Library Oodi to bask in white-and-blue light in honour of Finland’s centenary celebrations

The site of the library Oodi by the Kansalaistori Square will be ceremoniously lit from 5 Dec to 6 Dec 2017. The light installation is titled “An Ode to Finland”, highlighting the library of the future in majestic fashion. It honours the roles of literacy and literature in an independent Finland, and marks Oodi’s location at the very centre of Helsinki. The light installation is best seen from Mannerheimintie, but the white-and-blue lights can be seen in the sky from every direction.

RESHAPE 2017 – People and Spaces

RESHAPE 2017 – People and Spaces

21.-22.9.2017. Helsinki Congress Paasitorni

Reshape 2017 is an international library conference organized by Helsinki City Library. This year the main themes revolve around people and spaces. Library spaces are discussed from several different perspectives and the relationship between libraries and people is reflected from staff’s and different customer groups’ point of view as well as through the larger concept of compassionate public spaces.

Few tasters from our programme:

  • Keynote speaker, Professor Anne Birgitta Pessi discusses compassion in libraries and public spaces
  • Deputy Director Sanne Caft from Copenhagen Libraries presents their new service reorganization and staff model
  • Architect Aat Vos from the Netherlands discusses library spaces and their adaptability
  • Cristina Andersson discusses robotics and the changes in library work that robots will bring along
  • Project manager Nizar Keblawi presents Malmö City Library’s multicultural activities
  • City Librarian Marian Morgan-Bindon from the City of Gold Coast presents the latest developments in the Australian library scene
  • Also, there will be presentations on recently opened and renovated libraries around Europe. We will for example hear experiences on what kind of different plans libraries had before opening the doors and how these plans met reality and how they needed to be altered after the everyday library life kicked off.

Here you can find our full programme (pdf, link updated 20.9.).

The participation fee is 200 €, which includes the programme, lunches onsite and a conference dinner on Thursday evening of the 21st of September. Travel and accommodation costs are not included in the participation fee. The venue is at Helsinki Congress Paasitorni, Paasivuorenkatu 5 A, 00530, Helsinki.


If you have any questions or you would like to get more information, please don’t hesitate to contact us:

Kristina Virtanen:, 040 187 2616

Antti Sauli:, 040 658 6984


See on video how Oodi is being built

On the video you can see how the new central library is being built.

A video on the construction of Oodi

See how the unique steel arcs of library Oodi are constructed on the video! The library is designed by ALA architects and built by YIT.

Watch the video here

Ode to Steel Arc – Installation Begins

Helsinki Central Library Oodi is made up of a combination of a unique steel-framed bridge and building. The massive arcs will be transported to the centre of Helsinki in parts at night time.

The construction has lasted for a year and a half, and Helsinki Central Library Oodi (Ode) is now beginning to take shape. Next week, YIT will start assembling the building’s two longitudinal steel arcs that have a length of about 100 metres. The aim is to complete the arc installation work by the end of March.

The steel arc parts will be transported to the site during February–March. Transports arrive at the site once a week and are so massive—one part of a single arc weighs more than 85,000 kilos—that they are carried out at night when there is little traffic. The arcs are transported from the plant of Normek Oy, the arc manufacturer, from Oulu. Normek has also implemented the pedestrian bridge between Kalasatama and Mustikkamaa in Helsinki. The experienced installation technicians who built the Mustikkamaa bridge are also participating in the erection of Oodi’s arcs.

“It will take at least a week to weld a single arc seam with two welders working 12 hours a day. The arcs are welded from both the inside and outside. The temperature inside the arc reaches as much as 120 degrees,” says Markku Roininen, head steel structure supervisor at Normek Oy.

For installing the arcs, a 350-ton tracked lattice boom crane from Havator Oy is in use at the site, a machine fairly seldom seen at building construction sites.

Helsinki Central Library is made up of a combination of a rare steel-framed bridge and building. Steel trusses, which will support the frame of the upper floors, will later be supported by the steel arcs now being erected.

Steel Structure

“Due to the frame’s arc solution, specific clearance must be taken into consideration in the structures. When structural load is imposed on the arcs, they are pushed downward. For this reason, we are not making any binding structures before all the designed structural load has been placed on the arcs,” says head supervisor Tero Seppänen, explaining the arcs and the actual construction work.

There will be a clearance of some dozens of millimetres in the complete building. The yield resulting from this is so small that visitors will not notice it.

Helsinki Central Library, with a gross floor area of around 17,000 square metres, is one of the projects launched to mark the centenary of Finland’s independence. Arkkitehtitoimisto ALA Oy is the chief architect for the project. The library will be opened in December 2018, and its construction costs total EUR 98 million.

Watch a video about the construction of Oodi:





The New Central Library Has Been Named Oodi

Helsinki City Library held an open competition in October 2016 on the name of the Central Library under construction in the Töölönlahti area of Helsinki. The competition received 2,600 proposals, and 1,600 of them were different names. The winning proposal selected by the jury is “Oodi”.

The name was selected from among the proposals by the jury in two meetings. The jury was chaired by Helsinki Deputy Mayor Ritva Viljanen. Ms Viljanen comments that the name was selected with careful consideration of the many requirements for the name.

“The name should be easy to remember, short, and easy to pronounce and to use in a sentence,” she says. “The name should also be easy to explain to the international audience and work in many languages. The name should support the symbolism of the Finland 100 centenary. It is also a merit to the name that the word is beautiful. Because it is a name of a library, it should be linked with literature and thereby with the library institution. However, we did not want to name the library dealing with all of Finland, literature and culture to one person only, although good arguments were presented for library names dedicated to various authors. On these bases, were selected ‘Oodi’ as the name of the Central Library.”

Oodi is the Finnish word for Ode.

The jury’s decision was unanimous. The proposal Oodi was presented by Mirja Lounameri. She will be recognized with a special invitation to the library opening ceremony in December 2018.

Timeless name for building promoting democracy and learning

Oodi (ode) is a lyric poem marked by exaltation, and it can be written in irregular metre. The word has a long history: as early as in ancient Egypt and Greece, odes were sung in praise of a person, who could be a king or someone celebrating an anniversary.

“The name looks back, but it is part of our modern language and well reflects the nature and task of the library to open in the Töölönlahti area in 2018: Oodi will be a centre for people and reading, a place for democracy and learning, and a gift for the 100-year-old Republic of Finland and for the Finns,” Ms Viljanen points out. The name is also seen to symbolize the high quality of the Finnish library institution and architecture.

The name of the Central Library can be officially written in two ways (in three languages – Finnish, Swedish and English):

  1. Helsingin keskustakirjasto Oodi – Helsingfors centrumbibliotek Oodi – Helsinki Central Library Oodi
  1. Kirjasto Oodi, Helsinki – Biblioteket Oodi, Helsingfors – Library Oodi, Helsinki


Members of the jury:

Ritva Viljanen, Chair, Deputy Mayor, Helsinki
Tuula Haavisto, City Library Director, Helsinki
Claes Andersson, author
Riina Katajavuori, author
Johanna Lehtonen, Place Name Planner, Helsinki City Planning Department
Titta Lilja, student, member of Ruuti core group
Pirjo Lipasti, Lead Planner, Central Library Project, Helsinki City Library
Arto Sivonen, marketing designer, marketing communications agency Måndag
Hannu Sulin, Director, Department of Art and Cultural Policy, Ministry of Education and Culture
Sari Lehikoinen, Jury Secretary, Communications Manager, Helsinki City Library

From collections to connections – RESHAPE-conference inspired library specialists

RESHAPE – Designing the future of the library -conference gathered library and service design specialists from fifteen different countries to Helsinki, Finland. The conference manifested the idea of libraries as human-to-human business as well as the thought that libraries are changing from collections to connections and relationships. Co-operation and user involvement were noted to be the future form of library work.

In the international conference held in 26-27 August 2016, arranged by Helsinki City Library’s international unit, the participants listening live as well as online were able to hear the latest information and learned lessons about some of the newly build and renovated quality libraries from different cities around the world.

The lecturers shared their experiences of new and renovated libraries, their thoughts of the current changes in library philosophies and the new ideas from the library field.



The keynote speaker Anne Stenros, Chief Design Officer of City of Helsinki, told the audience that speed with the sensory rush it gives is one strategy for distraction.

– Faster, better, smarter. That is our time. However, if you think about old cars, that drove 30-50 kilometers per hour, what kind of feeling did you get? Totally different. You could see the faces of people walking by, you recognized the surroundings, you felt relaxed and had time to think, Anne Stenros said.

She pointed out that smart and slow life could “save the world”.

– Relaxation is often a precursor to slow thinking. The research show, that when a human being is relaxed and unstressed, he or she thinks in a more creative way. A slow city is more than an unstressed place, it has sense of community too.

The speed is also part in the digitalization.

– People are the same everywhere: they are confused with the speed and they look for happiness. At the moment, the young people are returning to traditional books and the book selling has turned upwards.

Space, as well as library space, is important.

– In order to express feelings, the space must work in progress with feelings and mentality in order to manifest thoughts. If space is not precious, people can hack it, she said.

A library has to gather all the different and important pieces together from digitalization, space design as well as service design.

– Libraries have to serve the people, it is a human-to-human business. And like the Canadian PM Justin Trudeau has said, if you want real stories, you have to go where people live.



Many of the lecturers had the same message: the users and their needs are the most important thing for libraries.

Tom Loosemore, who has worked with the -web site, spoke ideas about the user experiences of web sites. Tom’s ideas can be easily translated into library work.

– According to Conway’s law, an organization creates the web site structure that reflects the structure of the organization. You must resist this. It is easy in theory, but hard in practice. You need to understand what your users need and you must work in order to offer the people what they need.

Library director Tuula Haavisto from Helsinki City Library, Finland, continued about the same idea.

– We shall move from collections to users. When planning the upcoming central library of Helsinki, we have gathered the dreams of the Helsinkians and taken them a part of the planning process. By sharing information, knowledge and stories, we are creating new civil societies.

Reinert Mithassel, the head of Toyen libraries in Norway, supported also the idea.

– Library is not a place for books, it is a place for people.

Chief Librarian Jens Lauridsen from Tårnby Public Library in Denmark, told the audience that he might have been a little scared for the future of the libraries: will the library become only a space where people can just spend some time?

– This conference reshaped my thoughts with inspiration, tools and ideas, with service design methods. Now we have to go home and make these things happen.


– Libraries are citizen’s driving force for innovation, said the library director Knud Shulz in his presentation.

He should know about what he says, because the International Federation of Library Associations IFLA rewarded his library the Best library in the world -prize 2016.

The local people have also responded to this idea.

– All people want to change something in their lives. They want to develop themselves and gain information and knowledge. Libraries are places where the public can find inspiration and meet new ideas. They are a place for dialogue, knowledge and inspiration, an informal learning place open for all.

Mr Shulz said that libraries are changing from libraries of books and other media to libraries for humans and networked society.

The Dokk1 library had many ways to create the best library in the world. They used co-creation with the designers and staff as well as user participation during the planning. They built a partner process and partnership strategy.

– A modern library must act adaptive and innovative, it has to support spaces. We have media space, arrival space, playground space, inspiration space, learning space, performative space, meeting space as well as urban offices, oases, reading rooms, living rooms, corners, transformation lab and so on. This is about how the people use the library. Library has to move from book storing to supporting citizens needs.

But at some point all planning must stop too. Mr Shulz gave an advice for this: maximize the unprogrammed space. This seems to be working in Aarhus.

– Users are taking the control of the building. It’s about the user needs.



The City of Helsinki is currently building a new central library that will open December 2018. The library is one of the main projects of the year celebrating Finland’s 100 years of independence.

Lead planner of the central library project Pirjo Lipasti and Deputy library director Anna-Maria Soininvaara told the conference audience what is currently happening with the planning and the construction of the new central library.

– The basement is ready and the building is about to start above the ground. You can follow the construction from live-camera on, Pirjo Lipasti said.

The first floor of the library will provide room all kinds of action, events as well as a restaurant. The second floor is reserved for digitality, maker space and learning. The top floor will be dedicated to books, reading and for children.

– We use service design methods diligently, as well as user participation. We are currently organizing a public name competition for the library and competitive tendering for the restaurant services as well as using robotics in the library. In addition, we are planning the interior and ict-services.

In the end of the conference, recently appointed head of central library, Anna-Maria Soininvaara, had an invitation to everybody.

– We warmly welcome you to see our new central library in December 2018!

More information

Videos from the conference: Library Channel

Text and photos: Maisa Hopeakunnas, Helsinki City Library
Helsinki Central Library photo: ALA Architects

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.

Keskustakirjaston lapset.

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.

Read more:

The Central Library is moving towards the digital age

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.

Robotics development

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.

Photo: San José Library.

Photo: San José 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.

Read more:

Call for participation competition of robotics

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.

Read more:

Construction site stories

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.

Read more:

Treasures of the Central Library already being sought

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.

Opening 2018

The opening of the Central Library will be celebrated in December 2018.


Text: Siru Valleala

The Central Library is moving towards the digital age

Future technologies and changes in people’s attitudes are difficult to predict. This is a fact that has become evident to Concept Designer Anu Koski of the Central Library. She is involved in a working group that develops digital services for libraries through pilot projects and prototypes.

“At the moment, we still need to include the word ‘digital’ to clarify various concepts that utilise electronic systems. In the future, however, everything will blend together. As physical and digital services merge into uniform functional entities in our minds, we will no longer think of certain aspects as distinctly digital.”

Koski knows the situations where people are normally acutely aware that something is not working as it should. “It’s heartbreaking to see a great new service reduced to a black screen in the corner,” she describes. The upcoming Central Library intends to eliminate such impressions, but there is much work to be done.

The majority of the efforts are under way now and some will take place later in the background, out of the direct view of the library users. “The precondition for all operations is to build background systems – the entire foundation on which we will create something new. This also involves such basic principles of library services as easy access to materials and the methods available to present them. For some libraries, the challenge is finding ways to highlight and present content so that the library visitors are made aware of the entire range. This applies to digital materials in particular.”

Anu Koski, concept designer of the Central Library

Anu Koski, concept designer of the Central Library

Pilot projects tested

The idea for the first concrete tool on which Anu Koski is currently working stemmed from the wishes of the library customers and staff and the city administration. 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. Other city departments, such as the Department of Early Education and Care and the Youth Department, are involved in the cooperation. In this way, technical information is distributed to other parties, which also serves to obscure the boundaries between departments.

“The second pilot project pertains to info displays. The Central Library will have plenty of information to disseminate, and all forms of marketing communication are a challenge. We don’t want too many visual distractions in the library, but information must be distributed efficiently. The development of the info displays is also a collaborative effort with other departments,” Koski explains.

The architects of the Central Library take part in the design. For example, they know the best places to mount screens and the spaces where the info displays would be most effective in terms of crowd flow. The Central Library will feature screens that present digital content. Some of these screens will be interactive, to enable digital storytelling, for instance. Solutions for providing guidance are also being planned.

Library users who have participated in workshops and campaigns, as well as library employees hoping to facilitate day-to-day work tasks, have been a abundant source of ideas related to electronic services. Customers benefit directly from staff who have to spend less time on mechanical routines.

“In future, IT experts, enthusiasts and students may be able to form a development community that takes part in the development of digital solutions for the Central Library. Once the Central Library is open, it could also include test stations where parties from a variety of fields could present their inventions,” Koski envisions.

Space for future needs

The digital needs of libraries are by no means related to e-books alone. “Still, the visibility of e-materials is an important matter. However, we don’t yet know whether or not electronic books and other materials will take off in the coming years.”

There is much we do not know about new technology. “For this very reason, it’s important to come up with general concepts and ideas instead of leaning on a particular technology,” Anu Koski says as a reminder and states that the library project is keeping a close eye on the situation and coming needs of libraries abroad, such as the Danish Århus library. “It’s always a good idea to conduct a lot of tests and try out different solutions. We have no intention of implementing everything we test – only the pilots that actually work.”

Nothing new can be created without testing, failing and testing some more. At this point, no one can define what kind of digital services it would be possible to hope for and realise. How would you like a service that library visitors could use to determine, for example, where in the building the foremost expert in British historical novels is currently spending time enjoying a book? What about creating a digitally transforming story room?

“It’s always good to keep in mind that something being digital is not a value in itself. Instead, the added value must come from creating a solution that works for the user. Digital systems are expensive and all usage must be somehow well justified. For us, technology comes second – we focus on what’s essential,” Koski says.

The final form for the services may never be found, but that is not the ultimate intention. Digital services, such as those that will be implemented at the Central Library, are not designed to a complete state. The actual needs will be seen in 2018 when the library opens, and they will continue to evolve thereafter.

“The purpose of the Central Library is to be a building for the people that promotes accessing the services on-site – nothing will be set in stone beforehand. At the same time, the library can be a place that entices and encourages city residents to try out various alternatives and teaches them how to use new types of services. The building has plenty of room for traditions and creative novelties, as well as a wealth of ingenious combinations.”

Siru Valleala

See the Central Library! The exhibition of the competition entries is open 10.-16.5.

The City of Helsinki is holding an open international architectural competition titled “The Heart of the Metropolis” for the new Central Library. The first phase of the competition ends on 16 April. The competition entries will be exhibited at the Jätkäsaari Bunker between 10 and 16 May. The exhibition will be open on weekdays between 11 am and 7 pm and on weekends between 12 noon and 6 pm. Visitors will have the opportunity to comment on the competition entries. Read more »