Rum för Barn is a children’s library in Kulturhuset, Stockholm. But it is also an expedition, discovery and mystery. “Emma thought it was really exiting!” the mother of a little girl writes in her blog Där mitt hjärta bor after their visit on Tuesday in Rum för Barn. It is must be true as this “Mother Svea’s children’s room” includes all characteristics of a circus: curiosity, bold experiments, acrobatics, laughter from surprise as well as a feeling that something magical has just passed by and touched us.
“I have been following the Rum för Barn activities in Kulturhuset for several years now, and I have seen how popular it is. The first hint of its popularity was the number of baby prams lined outside the library, then the pile of shoes at the door, and the whirlwind of adults and children inside. At one point there was a traffic light at the library entrance; when the red light was on, the library was so full that no new visitors were allowed in!” shares Maija Berndtson, director of the Helsinki City Library, who has visited the library many times.
For all senses and the entire body
Rum för Barn is intended for all senses. The space invites to move, and you can use your entire body. It has been created and built from a child’s perspective and to suit a child’s scale. Its vision is that playing is the road to reading and literature. Insight created by trying and discovering encourages to examine and read more, and reading transforms from a dull task into an adventure. Reading and language are present, although it may not always be evident for the child. In Rum för Barn, they become the child’s “acquaintances”.
Absolutely cool Tiotretton for teenagers
And that is not all, also older children have had the chance to play master builders in Stockholm. From legos and other building blocks of their dreams, they have built Tiotretton – the world’s first library intended for 10- to 13-year-olds. The goal was to create a place for those who have outgrown child’s plays but still need the presence of an adult. The premises, which were opened in February 2011, offer the possibility to cook food, borrow laptops, make films and music or just hang around. There is plenty of literature suited to the target audience on the shelves. The activities have not been planned to the last detail, they are formed in collaboration with the users.
Children and teenagers are an important target group in libraries
Children are an important target group in libraries. Therefore, services need to be close to children, meaning the suburbs where they live. What about the city centre? “One may ask, is the city centre reserved only to adults? Is it not equal that also children are provided services in the core of Helsinki? Children do not arrive unaccompanied to the centre, so the children’s services located there are in fact intended for families. Therefore, I would much rather talk about a family library than a children’s library,” states Maija Berndtson.
“Rum för Barn offers special services and room for different-aged children in a way that cannot be realised in smaller libraries. In Helsinki, too, all of our existing libraries are small in size, and none of them had room for the touring exhibition of the home of Alfie Atkins. It finally ended up in the Sello Library in Espoo, and it was hugely popular,” Maija Berndtson says.
Magic of fairy tales and wonders of insight to Helsinki?
All is possible also in Helsinki: a dragon can fly over the Rautatientori square, and a fairy tale castle can replace the university campus; dinosaurs can appear in Töölönlahti in the middle of a magical forest, and a pirate ship can dock in the creek. And you can always play home, too… If the Rum för Barn concept were brought to the Central Library, it would of course be tailored to suit Finnish children. “Even if I praise the Swedish execution, I would not transfer it to the Central Library as is. I use them as concrete examples in the same way as the Bilbao Guggenheim museum is used as an example to museum plans. I also wish that our users participate in planning the premises. So, get those ideas flying and share your dream at www.keskustakirjasto.fi,” Maija Berndtson invites.
Text Virve Miettinen
Images Tiotretton & Rum för Barn, Kodomut / Flickr