Frequently asked questions

Where did the idea about building a Central Library come from?

The idea was suggested for the first time in 1998 by Claes Andersson, who proposed as the Minister of Culture at the time that a city library should be built on the location of the current Parliament annex. The Pasila Main Library had been completed in 1986, but Andersson thought it was too far away from the city centre.

Why do we need a Central Library?

The library network in Helsinki has been growing for over 150 years, meeting the needs of its customers. The library follows the latest developments and offers services that the inhabitants of the city need in order to be active citizens in the society.

The main concepts at the root of the Central Library’s design process are a safe public urban space that is free of charge and open to everyone; there are not enough of these in the heart of Helsinki.

The Rikhardinkatu Library and Library 10 that currently operate near the city centre have the largest numbers of visitors in the whole current library network. This is why there is a great need for more library services in the city centre.

How will the Central Library be funded?

The Central Library is the main project for the 100th anniversary of Finnish independence. The State has granted 30 million euro as its share of the funding. In the budget of the City of Helsinki, 66 million euro has been reserved for the project. The total costs are €96 million euro.

Has a decision already been made on building the Central Library?

The final decision on building the Central Library was made at the City Council 28.1.2015.

Will the number of local libraries be reduced, if the Central Library is built?

The Library 10 operating in the Main Post Office and the Do It Yourself Makerspace operating in Lasipalatsi will move to the new Central Library, as will parts of the Pasila Library, such as the multilingual library with literature in over 90 languages. This means that parts of the Central Library already exist, and combining these activities under the same roof when the Central Library is completed will make the existing activities more efficient. The library network will undergo these changes, but otherwise there is no review of the library network planned in connection with the completion of the Central Library.

How will the Central Library affect the operation of the local libraries?

The operation of the Central Library will be implemented in cooperation with the whole Helsinki City Library network; in other words, service pilots for the new services in the Central Library will be implemented in the local libraries. The Central Library and its diverse services will also become a learning centre for the city library employees; through the rotation of tasks, new competences will be shared with other parts of the library network, and vice versa.

How will the Central Library differ from other large libraries?

Libraries are internationally valued, and they are seen as having an increasingly important role in the changing world. In many cities, new libraries located in the city centre are being planned and constructed, or they have already opened. Libraries are considered as important factors in vitalising city centres.

Globally, there are extensive library projects under way. For example, complexes of over 100,000 m2 are being built in Asia and China. The closest examples for Helsinki can be found in Århus, Denmark (to be opened in 2015), Oslo, Norway (2017) and Birmingham, United Kingdom (2013).

Helsinki wants to find its own model for the libraries of the future. However, the main focus is on the library’s core competence. Versatile reading skills and the ability to evaluate media critically are the foundations of active citizenship, and the Central Library will do its part to support them.

Why will the Central Library be located at Töölönlahti Bay?

The goal is to have the Central Library located in the middle of the city centre close to good transport connections, just like its name implies. The general public in particular has proposed that the Central Library should be located in the Main Post Office. The reasons given include the excellent location and the use of an existing building. However, transforming the partially protected Main Post Office into a space that can fulfil the requirements of a future library would require extremely extensive and expensive changes. A new building at Töölönlahti Bay will offer better opportunities for meeting the diverse and changeable needs for space in a library of the future.

Why was the architectural competition organised?

The goal of the architectural competition organised for the Central Library was to find an enduring design solution of high quality. At the same time, the solution should express the new operating concept of the library. Due to the importance of the subject, the competition was organised as an open competition in two phases.  In an open architectural competition, all designers have the opportunity to display their skills.  There were 544 entries submitted to the competition from all over the world.

What are the criteria the competition entries needed to fulfil?

The design solution should offer surroundings for library activity that are functionally on a high level and whose technology and spaces are modifiable. In addition, the solution should be eco-efficient, technically and financially feasible, and suitable for its unique location in terms of cityscape.

What were the grounds for selecting the winner of the architectural competition?

The winner rose above all of the participants based on the evaluation criteria. The criteria included the cityscape, architecture, usability, ecological sustainability, and feasibility.

The entry “Käännös” that the panel of judges selected as the winner is connected to its environment with a sure touch, while it is clearly present, taking its place as an important public monument. The building is inviting and easily approachable.”

The Central Library is a project celebrating Finland’s 100 years of independence

The preparations for the centenary will gather pace as 2017 approaches. The Prime Minister’s Office has set up a centenary project for the coordination and organisation of the preparations, see Finland 100.

The Central Library is a so-called development generator for the whole library sector. The opportunity to implement new kinds of library services on such a large scale will move the sector forward throughout the country. Other libraries in the country will be included in the development projects. In this way, libraries all over the country can benefit from the project already during the Central Library’s planning stage.

When will the Central Library open?

The City Council approved the project 28.1.2015. The foundation stone will be laid in 2015, and the construction will begin in 2016. The topping-off of the building will be celebrated in 2017, and the doors will open to the public in December 2018.


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