Helsinki's new public library celebrates Finland's centenary year
Helsinki’s state-of-the-art Oodi library will stand opposite parliament and boast a cinema, recording studio and makerspace. Due to open in December 2018, at a time when libraries worldwide are facing budget cuts, a decline in users and closure, Finland is bucking the trend, investing 98m€ in the new project.
Oodi – Ode in English – is more than a sober monument to civic pride. Commissioned as part of Finland’s celebration of a century of independence, the library is no mere book repository. In addition to its core function as a library, it will boast a cafe, restaurant, public balcony, cinema, audiovisual recording studios and a makerspace with 3D printers. A sauna was apparently considered, but seems not to have made the final cut.
In 2016 the UN named Finland the world’s most literate nation, and Finns are among the world’s most enthusiastic users of public libraries – the country’s 5.5m million people borrow close to 68m books a year.
Perhaps a clue to the Finnish enthusiasm for libraries comes from the fact that they offer far more than books. While many libraries worldwide provide internet access and other services, libraries in cities and towns across Finland have expanded their brief to include lending e-publications, sports equipment, power tools and other “items of occasional use”. One library in Vantaa even offers karaoke.
Image: Revolutionising the library … artist’s impressions of the design for Oodi, including (clockwise): the exterior, the top floor children’s area and the recording studio