Oodi — an ode to community

Oodi – which means ode in Finnish – is Helsinki’s Central Library.

The original idea of a central library was floated in 1988. The Oodi leaflet for newcomers goes on to say that construction eventually began in 2015 and was opened a few years later to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence.

In the first year, over three million people visited Oodi, and it won the international Public Library of the Year award in 2019.

The library, which is opposite Parliament House, is a symbol of equality. It has something for everyone and is like a public living room. Libraries in Finland are known for providing unusual services to the community. One library, I read, provides a sourdough starter!

The three floors are themed: for meeting (first), creating (second) and reading (third).

The creative floor has several things I’ve not seen in many libraries: a 3D printer, a UV printer (for printing on objects), a laser cutter, a large format printer, a vinyl cutter, sewing machines, and rooms for computer games (consoles and virtual reality glasses). There are studios for creating music and instruments can be borrowed.

The third floor houses the actual books — for adults and children — in twenty-three languages. There’s lots of child-friendly space for children to play bare-footed. Games are available for them too. Young and old read and study on this floor. And even though the children are playing, the open-space building has been designed to contain sound so that the excited children do not disturb others.

To help the staff, there are three robots that transport boxes of books between the floors! After a library poll, the robots were named Tatu, Patu, and Veera (all from Finnish children’s literature).

I loved this library and wished every town had something like this — a beautiful, imaginative, and practical place to bring the community together.

One thought on “Oodi — an ode to community”

Leave a Reply