CHINAUS AFRICAASIA 中文双语Français
Home / Europe

Finland's 'ode' to a new era in libraries

China Daily | Updated: 2018-12-04 10:11
A room in Helsinki's new Central Library Oodi is seen during a preview on Friday in the Finnish capital. [MARKKU ULANDER/LEHTIKUVA/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE]

HELSINKI - What do you give the world's most literate country for its 100th birthday? For Finland's politicians and public, the answer was simple: A vast, state-of-the-art library, a new "living room for the nation".

Twenty years in the planning, Helsinki's central library officially will open on Wednesday at the end of a year of festivities marking the centenary of Finland's independence after breaking with Russia in 1917 following six centuries under Swedish rule.

It is a huge, flowing structure of wood and glass sitting on a prime spot in the city center, directly opposite the Finnish parliament.

But whereas the parliament building is an austere and imposing hunk of granite, the new library was designed by Finnish firm ALA Architects as a welcoming, undulating structure, clad in 160 kilometers' worth of Finnish spruce, drawing people inside with a "warm hug".

Named Oodi - "ode" in Finnish - it is intended as a paean to knowledge, learning and equality in what was ranked the world's most literate country by a 2016 report based on official statistics.

While books will feature heavily - 100,000 of them - the cutting-edge facility also boasts studios for music and video production, a cinema, and workshops containing 3D printers and laser cutters, all free of charge for the public.

It will also house an EU-funded visitor center, offering information on the 28-member bloc's work and its impact on people's daily lives.

"Oodi gives a new modern idea of what it means to be a library," said Tommi Laitio, Helsinki's executive director of culture and leisure.

"It is a house of literature but it's also a house of technology, it's a house of music, it's a house of cinema, it's a house of the European Union. And I think all of these come together to this idea of hope and progress."

One sign of such progress is the building's fleet of book-carrying robots - small gray waggons which navigate themselves in and out of lifts, avoiding people and furniture, in order to bring returned books up from the basement and drop them off at the correct bookcase.

Although many countries have been cutting back on library services, Laitio said there were no problems winning political and public backing for the 98-million-euro ($110-million) project, thanks to the value that many Finns place on libraries.

Some 68 million books a year are borrowed by the country's 5.5 million people, named the happiest in the world by the United Nations earlier this year.

"Libraries in Helsinki are the second highest-rated public service after drinking water," Laitio said.

"So libraries are really loved in Finland. And if I look at this project, a 100-million-euro investment, I hear zero to minimal protest. Actually people are really joyful and proud."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BACK TO THE TOP
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349
FOLLOW US