Oodi Library acts as Helsinki’s urban living room

The Finnish government built the flagship library Oodi as a present to its citizens after the country celebrated 100 years of independence in 2017. It is a clear indication of how important reading and education are to Finns.

Once inside the light-filled, atmospheric entrance hall of Oodi, the Helsinki Central Library, the visitor is spoiled for choice.

“Borrow outdoor games,” suggests a sign on the wall. Or how about browsing magazines and books, playing video games or boardgames, hanging out with your kids in the play area, experimenting with arts and crafts, recording music in one of the studios or finding a quiet nook where you can work or just relax?

Kuutio (Cube), a glass-walled space of 90 square metres (960 square feet), can be reserved for meetings of up to 50 people or for displaying media art. There is also a National Audiovisual Institute cinema, Kino Regina, in the building.

Inclusive approach

In a large room with a high ceiling, parents and small children lounge and play on sofas and rugs.

The children’s area provides space for kids and parents to play.Photo: Risto Rimppi/Oodi

Finland is home to 280 main public libraries and more than 430 branch libraries. Providing equal opportunities for reading activities, learning new things and active citizenship is a national mission with a long history. An inclusive approach is the key.

“The strong role of the Finnish National Library is based on the Library Law, first enacted in 1928,” says Ulla Leinikka, information specialist at Oodi. “Libraries are non-commercial and open for everyone. You can even pop in just to warm up if you like.”

Oodi has received a number of international architecture awards. In 2019 the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions named it Public Library of the Year.

By Minna Takkunen, ThisisFINLAND Magazine