When you think of Finland, your first thoughts probably go to cold weather, saunas, outdoor sports, and Northern Lights, but did you know that the Fins have a great love for books? Finnish people are top of the charts when it comes to worldwide literacy and are among the world’s most prolific library users. It should come as no surprise then, that Finland has finally officially opened it grand €98 million library.
It’s called the Helsinki Central Library Oodi, with Oodi meaning Ode’ in Finnish, and was originally given the green light back in 2015. The library was opened yesterday on December 5, which marks Finland’s 101st Independence Day.
As Finland.fi reports, the City of Helsinki’s director of library services, Katri Vänttinen, said: “Libraries have historically been important to Finns. Beginning in the 1800s, every village had a school and a library, and that created equal access to literacy and basic education.”
“It used to be the library was about equal access to knowledge, but now most of that knowledge is accessible via your smartphone,” she added. “Libraries today need to be thought of as a physical space, a platform for activities such as reading, learning and public discussion. They also provide access to equipment, data networks or expertise. We even have reading coaches who act like personal trainers, but for your reading.”
Each floor of the library serves a different purpose. The first floor is all about people interacting and features a cafe, restaurant, and even a cinema. The second floor promotes creativity and has music rooms, studios, sewing machines, a 3D printer, and media rooms. The third and final floor is similar to a traditional library and boasts over 100,000 books.
“The biggest technical innovation by far is the ‘Cube,’ a room with smart walls,” said Vänttinen. “A person can use huge touch screens to transform the room into almost anything through 3D virtual reality. Artists are already planning to use the Cube for digital immersive art exhibitions, and medical students would like to study surgery there, using it as a virtual operating room.”
The library uses cutting-edge technology and innovation. When a patron returns a book, the item is scanned and then a self-guided vehicle transports it back to its correct shelf space for the librarians.
Oodi is a part of Helsinki Metropolitan Area Libraries (HelMet), a library system that spans the capital-region cities of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kaunianen. The data and assets of each library is shared so a visitor can request a book from any of these libraries and have it delivered to their closest one.
Oodi’s location is also in a prime spot. In the heart of Helsinki, it sits within a stones throw of other notable buildings such as Finlandia Hall, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Parliament, the Music Centre, the Central Railway Station and Sanoma House, the HQ of Finland’s largest daily paper. Oodi is already receiving international attention and it is expected that, within its first year, the library will see over 2.5 million visitors.
“Oodi does have a special role as a flagship library,” said Vänttinen. “It is a huge architectural phenomenon in a symbolic location. It also has a special duty to interact with society – not just residents, but also tourists. People might come from far away to experience this building, and it will be their starting point for getting to know libraries in Finland.”
“I’m confident that Oodi will be the most popular meeting place because of its nature as a free space, open seven days a week, centrally located and convenient in all kinds of Finnish weather conditions,” Vänttinen added. “It is simply easiest to say ‘Let’s meet at Oodi.'”
Sharalee Armitage Howard, a local artist and librarian, created the most recent Little Free Library after a 110 year old cottonwood tree outside her home was destined for felling. Sharalee decided the hollowed-out trunk would make for a beautiful project.
As well as the books the community can borrow, the little library also has a roof along with indoor and outdoor lighting- almost all the comforts of a regular library. It opened its tiny doors to the public and is now very successful in the neighbourhood, thanks in part to attention gained on social media.
James ‘Doc’ Greene Sr. had previously been banned from the library for taking pictures of children and causing disturbances, so thankfully staff recognised him before he could disturb the children’s stories.
After being arrested the conservative radio show host for Raging Elephants Radio attempted to blame his arrest on ‘being Christian’, and that the librarian was a ‘satanist’. He also accused the police of supporting child sexual assault by allowing the story time to continue.
Local resident Marci Laffen made the written request to the library asking that the books George, Lily and Dunkin and I am Jazz be moved to either the adult of young adult section of the library citing “sexual content” in her request. In addition, Laffen suggested books with themes of bullying, rebelling against police and refusing to take medications are the reasons the books do not have a place in the child’s section of the Andover Public Library in Kansas.
The library staff have spoken of their relief at raising £35,000 for its move to Peckham and the provisional opening date for the new library is 14th March. It was October when the Feminist Library launched a crowdfunding campaign for its relocation to a community centre in Peckham after being based in Westminster for the last thirty years.
The library has put together a collection of romantic scenes from literature that took place in New York City and they’ve created an interactive map so you can read your way around the city. It’s invaluable for those who want to indulge in a little literary tourism or those who just want to travel between the pages of a book, take a look below at all the books featured in the map and a link to the map itself! Read More