The Weighty Words of Early Education Professionals

The workshop designed for pedagogues produced numerous ideas for turning the Central Library into a picnic place for children and families.

”An urban campfire site for urban families, a meeting place for generations…A rooftop garden for cultivating plants and literature…A large, inner-city playground in the library courtyard…”

Helsinki’s Annantalo provided shelter from a snowstorm and a spark for a Central Library project, planned by a group of professionals working in the field of early education. What kind of space could the new library be for children, families, people of all generations? The Idepro workshop sought to answer this question. The group included operators from various fields of children’s culture, including Koulukino, Mediametka, Annantalo and word art schools. Each group was asked to select four most important areas to be observed in the planning of the Central Library. The enthusiastic discussion highlighted four themes.

 

From one art to another, from viewer to doer

”The library brings together various forms of art. It provides a venue for transcending genres: from image to text, and from text to multimedia. The role of the library customer can also be expanded from a viewer to a doer. The library can provide children and families with ways to participate in the production of art and cultural experiences. The Central Library provides a venue for sharing creativity with others, for example in the form of a children’s song demo, performance or video. The library could also provide tools for deciphering the art experience. For example, a film session in the library cinema could be followed by a common discussion session dissecting the experiences elicited by the film.”

The educators emphasised the active role of the customer. The Central Library can promote the know-how and talents of the customers and the city-dwellers. Here the artists do not have to fear that their ideas will get stolen. Instead, we are inspired by one another – and that is a great gift. The entire building operates under the principle of an open space, where content is defined together by partners and customers. The Central Library also provides tools for interpreting art and culture.

Finding the essence of the library

”The roof of the Central Library could house the garden of dreams. Children could look for information on plants, plant seeds and then come back to follow the growth. It could serve as a community garden, a garden for growth and education. The entire library itself could already serve as an open learning environment. Information would grow and be skilfully cultivated by the library staff. But we should also remember the letters, words and books behind it all. The purpose of the library is, and should be, the development of literacy, media literacy and responsible data retrieval.”

The data retrieval skills of the web generation should be improved while increasing critical data retrieval skills. Book-oriented people can ensure that the information environment of the future does not become too superficial and monotone for the digitally-oriented. Finland has proudly carried its status as the most literate nation in the world – but what about the future? The library can also serve as a place to not only cultivate literacy, but to promote the power of words, literal expression and to provide the opportunity to learn word art, which has been overshadowed by fine arts and music.

A common space for the whole family

”The library should provide an opportunity to engage in a dialogue between children and parents, the entire family and between generations. The library could provide facilities, activities and opportunities for families. We need methods to enable fathers and sons to bond.”

The participants of the workshop visualised an urban campfire space where families could participate with grandparents and relatives. The participants could also enjoy storytelling and history and cultivate community spirit. The consensus was to provide more family collaboration through workshops, events and activities. The downtown library will also serve as a pit stop and nest for cultures, as a multi-cultural urban mosaic. It is important to remember equality and its promotion – the library can provide something for everyone.

The library as a large playground

”There are no proper playgrounds in the city centre. The library could house a playground, which could also promote Finnish design to tourists. Children process everything through play. Thus, the library could be seen as a large playground, where the joy of experimentation and realisation would lead children into the world of learning. The size of the facility could enable large children’s events, which could also be broadcasted electronically in real time outside the walls of the building.”

It is the duty of children to play. Imagination and playfulness should be promoted in the library of the future. Colours, shapes and content are key elements of the equation. The Central Library could serve as a place where imagination is just as vivid as that of a child. Clarity and security, as well as inspiring, modifiable space for various operators could create a library where this big family we call ‘the city’ could come together and play.

 

Text: Siru Valleala and Virve Miettinen
Photos: Virve Miettinen

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