Treasures of the Central Library already being sought

The Central Library is a treasure trove for the people living in the city. But what treasures can be found there in 2018? And how are those treasures collected?

Deputy Library Director Anna-Maria Soininvaara says that the collection for the Central Library is already being sought out.

“The comic collection, for example, has been charted and thousands of albums have been selected. Classics are sought out determinedly, because the age of a book in stores is short. Books are sought by the acquisition department in second-hand bookshops, for example. Children’s materials are also being collected actively.”

In order to ensure that the books and other materials won’t be worn out by Christmas 2018, some of them are stored in a separate storage. On the opening day of the Central Library, the intention is to have 150,000 items on offer.

“Nobody needs to fear a lack of books in the Central Library. There will be some 3.6 shelf kilometres of books and other items. The top floor will be a book paradise,” Soininvaara says.

Floating books

A floating system for materials is tested in the Helsinki region at the moment. The Vantaa and Espoo city libraries are testing what happens if books stay in the unit to which they are delivered. Books are not taken back to their original unit, which makes the material free to be borrowed immediately.

“The floating system is intelligent, and it won’t let all the materials be collected in one unit. The situation stays in balance, and other libraries do not suffer. Floating also offers variation in the supply. Books that are the most popular in a certain region are also on display the most. By the opening of the Central Library, floating will be widespread,” Soininvaara notes.

“The reservation system also allows any book to be ordered to any other unit, just like they are now moved. The library is practicing the modern trend of not owning everything. Books can be moved quickly and freely from place to place.”

What kinds of materials does Soininvaara believe to be the most wanted in the Central Library? What is the main material type that is collected in the Central Library more than other units?

“The Central Library offers a wide variety of fresh materials in many languages. The move of the multilingual Pasila library is currently under discussion, and Library 10 will also move to the Central Library. The foreign-language selection of materials will be increased significantly. The most common languages in the selection include common European languages as well as Arabic, Chinese, Somali, and Russian.”

“Our customers have a significant role. Floating allows us to see what kind of range is the most interesting in the Central Library; what people really want to borrow.”

Library materials challenged by the ever changing world

Those who acquire materials for the library must always keep in mind the changes in today’s world and its technology. In only a few years, things may be very different from what they are today.

“At first, we were planning a CD collection of 40-50,000 albums, but now it seems the number will be greatly reduced. People no longer listen to CDs. The amount of magazines will also be reduced from the current numbers, if only because the number of magazines available is becoming smaller. At the same time, online magazines are in active use through Helmet’s new magazine service eMagz, for example,” Soininvaara points out.

Printed books are still relevant. The collection of e-books will be charted and developed within the next few years. It is still quite difficult to estimate the development of the popularity of electronic books.

“The customers’ preferences were studied for choosing the range of English-language literature for the Central Library. It is interesting that the test group chose entirely different books than the personnel. That is another reason why cooperation with the customers is so important: there are so many tastes in books,” Soininvaara says.

These testings are continued in the near future. The future will also decide on the content of the collections. According to Soininvaara, the range of music and movies will mostly concentrate on classical collections and European supply. It is only a good thing if libraries offer something that Netflix may not.
Anna-Maria Soininvaara expects the Central Library to become a home to freedom of speech and raising children.

“The Central Library will be the crown jewel of Finnish libraries; a place where new ways of presenting literature in a non-commercial way will be sought. Where one can learn and make a difference. Only half of all library customers borrow books. Other services are increasing, which presents new challenges and opportunities for developing library services.”

“But we will not give up our library heaven!”

Text: Siru Valleala
Pictures: Helsinki City Library

The Central Library comes – We congratulate Helsinki and the entire Finland!

The City Council confirmed the construction of the Central Library in its meeting on 28 January. Helsinki Library Director Tuula Haavisto celebrates the decision. “Finland’s 100th anniversary in 2018 will be marked by this very special event! There are not many countries where the library would be a more fitting symbol of independence and 100 years of existence,” says Tuula Haavisto.

The Library Director sees the library as one of the key elements of society. “The library is the foundation of Finnish education, and in Finland education has been a survival strategy. The spirit that everyone has access to education has been an integral part of it: the entire population has had access to knowledge and culture, since library services have been open to all from the beginning. The library also plays a crucial role in ensuring the freedom of expression, as it guarantees that knowledge is available.

In Finland, the beloved library is the most popular cultural service. “Finns have voted with their feet; the long-existing library network has been used at a world-record pace,” says Tuula Haavisto.


The Central Library is a landmark for the Finnish library

The Central Library will bring much-needed versatile non-commercial space into Helsinki city centre. “The big building accommodates quiet space with bookshelves, which our users expressly want, a range of spaces for doing things, performances and exhibitions. Families can do many fun things together in the library and in the city centre playgrounds,” says Tuula Haavisto.

The new Central Library will also boost the cultural activities offered in Töölönlahti. “All in all, the Central Library will enliven the heart of the city and introduce into the area spaces for citizens to do the things they like.

The Central Library is a special landmark for the development of libraries across Finland. “The Central Library leads the way in defining the roles of the library in the 2010s. The roles are diversifying; the library will focus on supporting citizenship and people doing things actively themselves,” the director says.

Promoting reading will stay on the library’s agenda. “We have just heard the results of a recent brain study: reading high-quality long texts, such as quality fiction, is one of the best ways to work out your brain.

Contents and operation models for the Central Library have been analysed in co-operation with the library, city residents and partners through participatory work. City residents have had the opportunity to have their say in the planning phase of the library, for example in the Central Library Friends project.


The Central Library step by step

From idea to planning, 1998–2014

  • 1998 Minister of Culture Claes Andersson’s proposal on a new main library to be constructed in city centre
  • 1998–2000 Citizens’ initiatives, newspaper articles and council initiatives on a new central library
  • 2000  The Cultural and Library Committee approves the preliminary expression of needs on 20 December
  • 2002 The council approves on 13 March the initiative on the construction of a central library and on the further planning of the Töölönlahti city plan.
  • 2005 The Cultural and Library Committee’s decision on 8 March on preparing an expression of needs
  • 2006 The Cultural and Library Committee approves on 5 December the central library expression of needs
  • 2008 Expert Mikko Leisti’s report “The Heart of the Metropolis” published on 12 March
  • 2010 Preliminary project plan completed on 29 April
  • 2011 Mayor’s decision on 19 October to launch preparation for a central library architectural competition
  • 2012 First phase of the architectural competition 5 January –16 April, the competition attracts 544 entries
  • 2012 Second phase of the architectural competition begins on 21 November, with six candidates
  • 2013 Winner published on 14 June in the Music Centre. Winner: “Käännös” by ALA Architects
  • 2014 Project planning and general planning

From planning to realisation, 2015–2018

  • 2015 Foundation construction work begins in September and lasts till 2016
  • 2016 Other construction, also that of the building itself, begins in November
  • 2018 Building ready in the autumn
  • 2018 The Central Library opens on 6 December

Come and be a Friend of the Central Library!

Helsinki residents have been involved in many phases of planning the Central Library, and now we are offering a new challenge for doing things together, the Central Library Friends project.The participants of the communal project will get the opportunity to help plan the library from their own perspective. They will be a part of the team carrying the message of the large and small proposals requested by city residents for the library plans. You can apply to be a Friend from 10 October to 10 November at Read more »

Käännös is here!

Now we know what it looks like! Many people were smiling to themselves when the winner of the Central Library architectural competition was announced. Establishing the winning entry, ‘Käännös’ by ALA Architects, was another concrete step on the way to a new, splendid library on the shore of Töölönlahti Bay. The library is due to be completed in five years’ time.

What will this library be like? Janne Teräsvirta and Antti Nousjoki, two of the four founding architect members of ALA Architects (besides Juho Grönholm and Samuli Woolston) introduce Käännös, which may look like this on a beautiful winter day. Read more »

Ritva Viljanen in the house of Finnish knowledge

“Now it’s time for some culture,” declares Deputy Mayor Ritva Viljanen exuberantly when speaking of the Central Library. The voice of the new “mother” of the Central Library project rings with such enthusiasm and joy that it is easy to see the endeavour reaching new heights in these hands. “The Töölönlahti area will become a highly-valued part of the city and the number one place for a variety of demographic groups,” Mrs. Viljanen says, contemplating the visitor numbers of the Central Library and the Olympic Stadium, which is to be renovated. “After the wars, we built schools, then banks in the best locations in town and then shopping centres. Now it’s time to focus on non-commercial buildings and facilities – centres of culture and knowledge for everyone to enjoy. I would describe the Central Library as a house of Finnish knowledge. Read more »

AITO travel services bring the city closer to you

Queuing at a museum entrance in the pouring rain. Attempting to get video footage of a must-see tourist attraction over the tops of other tourists’ heads. Trying to look enraptured while thinking you should have got the cheaper tickets to go to Mallorca instead. Not speaking a word to the locals and writing a few post cards that praise the superiority of European metropolises’ museum supply (Mondo Travel Magazine 2/2002). Sound familiar? Not to worry! There are others who want more from travelling. May Kim’s MA thesis in the field of service design, titled The Central Library as the stepping stone of Helsinki, introduces the AITO service concept that can help tourists in Helsinki to get a glimpse of places as yet undiscovered by others. The thesis has been shortlisted for the Grafia Best of the Year award. Read more »

Once upon a time there was a storyteller

People love listening to stories. But what is it like to be a storyteller by profession? Read more »

Sight on information city

The Danish architect and researcher Helle Juul wants to combine the library and the university campus into a new, vibrant urban environment. Read more »

Library is full of charisma!

“Library provides content products and services that mostly meet clients’ requirements. Library has grown a fine charisma – something that simply cannot be bought. But, if you have latent special talents and don’t tell anyone about them, how can people make use of them?” comments interior designer Pablo Riquelme from the Kuudes Kerros design agency, smilingly.

Read more »

Students as library designers

What is the Central Library buzz among Aalto University students of architecture?

During the autumn period, took a look at a seminar for students of architecture at Aalto University that yielded a number of impressive and interesting designs for the Central Library. The designs are now completed, and the students may take a collective sigh of relief after all their hard work. What kinds of thoughts did the concrete design provoke within the students?

Read more »