Stellar Stockholm

Kulturhuset Stadsteatern (KS) is public and mostly a library and has enough of an affiliation with Stockholm Public Library (SPL) to share its catalog and be listed on the website.  Patrons can borrow or return items here or at any SPL locations via the SPL card. However, their budget evidently comes from the city theater part of the government, so the offerings differ from what we’d usually encounter.

LGBTQA books

LGBTQA books

Concentrating on art, music, performing and dance and their history and theory, there are no general adult fiction, reference, science or cooking volumes.  Materials are in Swedish and English only, but they do carry “world” books on Africa, the Middle East… and titles on how to write (and how to read).

Conveniently situated near Central Station, KS is accessible by bus, tram, train, metro and car parking isn’t far.  It’s in a seven story mall occupied by the National Museum of Design, cafes, shops, offices, stages and auditoriums (which can be rented for conferences or gatherings).  Visiting its six separate “libraries” makes for an amazing experience.

Rosalie has a four year library degree equivalent to a master’s

Rosalie’s four year library degree is equivalent to a master’s

In Bibliotek Plattan, the furniture is eclectic – a round ebony settee here, a lacquered black rack resembling a tilted ladder there.  Long wavy sheets of metal prop up books on the wide windowsill overlooking the skate park in the busy sunken square outside.  Suspended plants add more color above a cherry and chrome chair by a small plastic table and harlequin shaded lamp.  Pristine white stacks and glossy red signs and PAC stations contrast with the gray of the cement pillars and unfinished ceiling and multi-hued prayer flags run through it all.

Informative Fredrik, who worked in bookstores (and so has met John Irving) for 30 years before coming here, elaborated on the collection development policy.  They buy funny authors, popular paperbacks, current political thought and sociology texts (e.g. covering domestic abuse), classic science fiction, fantasy and horror as well as many new and cult titles.  Nonfiction and fiction intermingle and they personally select items to make sure they will be enticing and relevant.

One of the numerous performance spaces

One of the numerous performance spaces

Passing a stage and a wall covered by framed foreign film posters, I stepped down into an adjacent section where after choosing an architecture, design, photography or fashion publication, customers lounge on an upholstered bench encircling the lowest part of the room.

Back out in the lobby of the building, curvy seats and barstools let you relax while using the wifi or one of the eight public computers.  There is so much here, it’s a bit overwhelming though I found out later they give guided tours.  If I’d taken one, I may not have missed the Lava Bibliotek & Verkstad which opens later in the day to suit the schedules of its target audience – those aged 14 to 25.

Along with reading material it has silk screening equipment, sewing machines, a 3D printer and a recording studio.  Attending a workshop will let you make the most of these amenities, or you can take a DJ’ing class, meet iconoclasts at Abnormal Wednesdays, speak to the artist responsible for the Boob exhibition, create fanzines, study scripts, be coached by music industry experts who can help your band or song get noticed, listen to poets and photographers or discuss your favorite titles at social teas with refreshments.

Inventive chaises

Cheery chaises

The second story is a treat for the eyes with vivid decor and three disparate facilities.

Daniel is usually in music and film and also the master’s degree.

Daniel is usually in music and film and also has the master’s degree.

Serieteket is the only library in the country that specializes in comics.  They host exhibitions and the annual HP Lovecraft Festival in October.

Inventive displays

Inventive presentation

Displays outside draw people in.

Masses of Manga

Masses of Manga

A black and white anime page covers one wall and Lucite frames hold close-ups of classic characters.

The cushioned Plexiglas egg swinging from a chain is almost soundproof as you nestle in to watch the bustling downtown.

Put on a show!

Put on a show!

Further along, costumes hang from a bar and the green screen generates any set design you can visualize. The platform is surrounded by short flights of stairs leading to tiered cinema style rows accommodating tall backed scarlet couches above cunningly positioned book cases.

Tween dream

Tween dream

And then I came to what was, for me, the pièce de résistance – TioTretton.  Oh how I would have loved to come here when I was an adolescent.  Though you must be 10-13 year old to enter, it wasn’t open yet, so Maria sweetly allowed me in to take some pictures and I was flabbergasted and delighted by this incredible space.

Everything is a dramatic black, red and white.  Books dangle like mobiles over an enormous beanbag Y and towering nine level shelves are chock full of graphic novels.  A ruby roof dotted by fairy lights overhangs a gigantic cushy multilevel structure that’s perfect for perching on while you relax with friends.  Vast brushed silver surfaces jut out over curved cases and craft supplies and beads await you at tables under a sign spelling LOOM in embroidery thread.

Every preteen should learn how to cook

Every preteen should learn to cook

But perhaps the best spots are those in the four constructions by the plate glass windows.  Resembling cookie cutters that you sit inside of, they allow for two people to have a private conversation in their own little world, or you could take the ladder to the uppermost seat and eavesdrop from on high while overlooking the street below.  This area also affords opportunities to practice animation, compose and record songs and make movies.

Bake in the kitchen, borrow home appliances like waffle makers and blenders or participate in various programs on Manga and drawing villains, meet a dog or hear from an author.  When you want to leave, staff will walk you safely to the subway.

KS lets you check out your own items and pick up holds and they’ll bring stuff in for a nominal fee.


Bibliotek Film & Musik is near YA and has a multitude of CDs and DVDs.  In a listening corner by an assortment of LPs, turntables and headphone are interspersed amidst the couches.  In another area by a wide array of performing arts periodicals, suggested reads are projected on the industrial walls and short divans form a circle.  Play the electric piano, unwind at a lunchtime concert, go to a documentary screening or lecture, or subscribe to the Twitter feed which has announcements of events and new materials.

Jungle gym like contraption

Jungle gym like contraption

I took the escalator up, passing by the Marionetteatern and one of several galleries on my way to the fourth floor Rum för Barn, for tots nine and under.

First time I’ve ever seen a queue to get into a library – it’s so popular they have a stop light that you can see from the plaza that indicates how bad the traffic jam is and they’ll give you a ticket to save your spot in line if you want to eat a picnic lunch or play in the sliding area.

An enchanting place, fulfilling children’s fantasies, it was so packed with rambunctious kids that unfortunately, I couldn’t take many pictures.


So you won’t see the charming summer room – its sides festooned with wildflowers and warm weather scenes and in the center, a mini rowboat where the little ones can escape winter’s grasp and drift in a sun soaked reverie.

At friendly Minnie’s behest, I removed my shoes (the better for crawling in the caves, cubby holes and clubhouses) before venturing into this labyrinth of ramps, levels, hideaways and steps to nowhere.  Looking up, a child peers down at me from an unexpected opening while at my feet another wriggles into a tunnel.

Tools for budding Van Goghs

Tools for budding Van Goghs

There’s an art studio too and professionals help supervise painting sessions.  Youngsters can go to parties, movies, Dance and Music Fridays, make jewelry and listen to writers.  At the English and Swedish storytimes, real actors often provide narration.

Cool inserts with kid's paintings

Cool inserts with kid’s artwork

Kulturhuset Stadsteatern has free dance instruction for YA’s and new adults and brings in choreographers for interviews and lets the public watch dancers rehearse.  There are recitals and shows, public debates and good quality movies.  Author talks range from Jonathan Franzen and Margaret Drabble to Peter Hoeg and Ian McEwan.

What a wonderful way to expand the definition of the term “public library” – I wish every municipality had the funds to construct a culture house as wildly imaginative as this one.

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2 Responses to Stellar Stockholm

  1. Patricia Hassan says:

    The kitchen, the cooking lessons, the art studio!!! On top of everything else in KS! Oh, my! I’m blown away! This all speaks to a high priority for the library as a vehicle for service.

    • jshaffner says:

      It was beyond amazing – I think it’s the coolest library I’ve ever seen – the Swedes place an extremely high priority on caring, nurturing and educating (the young especially).

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