The library institution is one of the cornerstones of Finnish equality and learning. The public library is the most used and popular cultural service in Finland. Finland is known as a nation of libraries and the Number One country in literacy.
Libraries are more than books in Finland; they are a manifestation of democracy and openness – in a library, everybody has access to information. This universal right is also based on the law in Finland.
Helsinki operates 37 city libraries
The city also operates two mobile libraries serving the sections of the city without a local library. There are 10 institutional libraries and a home service for those who can’t reach a library by their own means.
Helsinki city libraries are part of the Helmet network (Helsinki Metropolitan Area Libraries), which includes the city libraries of the neighbouring cities of Espoo, Kauniainen and Vantaa. As a Helmet customer, a Helsinki resident can use the services of all Helmet libraries, which include 3.5 million books and the eLibrary, the largest electronic collection in the Nordic countries.
Helmet’s eLibrary is open 24 hours, offering thousands of titles comprising e-books, e-audiobooks, magazines, music, online courses and databases. The eLibrary can be visited on smart phones.
All main library services are free of charge. Everybody with a permanent address in Finland can have a library card and use the services available with the card.
Helsinki Central Library Oodi looks into the future
Finnish public libraries received a flagship with the opening of Helsinki Central Library Oodi in December 2018. Oodi is a new type of library that combines traditional library services and novel library services.
The ground floor of the three-storey Oodi building is dedicated to events and encounters. The second floor is a space for learning by doing with makerspace: customers can improve their digital skills, use sewing machines, print posters, 3D print, make music in studios, hold gaming events, learn how to cook, and study in quiet reading rooms. The top floor is Book Heaven, which serves customers with a collection of 100,000 books and Family Library, as well as with breathtaking views of Helsinki.
The design of Oodi was a participatory process involving both citizens and library professionals. The library was a gift to the Finnish people celebrating 100 years of Finnish independence: one-third of the library construction was financed by the Finnish Government. The building is an architectural landmark designed by ALA Architects.
In addition to Helsinki city libraries, Helsinki is home to the National Library of Finland, which is Finland’s largest and oldest research library, and the Helsinki University Main Library in Kaisa House.