Voice of the city residents – participatory planning

Helsinki Central Library 2018 is a new kind of project, whose contents and operation models are being sought in co-operation with the library, city residents, and partners. The Central Library project is based on the idea that more than architects’ pens are needed to create a new, functional library at the Helsinki City centre: the needs and wishes of city residents are incorporated into the design process.

New initiatives and participatory democracy

There are two sides to interaction with the city residents. On one hand, this is about a new kind of development work: user-oriented innovation and co-creation. On the other hand, there is a desire to improve participatory democracy and the opportunities of the city residents to participate and make a difference, and to open up the decision-making processes.

City residents as the messengers of the library

At their best, the city residents bring in not only their voices but also their problem-solving skills as a part of the planning process, or they become messengers of the library. Involving people is human-centred work, with the goal that the functions, services and contents of the Central Library should genuinely emerge from the wishes and needs of the city residents.

Why is the Central Library being planned together?

The Central Library is to be a public space open to all. Because of this, it is in essence a much politicized space as it is owned by everyone. According to the City of Helsinki’s strategy program for 2013-2016, participation and local democracy are to have a key role. The different City Departments that are involved with the Central Library want to be a part of this progression. Within Helsinki there has been a growing movement where people are interested in new methods of influencing and cooperating to affect change that doesn’t follow the traditional structures of administration. The Central Library will provide the platform and be a channel for individual and collective activity. This will form a new way to influence, promote citizen activism, and shape a space that empowers urban culture, all of which will support solutions that focus on creating a more functional society.

The long span of influence

Not all the ideas of the city residents can be implemented. In developing ideas into services, there are many steps in between and the timespan is long. Ideas and everyday understanding are collected in the analysis stage. In the concept stage, options and concepts are created based on the ideas. In implementation, a concept is crystallised into a solution: a service, product, and/or facility. The goal is to go to the local libraries to test and implement the service pilots born out of the city residents’ ideas that will form a basis for the new services.

Titbits from the work that has been done

Dream! campaign
In the campaign, the author Rosa Liksom, Development Director Ossi Kuittinen, Sitra, the cellist and musician Eicca Toppinen of the band Apocalyptica, the comic artist Kaisa Leka, the philosopher Esa Saarinen, the film director Dome Karukoski, and student Hilppa Tuomainen described their own dreams about the Central Library and invited other city residents to create ideas with them. A total of approximately 2,300 ideas were collected – thanks to everyone who participated! The dreams were categorised and described so that an analysis of them could be created. Out of the dreams, pilots and trials developing the content of the library of the future have been refined, and the people of local libraries have participated in their implementation.

Make decisions about the money – participatory budgeting
The Central Library was among the first to try out the most effective form of direct democracy, participatory budgeting. In the trial, the city residents decided the answer to the question of what the library should do with €100,000 of development funding. The city residents chose four projects to be started in 2013 from eight pilot projects that were created based on dreams submitted by the city residents. Read more!

Urban experiences
The Central Library has gone to places where people are as a pop-up library and participated in city events, offering opportunities to do and experience things. The events have had their special target groups, such as young people, hipsters, city activists, non-governmental organisations, designers, Do It Yourself culture experts, hobbyists, and hobbyist communities. The library has been involved in many things – for example, the library has taken to the streets on bicycle libraries, piloted a sauna idea on the shores of Töölönlahti Bay, crocheted graffiti with the city residents, made creativity bloom at the WDC Pavilion, done street painting on the Central Library plot, and got people to try out their skills in making stuff at the festival WÄRK:fest.

Specific targets
Workshops organised together with partners and target groups have been used to look for more specific ideas and cooperation models. The workshops have been directed at groups such as children, young people, families, early educators and pedagogues, digital culture actors, influential literary figures, enthusiasts of learning and competence, and lead users in the makerspace field.

See the Central Library!
The architectural competition entries have been available for the Helsinki residents to see, vote for and comment online, in exhibitions and on touchscreens at different places in the city centre. Read more!

Ala laputtaa (Tag it) event
Customers had an opportunity to test a new way of leaving feedback about the library services on the campaign day 7.10.2012. You could write the feedback on a sticky note and attach it directly on the object of praise or criticism in the library. At the end of the day, the libraries were covered in colourful spots, when the walls, desks, doors, and the backs of the librarians’ shirts were decorated with sticky notes.