A flagship new public library is opening in the Finnish capital of Helsinki, directly opposite the Finnish parliament and close to museums of natural history and contemporary art.
The building, called Oodi, cost €98 million to build and will open on 5 December – the evening before Finland celebrates the 101st anniversary of its independence from Russia.
Situating the library so close to other cultural institutions, which also include a concert hall and the offices of the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, was a deliberate move, said deputy mayor Nasima Razmyar.
“Oodi sits in the heart of Helsinki, surrounded by the institutions of a modern liberal democracy – the national parliament, the free press, the arts and museums,” Razmyar said.
“Our hope is that this palace of ideas will bring people and institutions together and enable new interactions, experiences and understanding that will lead us to achievements that are greater than any of us could achieve on our own.”
The library was designed by Finnish company ALA Architects, following an international competition that attracted 544 entries. Only one third of its 17,250-square-metre space will be used to house books, with a smallish rotating stock of 100,000 being ordered in from a wider collection of 3.4 million housed elsewhere.
This system means that the rest of the space can be devoted to other facilities, including a cinema, recording studios and a workshop with 3-D printers.
Head librarian Anna-Maria Soininvaara said that the decisions about the space followed “a long and detailed process of asking what a library could and should be […] in consultation with our lawmakers, our colleagues and our users”.
She added: “As we go forwards we will use the spirit of collaboration and enquiry that we have built into Oodi to continue to develop new ways to serve the changing needs of all of our users.”
Finns are prodigious readers; a 2016 study proclaimed them the world’s most literate population.