Redefining Library, Oodi in Helsinki
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a different style of libraries in the digital era? At Oodi, the Central Library in Helsinki, Finland, children can run around freely and students experiment with a 3D printer. YouTube creators film cooking clips. Of course, there are books, too.
Can the Helsinki Oodi Central Library be categorized as a library? The National Institute of the Korean Language defines a library as “a facility that has all kinds of books, documents, records, and publications in one place for the general public to see.” According to this, it will raise questions to call Oodi a library. In today’s world where YouTube is a household name along with Google, Finland suggests what future libraries could be like, through Oodi.
Oodi, which opened last December in downtown Helsinki, is a public library that is the 37th in the Finnish capital and 730th in Finland. The biggest one of the commemorative projects for the 100th anniversary of Finnish independence, building the unprecedented-style library required 20 years of planning. Oodi consists of three floors. The first floor, which is the lobby, has a cafe, restaurant, multi-purpose hall and movie theater. It functions as a venue for meetings and gatherings. The second floor is designed to accommodate various creative activities. Before you head upstairs to the second floor though, check out the restroom in the basement, featuring clever automated functions. Once someone goes into a stall, the light turns on automatically and the person’s silhouette appears on the opaque door. There’s no unpleasantness or uneasiness despite the fact that it’s a unisex toilet.
Back to the second floor, there’s a computer lab, cooking studio, recording studio, and conference room. It is also equipped with various design tools including 3D printers and sewing machines. How people gain knowledge and find information has greatly diversified over time. Assuming that was one of the roles of a library, the library in the digital era should be a space to learn and experience digital culture, for rich and poor alike. Along with its book service, Oodi also provides some innovative services. Its second floor is the space where users are encouraged to make new approaches in terms of sharing ideas and carrying them out. You would find it natural to run into a kid playing a game, a student sewing up something, or youngsters gathered in groups in this library.
The third floor, finally, serves the role of a traditional library. About 100,000 volumes of books are available, covering the fields of music, art, design, travel, and so on. The bookcases were designed to stand lower than the average adult height, and particularly for the children’s section, even lower in consideration of their eye level. It’s a space where children can freely roam around and laugh. Even without dividing the sections for adults and children, no one complains about it.
Light plays a vital role in setting the tone for a space. Oodi has glass-panel walls. The sunlight shone through the windows create the cosiest ambience. As you walk toward either end of the elongated building, the floor tilts up a bit so that sitting there makes you feel like you’re sitting on a hill outside. If you’re not busy, you may order coffee from the cafe in the center and walk out to the terrace to drink. Enjoy the coffee break there, while overlooking the Finnish Parliament House, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki Music Center, and Finlandia Hall.
Oodi is open to travelers, too. The library is full of attraction for them. The architecture itself is worth appreciating, with its technological feat and aesthetic value deemed unrivaled in the contemporary world. The design of the building was completed by ALA Architects who’ve won the international contest for the project in 2013. They created the impressive wavy exterior of the structure using glass panels and planks of Finnish spruce timber. Oodi is a must-see place even just for its architecture. However, its true beauty comes from the fact that it more than fulfills its purpose. Experience now this amazing future library presented by the book-loving people of Finland.
Helsinki Oodi Central Library
Address Töölönlahdenkatu 4, 00100 Helsinki
Address Töölönlahdenkatu 4, 00100 Helsinki