Readers' circles. A sociological study of social reading and reading communities in contemporary Sweden

Reading communities (reading groups, book clubs, reading circles) have a long tradition in Sweden and are very popular among Swedish readers. Despite this, there is still little research on reading communities, based on Swedish conditions. This sociologically oriented project aims to study reading communitiy activities in Sweden today.

From an intersectional perspective and linked to practice theory and Habermas' theory of The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere the following issues will be focused:

  1. How extensive are the reading communities in Sweden today and how is the geographic distribution?
  2. What patterns can be distinguished in terms of participants gender, educational background and age?
  3. How do the reading communities organize their work: how do they select and purchase literature and how do they find information they need?
  4. Which different functions do the reading communities' activities have - both from the participants' perspective, and from a broader societal perspective?

The reserach focuses on local face-to-face groups. Some of them also communicate virtually, but this project does not include groups exclusively using virtual communication.

It is performed in two steps. The first is broad and quantitative, and based on surveys with public libraries, book shops and local reading communities and on statistics from study associations and public libraries. The second is an in-depth, qualitative study of the activities in a small number of local groups.
An important objective is to compare the Swedish situation with the development internationally, and to understand it in light of the development over the past decade of the media market. The project includes both freestanding, independent groups and groups organized by public libraries and study associations.

This research project is funded 2014-2017 by Riksbankens jubileumsfond, The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences.

Poster presentation from the CoLIS 9 conference (Uppsala june 2016) with some results from the project.

Publications from the project, so far:

In English:

  • Rydbeck, Kerstin (2016), "Reading Groups in Swedish Public Libraries", in: Plotting the Reading Experience – Theory/Practice/Politics, eds: Oterholm, Skjerdingstad, McKechnie & Rothbauer. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, p. 233–245.

In Swedish:

  • Rydbeck, Kerstin (2016), Sheriffens vänner, befrielsegruppen och det namnlösa sällskapet: om läsargemenskaper i Uppsala idag", i: Spänning och nyfikenhet: festskrift till Johan Svedjedal, red: Furuland, Hedberg, Määttä, Söderlund och Warnqvist. Möklinta: Gidlunds förlag, s. 396–410.
  • Rydbeck, Kerstin (2013), ”Om bokcirklar och folkbibliotek”, i: Länsnytt: mötesplats för biblioteken i Stockholms län, 2013:2, s. 5-6.
  • Rydbeck, Kerstin (2013), ”Läsargemenskapernas komplexa landskap: om bokcirkelbegreppet och utvecklingen av svensk bokcirkelverksamhet, med speciellt fokus på folkbibliotekens och studieförbundens cirklar”, i: Libraries, black metal and corporate finance: Current research in Nordic Library and Information Science: Selected articles from the 40th anniversary conference of the Swedish School of Library and Information Science, Anders Frenander & Skans Kersti Nilsson (red), s. 112-135. Borås: Högskolan i Borås.
  • Rydbeck, Kerstin (2013), ”Det sociala läsandet förr och nu”, i: Lärandets mångfald: om vuxenpedagogik och folkbildning, Andreas Fejes (red.), s. 37–54. Lund: Studentlitteratur.
  • Rydbeck, Kerstin (2012), ”Läsandets cirklar ‒ om ett pågående forskningsprojekt”, i: Är det samma bok vi läst? Om läsecirklars betydelse, Bo Andér m. fl. (red.), s. 131–152. Stockholm: Kata förlag.
  • Rydbeck, Kerstin (2012), ”Bokcirklar – en företeelse i tiden”, i: Årsbok om folkbildning 2011: forskning och utveckling, s. 172–193. Stockholm: Föreningen för folkbildningsforskning.

Readers' Circles

Readers' Circles