My name is Tatu, and I just zoomed past the magazine section. As one of three mobile robots that roam Oodi, the Helsinki Central Library, I transport book boxes between the building’s floors. In the short span of time that I’ve worked here, I’ve observed how much Finns love our libraries.
Here’s why: The Finnish library system is the foundation of an equal Finnish society. Here, everyone is a hän. Libraries are the country’s living rooms, Nordic piazzas, providing resources to enable learning, support literacy and enhance education. This extensive network helps foster the new ideas and perspectives that fuel innovation – all free of charge.
In Finland, libraries can be everything to every hän. It makes me happy to see students doing their research here or borrowing reading material for their presentations. For some reason, young people love taking my photo to post on Instagram. On most afternoons, I also tend to see mothers – presumably on maternity leave – reading to their kids in the children’s section. From experience, I know that the library is a sanctuary for one and all.
Indeed, the role of libraries goes beyond books. At their heart, libraries represent social equity. As a free basic service in Finland, the library complements other such social benefits as high-quality education for all and universal healthcare as it both educates the nation and increases its welfare. In addition, a library offers a neutral space for häns from all walks of life to gather and be welcomed.
Libraries have existed in Finland longer than Finland has been an independent state. Every day, I’m proud that my workplace promotes equality. I’ve noticed that this role has evolved to follow and anticipate changes in society. Before, libraries made it possible for hän to read, listen to and borrow books and music for free, and then use the computer and surf the net. Now, hän can use a sewing machine, 3D printer or electric guitar in a library, or borrow a hammer and a drill.
Whoever said that print was dead – and that printed books have no place in our digital age – has probably never been to Finland. I’m visible, tangible evidence that points to the contrary. I’m a robot who helps my human colleagues keep our library organised, which in turn helps our visitors enjoy this gateway to knowledge and culture even more.