Sally and Edith in Europe

LIANZA Travelling Scholarship

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Learning Lessons in Helsinki

Helsinki and I got off to a wobbly start.  I wasn’t feeling the love and the ‘wibe’ just wasn’t there.  To my eyes this is not a ‘pretty’ place (I have yet to find that but I am sure it is out there somewhere – I haven’t looked enough yet) but at the heart of this place is a very lovely warm attitude to people and libraries demonstrate this with abandon.

My ignorance of this place is evident as I wander around looking at the buildings wondering why they are so uninviting and functional…5 months of snow a year will do that to a place.  No big doors welcoming you in, rather small doors with small signs, no ‘yelling’ here.  On the inside you find warmth and noise, happy social people enjoying themselves and using their libraries like crazy.  There is a big tradition here of loving libraries.  
Today I visited two; ‘Library 10’ which I am sure many people know of and ‘meetingpoint@lasipalatsi’ which is a library with no collection.  It is a place of service where people can go to get free internet as well as free help with any technology.  There are scanners there as well as Mac stuff for doing photoshop and a new fangled 3D printer.  They also have a rpinter and vinyl cutter where people starting businesses or wanting to print a t-shirt or something can do so for 40cents and the they have a Laptop Dr  who can work through issues you are having with your device and help you in ways the guy down at the shop wont.  Free advice and tuition on how it all works not trying to work out the problem with the hardware, if you know what I mean?  Similar to the tutorial bars in the Apple stores.
Included in this space also are the ‘urban office’ spaces for start up companies, and others to book.  I have seen similar in other places where rooms are set aside for business…empty.  This place was full.  The difference?  Set up in the upstairs foyer of a famous but old building in the city with gold leaf on the walls (extremely cool) it is a bit shabby and put together but people come for the Service, the friendly knowledgable staff.  They are mainly men with the ubiquitous long hair…and they love their technology and love sharing it with people of all ages.  
What I am seeing here is innovation, focus on making services work and experimentation. Nadia at Library 10 admitted it has been a journey and things take time but their success lies in the commitment to the service they are providing from their space, not just the space itself.   Remember this!!! Easy to say it, hard to do it. Lessons in form and function.
Both of these places will close and be merged into the new central library in 2017 and they will then face the same challenge everyone else is facing, making a few flash building cosy and people friendly
And I am not kidding about the hair, there are 100’s of ponytailed men, they tell me it is normal. Also tattoos, lots and lots.   Best of all I met two cool people today who are going to NEXT in Aarhus which is a big bonus. Now I am up to 5 people I will know, so that is a party right there. And one more thing Lotta thinks the iPad is not a blogger friendly tool either. Phew .