European Study Tour – Post No. 5

Well Hello! and Goodbye! to Helsinki. The weather is staying with us and the group continues to get along famously.

We arrived in Helsinki and we immediately knew we were not in Kobenhavn anymore. We felt special as our coach driver was standing at the gate with a CULC\CBUC sign. We were downtown in 30 minutes to find our hotel right on the town square. On one side was the train station and the other was the famed Helsinki 10 Music and Technology Library. 90 minutes after arriving we were at H10.

We were among the first to hear Helsinki’s exciting news: it was announced that they would be getting a brand new central library right behind where we were staying, and more importantly, nestled between the Modern Art Museum and the brand new Music Centre. It is as prime a spot as you could ever want.

Here are some early thoughts on what we learned:

  • Flickr issues still, but if you can find Ken Roberts HPL then you will get a really good sense of what we are seeing.
  • Sunnivva Drake. If you have not met or heard of this woman you should get on a flight, fly to Helsinki, show up In the lobby of the Sello Library in Espoo and she will be there to greet you. The Regional Library Manager sits on a stage in the middle of the massive entrance way and directs the place. She knows eveybody by name, has more personality than a room full of extroverts and some really strong views about what and how libraries need to do business. Her staff knows she is in the House (what they call the building) because she turns on a salt lamp in the window of her actual office. However, if you want to find her, she sits with her laptop, funky socks (in sandals), on the stage where she conducts all her meetings including staff meetings. She has her kettle on the stage to make tea. People wave at her all day; she hollers if she wants to catch someone’s attention.
  • The Sello Library. Located across a courtyard from a huge shopping mall just outside of Helsinki is an amazing example of a library in action. They do two things one they describe as HAPPENING PLACE and the other is TRADITIONAL. Everybody but Fascists are welcome to use the space. Sunnivva fired the architect because he wouldn’t listen and was a barrier to reaching their objectives. They have rooms where your piano teacher can teach you; your band can practice; you can play Wii; or play chess which is a popular teen game. They were having a library card throwing contest for prizes the day we were there. The places is animated by staff who wear these great vests (Ken Roberts has the sample) and they can personalize them to a certain extent. What a refreshing place.
  • Urban office. Literally in the middle of Helsinki a place dedicated to small biz owners who can go and be productive between meetings, meet a client, use a small meeting table. Tonnes of services and now they are trying to be an incubator for neat biz ideas that benefit society.
  • Reindeer soup. Ask Maureen Barry to invite you over and share her creamy Finnish soup. She didn’t get the chunky version though!
  • Architects and their groupies were working overtime seeing famous and not so famous sites.
  • Book talking gone high tech. Two young specialist library assistants blew us away with their big screen promotion of books to school groups. They work in threes in a tightly choreographed presentation set to music and visuals on a massive rear projection screen. They are hip and they connect instantly and really know their stuff.
  • Had a group dinner with traditional Finnish fare. Should have gone for Lapland food, but still had another great night of camaraderie.
  • On to our final stop of Amsterdam. It is Ken’s 55th birthday today so we may have to toast him on what’s expected to be a summer weekend in Amsterdam. We are all looking forward to staying at the brand-new Mint hotel across the street from the Amsterdam Public Library.

    We are visiting DOK, Book Mountain, Almere and Amsterdam Public Library.

⚠️ Safety is a top priority for Canadian public libraries. The CULC/CBUC Safety and Security Toolkit provides a menu of options to help manage and respond to security incidents more effectively. Visit to enhance your library's safety plan! 📚

Just released — OVERDUE: The Case for Canada’s Public Libraries is the product of three years of CUI’s engagement with Canada’s urban public libraries alongside @culc_cbuc.
Read the report at:

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