When Anna Carin Elf arrived at her workplace in Gothenburg, she immediately realized something was not right. She works at a library, and she was greeted by several visitors, just like any other day. But this was not any other day — the library was supposed to be closed.
“They were surprised. They thought it was a bit empty,” she says. “The people in the library behaved as usual. Many were sitting reading newspapers, some families were in the children’s section and others were searching for books on the computer.”
The library was supposed to be closed for All Saints Day — a celebration sometimes also called All Hallows Day, the precursor of Halloween. But the library staff had forgotten to close a door. So people came in, thinking the library was open. Some visitors realized the library was technically closed and went home, but others did not.
As people were coming in and out of the library, one librarian (Elf) walked by and noticed the people using the library. She realized what was happening, called her manager and a colleague, and then announced that the library was closing. The visitors calmly folded their books closed and left.
But some left with books.
During that day, 446 people visited the city library. A total of 246 books were borrowed. To date, all the books have been returned.
Through a door mistakenly left ajar, the people of Gothenburg demonstrated the power of community and the value they place on the guardianship of shared resources. It was a quiet revolution, an act of civil responsibility that spoke volumes, reaffirming the notion that a library is much more than a building; it is a cornerstone of community, education, and trust.
The City Library published a loving post, thanking people for their well-behaved visits. “Thank you for Saturday, dear Gothenburg,” the library’s post read.
“It felt good that everyone behaved exactly as usual, they borrowed books, read the newspaper and so on… the citizens of Gothenburg take care of their library. There is obviously a desire to be there,” said one of the library’s visitors, Arvid Jadenius, for a local publisher.
In a world often marred by headlines of chaos and discord, the story of Gothenburg’s library stands as a testament to the inherent good in society — and shows that libraries truly are one of the beacons of our society. It seems almost poetic that on All Saints Day, a day of remembrance and reverence, the citizens of Gothenburg would unknowingly participate in an act of collective respect and honor for their beloved library.