Beloved Oodi turns five years old

Central Library Oodi first opened its doors on 5 December 2018, the eve of Finnish Independence Day. In the five years since, Oodi has established its position as Helsinki’s most used library, a venue for literature events and one of the city’s most important tourist attractions. The library’s fifth anniversary will be celebrated together with residents on Tuesday 5 December.

Central Library Oodi was a 100th anniversary present to independent Finland. The long-awaited opening in 2018 was attended by a whopping 55,000 visitors, kicking off the busy everyday operation of Oodi. The library ended up garnering an exceptional amount of international media attention, as a result of which Oodi was even featured on the cover of The New York Times. The new library recorded a million visitors in under four months, and is expected to record its ten millionth visitor in early 2024.

Oodi has become an example of what an inclusive, open urban space can be. The library was designed with the input from and participation of city residents, and the people have really taken a shine to Oodi. This year, the library’s number of recorded visitors will come close to the pre-COVID record set in 2019. The visitor numbers and customer feedback both indicate that in just five years, Oodi has become an essential part of Helsinki, a place where different individuals and needs operate in tandem and interlinked.

“Everyone is welcome at Oodi, and equality is the most important of the library’s values – together with freedom of expression. At Oodi, businessmen, families with babies, students and homeless people all fit within the same walls, and we strive to provide suitable services for everyone,” says Director of Oodi Anna-Maria Soininvaara.

A house of literature and partnerships

Oodi has become not only the most visited library in Helsinki, but also the one with the highest number of loans. This year, Oodi has recorded just over 473,000 loans, accounting for nearly ten per cent of the Helsinki City Library’s total loans. Oodi is a house of literature, which is also reflected in its events: this year, Oodi has hosted over 170 literature-themed events, which have been attended by over 9,000 people. In 2022, Oodi started organising the annual Oodi Book Fest, and this year saw the library hand out the first ever Oodi poet of the year award.

“Oodi has made it its mission to serve as the innovation library of Finland’s public libraries. This means that every year is different for Oodi, as we are constantly developing our services. The pilot projects that prove most effective are replicated at other libraries in Helsinki or across Finland,” Anna-Maria Soininvaara explains.

While the building designed by ALA Architects provides an excellent setting for the library’s operations, it is the people who make Oodi. The staff of Oodi work in self-directed teams that develop services with an agile approach while listening to customers’ needs. Partnerships are an integral part of Oodi, with the library engaging in close cooperation with literary and cultural actors and non-governmental organisations, among others. The library building also houses the National Audiovisual Institute’s cinema Kino Regina, a youth space, Playground Loru, Helsinki-info, Food & Co restaurant Oodi and EU@Oodi, which provides information about the EU.

“At Oodi, we value collaboration, listening to others and increasing your own understanding. I dare say that Oodi offers something for everyone that is worth leaving the house for – an opportunity to be inspired by new experiences or encounters every day,” Soininvaara summarises.

An anniversary programme featuring a schlager dance, clown shows and literature discussions

Oodi’s fifth anniversary will be celebrated with a varied programme on Tuesday 5 December starting from 14:00. The celebration will kick off at 14:00 with EU@Oodi serving cake on the ground floor. Schlager orchestra Vallilan Tango will be giving attendees something to dance to in Maijansali on the 1st floor at 15:00 and 16:30. Clown Lilli Pii will be putting on a fun show for families with children in the children’s area on the third floor of Oodi at 17:00 and 18:00. The Urban Workshop will be holding an open day, providing visitors with an opportunity to test a UV printer and a large format printer and exploring the photography and music studios.

The anniversary day’s literature programme will delve into the favourite books of famous Oodi customers. Talking about their favourite books in the third floor Book Heaven will be Mayor of Helsinki Juhana Vartiainen, YouTuber Nelli Orell, the founders of the POC book club Aracelis Correa and Téri Zambrano, and author Philip Teir. The books mentioned in the discussions can be loaned from book exhibitions curated by the guests, which will be displayed at Oodi from 27 November to 10 December.

The event is open to everyone.

Photo: Kuvatoimisto Kuvio