Comment on this article

Helsinki Central Library Oodi, Finland  (part 3)

by Oodi Library Staff


Oodi belongs to the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Library network, whose floating collection consists of 3.2 millionitems available to lend. In Oodi we have room for about 100,000 items. In addition to books, newspapers and magazines we have the Helsinki City Library’s largest collection of sheet music, a very extensive collection of comics and a wide range of console and board games. The focus of the collection is in architecture, art and crafts, DIY and Finnish culture.

The collection offers material to all age groups in 20 languages. Books in Swedish (Finland’s second official language) and English are featured side by side with Finnish, and we also have materials in all the largest immigrant languages spoken in Helsinki. The languages represented on Oodi’s shelves include for example Russian, Estonian, Spanish, Arabic, Somali and Chinese, as well as the Sámi languages of the indigenous people of Arctic Europe.

Makerspace and the 2nd floor

On Oodi’s second floor we have different facilities for visitors to create, work and study. Only 2% of Oodi’s floor space are staff offices. Otherwise, we have 10 group rooms and 6 smaller work rooms for anyone to reserve and use. We have a small kitchen for visitors to rent and hold library events, gaming rooms, studios and space for hanging around – the seating staircase on the 2nd floor gathers people to sit, work, play board games and talk with friends.

The makerspace, Urban workshop, is a space for making, creating and learning. Customers can use for example sewing machines, embroidery machine, laser cutter, large scale printer, vinyl cutter, UV-printer and 3D printers. More often than not, users also help and teach each other along with the staff. Everyone at Oodi works at the Urban Workshop from time to time. Staff is always present, and we help you to get started on your project. This is a low threshold service – we want it to be accessible. Using the machines is free; we only charge small fees for the materials like poster paper or veneer.

Our makerspace has media workstations, where you can edit photos, video and music. In addition, there are eight different studios. They are professional level, soundproof studios where you can play, sing, record and edit music. You can lend high quality instruments to play at the studios. There is a photo and video studio with camera, lights and backgrounds for photoshoots that just opened its doors this August.  

There are three console gaming rooms with VR-glasses that anyone can book with a library card. A lot of young people use the service, but there are also plenty of families and children with grandparents. Gaming is a social event in the library people play together also at the gaming class that has gaming computers with games for all ages.

The restrictions put in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus have naturally forced us to temporarily close some of our services and make changes to our practices. To enable our customers to use the library facilities in a safe way even during the pandemic, we have for example limited personal guidance and reduced the maximum capacity of people in certain spaces. Now the restrictions are gradually being lifted, but we are closely monitoring the situation and will make new adjustments when needed.

Space for media art

Kuutio ("The Cube") is a one of a kind multisensory and immersive space on Oodi’s second floor. The Media Cube Project brings media art to the library. It is a collaboration between Oodi, Arts Promotion Centre Finland, Artists’ Association MUU, and University of the Arts Helsinki. The purpose of the project is to bring immersive media art into Oodi Library’s Kuutio space with its smart glass walls that cover two sides of the space. The specific aim in Oodi is to develop the presentation practices of media art in the library. The exhibitions have been planned specifically for the Kuutio space and they utilize, for example, game engine and touch technology. On the first floor, we also have large media walls that have been used in various media exhibitions.

Technology and robotics

We want to make media art accessible to all. In much the same way, we want to make robotics visible and available to our visitors. Oodi has three logistics robots named after Finnish picture book characters – Patu, Tatu and Veera – and two robotic hands that will sort out returns in the future.

At the moment, the mobile robot Patu independently brings items upstairs from the logistics department with an elevator. Mobile robots move freely in the customer space avoiding objects and moving between the bookshelves to the amazement of customers – they attract smiles from people of all ages. The heavy logistical work is automated, and staff is freed to do the shelving into book carts in the daylight of the 3rd floor while being available to help visitors.

The social robot project last year together with Futurice brought a mobile robot to guide visitors to the right call number at Oodi’s third floor. You could ask "Where are the cookbooks?" on a touchscreen and it would guide you to the correct shelf. Reactions were positive and the mobile robot was a conversation starter. It brings technology from an abstract level to eye level.

All in all, what we are striving for is building a functional, equal society by offering access to spaces and knowledge to everyone. Our aim is to enable and inspire, to promote information and skills that people can use to enrich their lives and to offer possibilities to create a richer city culture.

Copyright 2020 by Oodi Library Staff.