storey high, open-access library, modern in design as well as in function. The main part of the book collection is available on open shelves, and the facilities for visitors include free use of computers, DVDplayers, etc.

The Swedish film library is among the oldest in the world, dating back to 1933 and the founding of the Swedish Film Association. The collections are comprised of almost 50,000 books and 1,200 periodicals. A stills archive with 1.5 million stills and some 35,000 posters is also part of the documentation collections, as well as a vast script collection and company and personal files, such as those of Ingmar Bergman and Victor Sjöström.

Since 1970 the library has been located in the Filmhuset in Stockholm, a building designed by acclaimed Swedish architect Peter Celsing. Oddly enough, he placed the library - including the closed stacks - on the top floor. Since a library is quite heavy this quickly became a problem, as the floor's construction was made to bear only the weight of an ordinary office.

Despite this structural problem, these premises, with a reading room, lending desk, and plenty of space for growth, were a great improvement for the library, which previously had been located in - or rather squeezed into - the Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology.

Although the first library was top-rate by 1970s standards, it has since become obsolete. The main problem was the limited access to the collections - 90 % of the books were in closed stacks. Its location within the building also meant that it was in fact hard to find the library. Since it was built 35 years ago, it was obviously not designed for technical installations such as computers, networks, etc. In short, the premises were not appropriate for a modern library. The structure also became increasingly strained as the collections grew, and the threat of the floor's collapsing down onto the studio beneath the library became more and more real.

In 2001, plans were made for a reconstruction of the 6th-floor library. Partly due to technical problems with the building's construction, this scheme had to be abandoned.

However, in 2003 the Dramatiska Institutet-University college of film, radio, television, and theatre, then situated in the Filmhuset, decided to move. This freed up a large area, affording us a new opportunity: relocation.

A former theatre, with an entrance from the main lobby of the building, was chosen as the site for the new library. A project group was founded, and the planning of the library proceeded anew.

The main goal for the new library was to build a more open-plan, modern film library, with access to the main part of the collection on open shelves. The project group also decided upon some guidelines. The new library should be:

Accessible

Flexible

Easy to use

Pleasant

Adjusted to modern technology.

A detailed specification of requirements corresponded to the guidelines. The specification was made with "must" and "should" requirements, for instance: "The users must meet the books. The main part of the collection must be accessible on open shelves." And: "The lending desk should be placed so that a visitor doesn't have to pass it on the way in (but on the way out)."

The latter requirement corresponded to our plans to go from service to self-service. In which case, it's not a good idea for visitors to meet the staff when entering the library.

Johanna Selander and Hans Göransson of Zuez Arkitekter were assigned to design the new library. As interior decorator we chose Josefin Backman of Bach Arkitekter, who had made the interior of the beautiful new library at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. …

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