How is the Central Library coming about?
The series sheds light on the content design and schedule of the Central Library.
PART 1: At the moment, the library’s services are being substantiated, the principles of the family library drawn up and partners chosen.
Although the Central Library is still just a huge hole in the ground, there is a large planning machinery hard at work at the grassroots level. City residents and visitors are interested to know what phase is currently underway in the library’s planning process.
This article provides an overview of what is currently being done now that the cornerstone has been laid and there is still two and a half years to go before the opening of the Central Library.
Definition of services
The Central Library will provide a large number of services for customers. The new building is desired to be a convenient and rich entity for its users.
The conventional services of borrowing and returning will be joined by a diverse offering, including event services, restaurant services, counselling services, tourist services, services for families with children, telecommuting and digital services.
The service design also includes dreams collected from city residents; wishes and dreams collected and recorded at events, workshops and on the website of the Unel-moi Project in 2012–2013. There will be more workshops on various themes for children and adults in the future.
Service designers in full swing
The customer’s service experience is being designed from the user’s perspective which, in terms of the library, means above all the functioning of the user path or how a visitor to the library can smoothly navigate the new building, find what he/she is looking for and enjoy the experience at different times of day.
It is important to provide effective directions in different parts of the library starting from the entrances. The service designers and digital signage designers are mapping the needs of customer groups, pondering on accessibility and designing easily interpreted trilingual signage.
The challenges include large visitor volumes, long opening hours and the central and bustling location.
Towards a family library
The Central Library is being strongly profiled as a library for the whole family. The service designers from Muotohiomo have organised workshops for families and collected wishes regarding library materials and signage.
There is a particular interest in how to best get adults to enjoy spending time in the children’s world on the Central Library’s third floor. The aim is a comfortable library where people spend time together.
The important elements in the planning of a family library include the combination of a calm and inspiring atmosphere, child scale and appealing architecture, functional acoustics, simplicity and the planning of family-centric events.
The Helsinki Department of Early Education and Care is involved in the family library idea with a special library playground model. The plan is to utilise playground expertise both outside and inside the library.
Counselling services help citizens
The Central Library is planned to offer different kinds of counselling services, and the mapping of service providers is underway. Attention must be paid to how the counselling of different fields will work together as a whole that serves the users efficiently.
The central location of the building provides a natural place for counselling services. Separate information services are being planned for tourists, and the designers will listen to citizens’ needs to get more information about, for example, immigration matters.
Interior design initiated
The design of furnishing and other interiors has begun. Customers’ wishes have been taken into account in the design of moveable furniture. The library will have relaxed lounge areas as well as ergonomic workstations. Materials and displayed artwork are also being contemplated.
Digital design finds form
The building will offer a wide range of digital services. It is still difficult to predict the technologies of the future, but currently the premises reservation system is being developed and digital signs are being designed, for example.
The purpose of the premises reservation tool is to enable people to reserve library premises independently through an electronic system. The tool will be tested at libraries in the near future. The second pilot project pertains to info displays. The challenge lies in displaying the wide range offered so easily and attractively that the users notice it and start using it.
The architects of the Central Library from ALA Architects take part in the design. The important things include, for example, the best places to mount screens and the spaces where the info displays would be most effective in terms of crowd flow.
New library applications will also be designed in the near future.
Open data and opening contents with the Library of Parliament
In the spring, the Central Library participated in the ‘Avoin data, avoin demokratia’ (‘Open data, open democracy’) event on new open data projects. The statistics, classification and borrowing data of libraries will be made more public in the future. The Central Library will play a major role as a teacher of open data practices.
The plan also includes utilising the open data of the Parliament of Finland and collaborating with the Library of Parliament. Opening the legislative process of the Parliament helps, for example, the media, citizens, non-governmental organisations, companies and the Parliament itself. The needs of the users are being mapped, and the co-operation with application developers continues.
Library robotics is a rapidly developing field. There is a robotics competition underway; it will end in September. Read more: Robotics Competition
Key potential targets for robotics include logistics or the movement of materials, recommendation of materials, information retrieval using artificial intelligence and developing the services of the children’s library.
The aim is to find solutions that reduce manual work and also create interesting and inspiring experiences for the customers and familiarise them with new technology that serves everyday life.
Partner selection and event production
The Central Library will have partners that use the library premises and organise events together with the library. One of the partners is the Helsinki Department of Early Education and Care. There are many other candidates, and the cultural co-operation in Töölönlahti will also be utilised. How would a symphony concert under the Central Library’s overhang sound?
The competitive tendering of the restaurant concept ended in May, and the operator is currently being selected.
The aim is to create a fully licensed restaurant that matches the library’s style. The idea has been modelled after the OBA library in Amsterdam, among others. The customer volume will be great; the new Central Library is expected to have 10,000 daily visitors. From the experiences of OBA, we already know that the restaurant will be full.
The library will also have outdoor and balcony terraces for enjoying refreshments.
Challenges of construction and architecture
You can follow the building of the Central Library in the ‘Construction site stories’ column on this website. The contractor for the sections above ground has now been selected, and the project has stayed on the estimated budget.
The Central Library is a challenging building with its glass and steel structures and timber façade. Aalto University has been actively involved in making the timber cladding details and wood material testing.
Finland’s calling card
The impressive new building will be Finland’s calling card to the world. The library is an excellent way for foreigners to learn about everyday life in Finland at its best; how people live and operate. There will be materials in many different languages.
The plan is for the library to be a mirror of Finnish society and a place of democracy. Equal access to information will meet Finnish architecture. The visual and spacious top floor, the magnificent tip in the south end and the vantage point, which will also symbolically join the library and the Parliament House, will be some of its best features.
Many activity services are being developed for the second floor. There will be an information centre for tourists.
The collection of materials is underway. The comics collection has been mapped and thousands of albums selected. Classics are being collected in storage facilities in Pasila.
On its opening day, the Central Library is intended to offer 150,000 volumes. There will be approximately 3.6 kilometres of shelves.
Outside areas of the library
The Central Library will fill the entire plot, and the outside areas will be the responsibility of the Public Works Department of the City of Helsinki. The Töölönlahti cultural entity, Kansalaistori Square and the new Sananvapauden aukio and Helle Kannila squares form an attractive environment for city residents.
Many kinds of festivities with diverse technical opportunities will be held outdoors under the library’s overhang. A playground is being planned nearby.
Staff of the future
The Central Library will be staffed by approximately 45-55 library staff, and the vacancies will be filled by current regular workers from different competence groups, partly on an itinerant basis. Partners will also bring new employees into the building.
The restaurant hub will bring up to fifty staff. Security will be outsourced.
Name competition launch
A competition for the name of the future Central Library will be organised in October. The name will be revealed on New Year’s Eve 2016 at the Finland 100 celebrations on Kansalaistori Square.
The opening of the Central Library will be celebrated in December 2018.
Text: Siru Valleala