Oodi – Not Your Average Library

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Just over a month ago, one day before the Finnish Independence Day, the much anticipated new central library opened in Helsinki. Myself, along with the rest of the city it seemed, had been waiting to visit the beautiful three-storey ship-like building made of wood, glass and steel – and we weren’t disappointed. What a place! Makes me proud to be a Finn.

The name of the 98 million euro library is “Oodi”, which means “ode”. But it isn’t a conventional library; the ground floor includes a restaurant, movie theatre and an European Union information centre. The second floor is all about gaming rooms, workrooms and electronic equipment, – such as 3D printers, computerised embroidery machines, UV printers, laser cutters etc. Just what you would expect from a very technologically advanced country I guess.

The top floor is a haven of light, interesting shapes and places to sit down and relax and socialise – and there are a few books too. There’s also a play/lounge area for kids where Lana and Maya kept themselves busy for a good while. It’s like a massive new living room open to everyone. We visited on a Saturday before Christmas and were stunned by how beautifully designed it all was. It was amazing to see a library that full of life and so many faces looking around in awe.

In the US and the UK many libraries are closing down and facing drastic budget cuts, whereas the trend in the Nordics is the opposite – next year a new central library in Oslo is due to open. But these libraries aren’t traditional libraries, they contain so much more – because they need to evolve alongside everything else. If you want to read more about Oodi in English, check out this article by the Guardian.

Finland is the most literate country in the world and book-borrowing among the world’s highest. I have to admit though that I haven’t borrowed a book since my Uni years and can’t remember the last book I read…I blame it on sleep deprivation!

Because of all the natural light it’s a great place to take photos too!…Lana was intensely watching some other kids playing in the photo above – definitely not posing for me!

I will be visiting soon with the kids again. They loved it and I enjoyed just being there, taking it all in. It’s such an open, bright space that I felt it was easy to breathe there. But will also sort out a library card and maybe even borrow some books…

So, what do you think?

x Nina x