Caroline Karlsson
Stockholm Public Library, Sweden
Translated from Swedish by Salomon Hellman

In Stockholm Public Library’s new program series “Mission: Books”, the presenters, experts, screenwriters and researchers are all children. ­­”I think it’s good that we get to do everything, it’s fun and you learn things and become independent,” says Iris, 11 years old.

It’s a Monday afternoon in October when we meet the eleven-year-olds Eja, Laura, Klara, Jolin, Iris and Estelle in the library’s auditorium, where they record the book show “Mission: Books”. Around the library the afternoon rush approaches, students stream out of the nearby school and along the sidewalks, small children and middle-aged adults zigzag past each other on their electric scooters.

Inside the auditorium, the recording is in full swing. Producer Cecilia Åkerdahl gives the children some coaching direction, about where they should stand and to think through their lines before the camera rolls. Eja will do the announcement for the fifth episode of the show.

“Hi and welcome to another episode of ‘Mission: Books’. Today we will recommend some of our favourite books and meet the author Beppe Singer.”
She looks steadily into the camera and is getting used to being a talk show host.
“Are we satisfied with that take,” asks sound engineer Ahmad Gholipour. “Then we’re good, well done!”
Everyone applauds.

The camera is rolling! Recording of “Mission: Books” in progress. Photo: Stockholm Public Library.

“Mission: Books” is done by children, with children and for children. In the show, they talk about their favourite books and give tips about newly published ones. The children host and do interviews with guest authors. Each episode has at least one guest and so far the children have met and interviewed Camilla Lagerqvist, Johan Rundberg, Lena Ollmark and Johan Egerkrans.

The word has already spread among authors and publishers, some have themselves asked to be invited to the show. That’s a nice recognition of the show and perhaps also a sign that there’s a need for this type of platform for children’s book authors to reach out with their books and meet their readers.

The author Beppe Singer is invited to today’s episode. In addition to talking about his latest book he will also talk about the national reading competition “The big reading challenge”. “Misson: Books” can be seen via Stockholm Public Library’s website, and the intended viewers are children aged 9-12, interested in books. Every other Monday, the children have editorial meetings and once a month they record a new episode. In between, they read books, write scripts, come up with interview questions and do research.
“Karin only buys the cookies,” says Estelle and laughs.

Karin Cellton is a librarian and also the one who came up with the idea for the show. She has mainly a coordinating role in the production, she serves refreshments and makes sure that the children find their way into the premises. She also keeps in touch with the authors and arranges review copies from publishers. All show content is made by the children themselves.

“The basic idea is to have children running the show, because I think that children wanting book tips much rather listen to other children than to librarians,” says Karin.

The children agree that it does not have to be an adult thing to interview authors or to talk about books in front of the camera. They believe that it is good to show that children can do it too. As children they also have greater credibility with others of the same age.

“I think it’s good that we get to do everything, it’s fun and you learn things and become independent,” says Iris.
“I thought it was a bit scary the first time we recorded. I was shaking all the time, but now I’m kind of used to it,” says Jolin.

The editorial team poses with the current guest author Beppe Singer. Photo: Stockholm Public Library.

Gundela Petterson is one of the managers of the library, responsible for program activities.
“When Karin applied for work here at the library, she told me about an idea she had – to make a children’s version of the popular national television book show ‘Babel’. It sounded like a great idea! And the funniest thing is that it actually became a reality less than a year later. I am so happy and proud of both the recruitment and the program,” says Gundela.

“Mission: Books” was launched in the midst of a burning pandemic. Due to restrictions and difficulties in meeting physically, it was a challenge to find children who could participate. But Karin sent out a request to various schools and school libraries in the area, and got a hit at one school.

“Our teacher knew who to ask. We are the nerds in the class and we are proud of it. We have all known each other for a very long time, and hang out with each other all the time. Therefore, we become a little stronger as a team and can cooperate better,” say Laura and Klara.

Today’s recording can appear a bit messy for an outsider. There has been a misunderstanding with one of the booked authors and the initial announcement in the program must therefore be taken one more time. At the same time, one of the presenters has forgotten her book tip book at home and another realizes that she must have time to eat before taking part in the recording.. But Karin is calm and solution-oriented. She sends the hungry child to the kitchen downstairs to have a snack before she rushes off to the nearest bookstore to buy a new copy of the forgotten book. Who said television production is easy? But in the cut final version of the show’s fifth episode, everything flows perfectly!

Librarian Karin Cellton. Photo: Stockholm Public Library

This article has previously been published on Stockholm Public Library’s website, where you will find more articles (in Swedish) about the library’s activities.