Chief Editor: Ansar Mahmood Bhatti

Finland’s ‘ode’ to a new era in libraries

Finland's 'ode' to a new era in libraries

HELSINKI (DNA) – What do you give the world’s most literate country for its 100th birthday? For Finland’s politicians and public, the answer was simple: a vast, state-of-the-art library, a new “living room for the nation”.

Twenty years in the planning, Helsinki’s central library officially opens on December 5 at the end of a year of festivities marking the centenary of Finland’s independence after breaking with Russia in 1917 following six centuries under Swedish rule.

It is a huge, flowing structure of wood and glass sitting on a prime spot in the city centre, directly opposite the Finnish parliament.

But whereas the parliament building is an austere and imposing hunk of granite, the new library was designed by Finnish firm ALA Architects as a welcoming, undulating structure, clad in 160 kilometres’ worth (99 miles) of Finnish spruce, drawing people inside with a “warm hug”.

Finland’s ‘ode’ to a new era in libraries

Named Oodi — “ode” in Finnish — it is intended as a paean to knowledge, learning and equality in what was ranked the world’s most literate country by a 2016 report based on official statistics.

As the grand opening approaches, workers are frantically trying to finish the outside of the building. Installing the flowing wood panelling has proven harder than expected in Helsinki’s freezing climate.

The interior, however, is largely ready.

While books will feature heavily — 100,000 of them — the cutting-edge facility also boasts studios for music and video production, a cinema, and workshops containing 3D printers and laser cutters, all free of charge for the public.

It will also house an EU-funded visitor centre, offering information on the 28-member bloc’s work and its impact on people’s daily lives.

“Oodi gives a new modern idea of what it means to be a library,” Tommi Laitio, Helsinki’s executive director of culture and leisure, told.

“It is a house of literature but it’s also a house of technology, it’s a house of music, it’s a house of cinema, it’s a house of the European Union.

“And I think all of these come together to this idea of hope and progress,” Laitio said.






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