Case Study: Malmo City Library (Sweden) – Giving Children a Voice


Children’s early encounters with the library are critical first steps to lifelong learning and often influential in keeping them coming back as adults. By playing games, going to story time, or taking that first try at finding information in a library context, children can learn that libraries are fun and full of exciting knowledge.

When staff members at Sweden’s Malmö Public Library found out they would be moving their children’s area to a different part of the building, they saw an opportunity to reshape the experience of their young users and ensure their continued success in serving their audience in future years. Instead of a “books-first” philosophy, staff thought about an “experience-first” approach to the library. How do children roam around the space and find new materials? How do they think about topics that interest them? 

“Our aim with the children’s library was to meet our vision of providing library services that are creative, innovative and collaborative,” says Malin Gillberg, Children’s Library Project Manager.  “We wanted the children to have a voice planning what the library would be. We wanted a new classification system because, in our experience and now supported by our research, children find it difficult to understand the classification systems used in most libraries. We wanted to collaborate on a system with children that would be more intuitive and make it easier for children to find what they wanted so that they feel a sense of ownership with their library.”

“Our aim with the children’s library was to meet our vision of providing
library services that are creative, innovative and collaborative.”
—Malin Gillberg, Children’s Library Project Manager. 

Adding Magic and Imagination!

The staff already knew about the children’s favorite books—such as the popular Swedish series about a child called Alfons Åberg and his dad—but they wanted to learn about their passions and ways of thinking. To achieve this goal, the staff conducted four workshops.

In the first, children were asked to sort 20 books into 5 crates and give each crate a name. The staff also told the children to look for books and observed how they found their way around. It became clear that the children didn’t come “pre-wired” to think in a more traditional classification system! Most of them didn’t understand the current system and failed to see where one section ended and another started. For example, the children often looked at books displayed at eye- or hand-level and mostly scanned the book covers. The second workshop asked children to draw pictures about their favorite book and hobby and what words they would use to describe them. Additionally, the children were asked to decorate bookshelves to match their hobbies so the staff could get a feel for how categories were visualized.

Next, the staff prepared thirty-two pieces of paper, some with words and some with pictures. The children were asked to match the words with the pictures. When all of the papers had one word on it, they were asked to add new words. These became the new classification and sub-classification categories.

At the final workshop, the staff presented the new system to the children and asked them to vote on a few subjects that staff found difficult to place. The staff asked them to vote with their eyes closed to make sure they did not influence each other. In all, forty-five new categories emerged. For example, Vampire Words (pictured) fell in to the category and subcategory of Imagination – Crazy and Funny Things category.

New Categories and Location Codes Invented by Children

Fantasi (imagination)
Förr i tiden (in former days)
Kultur (culture)
Vilda djur (wild animals)
Husdjur (pets)
Min kropp (my body)
Livet (life)
Hur funkar det? (how does it work?)
Teknik (technique)
Sport (sport)

Saving Time Equaled Success

Moving a children’s collection with over 40,000 items is a big job, as Malmö Public Library well knew. Location codes need to be changed and updated in their library system, and the activities of several staff members would need to be carefully coordinated.

The ambition of reclassifying the books would make the project even more time consuming, especially if the materials needed to be physically moved to a processing area. However, to stay on

schedule, it was clear that the staff needed an alternative approach. That’s when they decided to utilize Innovative’s Mobile Worklists product.

To get started, twenty staff members simply downloaded Mobile Worklists, an iOS app available at the Apple App Store, and got to work. Using the app with iPhones they already had, the staff created about forty-five item lists with new categories, subcategories, and locations. Then they used their iPhones to quickly scan the barcodes on the materials into their item lists in Mobile Worklists. Some of the staff worked on the same list simultaneously to speed up the process when multiple staff members were available. Later, the lists were updated in Sierra in batch.

Displaying the lists for Imagination (Fantasi) and Life (Livet) categories
and subcategories in Mobile Worklists.

Mobile Worklists Product Manager Elizabeth Henry made the journey from Innovative headquarters in Emeryville, California, to Malmö to visit the staff. She was able to see firsthand how the product works in practice and what library staff need to succeed. As a development partner for Mobile Worklists 1.1, Malmö Public Library staff provided substantive feedback to Elizabeth and Innovative’s development team based on their real-world use of the app.

“Mobile Worklists has a beautiful interface,” says Christina Mattisson, Systems Librarian. “Staff scanned 20,000 books over three months. Our reclassification and moving project was so huge that I cannot even estimate how long it would have taken without Mobile Worklists. I don’t even know how we would have managed without it.”

Innovative looks forward to partnering with Malmö Public Library in the future as they work on implementing RFID throughout the library system.