Oodi

“Finns are ranked as some of the most literate people in the world, as well as some of the most prolific users of libraries. On average, every resident of Finland borrows 16 items from a library each year.” – from Finland.fi.

When I was seven or eight years old I guess, my mom regularly took me to the public library behind the big shopping center on what was yet to become Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis.

I think it has been all those years since I had the general light euphoria and sense of well-being that came with being in such a lovely, peaceful, well-meaning place as Oodi, the new main Helsinki public library last week.

Opened to acclaim last December, on Independence Day eve, Oodi (“ode” in Finnish) is a library, but it’s more than that, it’s a gathering place, a community center, and a dramatic demonstration of one of the ways Finns feel it is appropriate to spend €98 million of public money.

Besides books for borrowing, there are conference rooms, studios for recording and editing audio and video projects, a theatre and various workshops with sophisticated equipment for, for example, laser cutting. There are 3-D printers and extra-wide photo printers and there is plenty of space to spend the day working on your project, or just lounging about.

Again from Finland.fi:

“The biggest technical innovation by far is the ‘Cube,’ a room with smart walls,” says Vänttinen. “A person can use huge touch screens to transform the room into almost anything through 3D virtual reality. Artists are already planning to use the Cube for digital immersive art exhibitions, and medical students would like to study surgery there, using it as a virtual operating room.”

Let’s have a look.

It’s in a central downtown location, just off Mannerheimintie, main street. It’s beside Musiikkitalo, the Helsinki Music Center, home to the Helsinki Philharmonic, the Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum, close to Finlandia Hall and across the street from parliament.

Spacious and well attended.

This is a 3-D printer. There’s a suite of these for hire.

Sewing machines, all in use.

These folks are inspecting the industrial-sized printers available to print your advertising banner, or whatever you might need that’s over a meter wide.

The kids behind glass in these adjacent suites are playing virtual video games.

Three floors, seating throughout.

The top floor, with books in Finnish and other languages. Borrow games, comics, graphic novels, cds, movies, training courses for any number of languages and disciplines.

For a sense of the pride of place with which people hold Oodi, this row of chairs faces an outdoor terrace for events, and beyond it, that’s the parliament building across the street.

See collected photos from this slow trip around the world here.

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