Photo: Jonna Pennanen

Oodi took Helsinki libraries to new heights in 2019

The first full year of operation of the City of Helsinki Central Library Oodi surpassed all expectations. A total of 3.1 million visits were made to Oodi in 2019. Other libraries in Helsinki also hit record numbers. The total number of visits to all libraries in Helsinki reached a whopping 9 million. This meant a nearly 40 per cent increase from the previous year.

Customers also requested record numbers of new library cards in 2019: close to 47,000 cards. Library card statistics show that people made a record 9.4 million loans, and the cards were also used to download unforeseen numbers of audiobooks and magazines. The number of audiobook downloads increased by 84 per cent and that of digital magazines nearly doubled with an increase of 97 per cent.

The spike in the interest in libraries is partly due to the libraries’ newly extended service offering. Libraries now offer more and more musical instruments, tools, sports equipment and other items and devices for loan. The most popular among these are various technical equipment and items related to playing games.

Events also attract crowds to libraries. In 2019, more than 7,000 different events drawing more than 300,000 participants were organised in libraries. The most frequent events included story hours and literature-related events, but libraries also offered many different events from chair exercise to language cafés and comic book courses.

Helsinki’s Director of Library Services Katri Vänttinen is pleased with how active library users are. “I am impressed with how much our customers like to spend time in libraries and I am grateful for all the positive feedback and development ideas we receive. 2019 showed that the new digital age is not going to rob libraries of customers; instead, it has increased the number of customers of both local and online services,” she says.

The Helsinki City Library online services had 12.9 million visits in 2019.The joint online service for Espoo, Helsinki, Kauniainen and Vantaa had 9.7 million visits. The Varaamo reservation service for venues and equipment offered by libraries, among others, had 400,000 visits last year.

In addition to local services, Helsinki City Library maintains and develops national online services for libraries. There was a clear increase in their usage, as well. The Ask the Librarian service, for example, garnered more than two million visits and the literary service Kirjasampo nearly 1.9 million.

The fact that so many people enjoy library services makes Katri Vänttinen happy. “For us at the library, the most important thing is that we are able to bring people joy through relevant library services. Whether people want to work or study or spend their free time in a meaningful way, the library wants to be an attractive option,” Vänttinen says.