Sunday, April 24, 2016

The man who created AFU

The title of this blog entry may come as a surprise to the old guard Swedish ufologists who know that we were three young men who formally founded AFU in 1973. But the truth is that AFU as a library and archive was from the beginning actually the idea and work of only one of us - Kjell Jonsson (1952-1986). As a tribute to our old friend and UFO colleague the story behind the founding of AFU as an archive should be preserved for posterity.
Kjell Jonsson in 1977

Kjell Jonsson and I became good friends in our early teens as we were schoolmates and both of us worked part time, Saturdays and evenings, at the local public library in Södertälje. We were also in some respect outsiders, Kjell because of his almost constant physical illness. He suffered a.o. from severe asthma and had stopped growing. I was a frail and sensitive teenager with low self-esteem. Probably because of this life situation we both became bookish and some time around 1970 I introduced Kjell to UFO literature found in my parents library. He immediately became very fascinated by the subject and an avid reader of UFO books.

Kjell Jonsson as a young UFO enthusiast in 1971. Notice the flying saucer button.

In the Autumn of 1970 we started contacting local UFO groups and were introduced to the national organization UFO-Sweden that had been founded in 1970. As a result of this contact Kjell and I founded a local group, UFO-Södertälje, in November 1970. After a few years of operating this group our interest became more and more research oriented, which was also the view shared by our common friend Anders Liljegren in Norrköping. Inspired by Jacques Vallee and John Keel the three of us founded Arbetsgruppen för ufologi (AFU) on March 17, 1973, as a small informal working group.

Our aim was building a foundation for serious UFO research in Sweden but in 1974 both Anders Liljegren and I were occupied with personal and practical problems. Our magazine Ufologen was folded in the Spring of 1974 and in the Autumn I moved to Stockholm and began my studies at Stockholms University. The day to day work of keeping AFU alive then for a time rested on the shoulders of Kjell Jonsson. And it was in the beginning of 1974 that he got the brilliant idea of starting a UFO library. In a letter written February 12, 1974 to a Swedish ufologist  he tries to explain the situation: "I am now the only active AFU representative. AFU has closed down all former activities, our magazine Ufologen and field investigations. Instead I am presently engaged in planning a lending library of books and magazines and will also serve ufologists with copies of magazine articles." 

Kjell with the first two AFU bookshelves 1977

In the Spring of 1974 Lennart Johansson, Stockholms UFO-Center donated his entire collection, around 200 UFO books, to AFU. In an interview I did with Kjell in 1977 he said that this donation further inspired him to continue building a UFO library. As he planned to become a librarian he felt that it was in this way he could benefit ufology. From the beginning in 1974 the library was housed in his very small, one room apartment and it only consisted of two bookshelves. Between 1974-1980 Kjell operated the lending library as a one man enterprice. With his gallant idealism he spent a lot of time and his own money to run AFU. 

The "UFO librarian" in 1978

We both chose to become librarians as profession and we entered The Swedish School of Library and Information Science in Borås, but not at the same time. We did get one term together though in the Spring of 1977. As his subject for a thesis Kjell decided to write the first Swedish UFO bibliography. He spent a tremendous amount of work on this thesis, visiting and interviewing ufologists and it was subsequently published by AFU in 1977, Svensk UFO-bibliografi 1946-1975.

Kjell working on his UFO bibliography in the Spring of 1977

When AFU moved to new premises in Norrköping in 1980 Kjell´s interest in UFO and the library waned and his visits to Norrköping ended some time in 1981-82. His health problems increased as did his difficulty in finding a steady job as librarian. The last years of his life he spent as an activist for gay rights, always an idealist. He died during a heavy fit of asthma on April 30, 1986. 

Today AFU is the worlds largest UFO and Fortean archive and library. My thoughts sometimes goes to my old friend and AFU colleague, Kjell Jonsson, who made this dream possible with his pioneering hard work and idealism.