31 October, 2008

Sello Library, Leppävaara District, Finland

My next library in this report back on the Great Public Library Tour of the World is Sello Library, Leppävaara District, Finland.

Espoo is the second largest city of Finland, with a population of approximately 240,000. It is part of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. Espoo is the headquarters of Nokia. There are 14 libraries in Espoo; 3 of these libraries are in shopping centres, with a 4th coming 2009 and a 5th in 2010. There are also 2 mobile libraries.

Leppävaara District Library in Sello is the Main Library of the Espoo municipality. It is the busiest library in Helsinki.

Sello is the second largest shopping centre in Scandinavia, and was completed in 2005. There are over 160 shops and covers a total area 97,000 square metres, with 2,500 customer parking spaces. The library is situated adjacent to the shopping centre and pays market rent. The developers encourage libraries in malls, recognising their “civilising impact.”

Vital statistics
Size sqm 5,846 square metres
Population 24,000 (Leppävaara)
Visits 825,000 visits (3,000 – 4,000 per day)
Circulation 1.3 million loans (4,000 per day)
Collection 180,000 books, total collection 225,000
Date opened Opened 11th of August 2003

Financial arrangements
Budget: 3,5 million euros
Rent: 1,5 million € per year
Library service provision is free in Finland.

An interesting offer is to “borrow a librarian” for 45 minutes You can book online to have a librarian help you with your information request.

There are over 100 pcs for customers as well as a computer classroom with 10 pcs. 20 pcs have Microsoft Office, photoshop and other software loaded. There is a meeting room that accommodates 50 people. A reading room with 40 desks provides a quiet area for people who wish to read or study. There are 12 self check units and 2 sorting machines. Espoo was a pioneer in self service in Finland. 2 soundproof music rooms house 2 pianos - 1 of which is a grand piano. These rooms are very popular – with over 650 bookings a year.

The aim of the library is to be a Cultural Department store – the Stockman (large upmarket Swedish department store) of libraries, with everything under the one roof. It is a place where everything happens.

Books and writing
There are a number of partnerships, especially with publishers and bookshops. The library hosts fantasy and creative writing groups for young people. It has also hosted NaNoWrimo, which is an online web 2.0 application that allows different people to write a novel in a month.

There are many multicultural programs held by the library. Regular bilingual storytimes are held in Swedish, Chines and Hindi. Many children are left in the library after school and homework help programs are being developed for them. The library organises multicultural mother and child groups for immigrant women, with storytelling and conversation. The main groups are Russian, Estonian, Vietnamese and Albanian.

Marketing and Promotion
The library goes to the shopping mall to promote itself, to read stories and play music.
One example of a promotional event was the Cuba evening, in partnership with the Friendship Association of Cuba. Finland has a close relationship with a number of countries including Cuba. The aim was to change the perception of what libraries do, and staff performed as the Salsa Sisters. The library also has a lot of promotional material on Youtube.

In partnership with a software company the library runs WelhoNet school for seniors with basic computer, internet and Web 2.0 classes.

Young people
Librarians visit the schools and also run games evenings outside normal opening hours for young people (eg Saturday evening) featuring for example World of Warcraft. There is a games room set up with 2 screens, however this is now closed during school hours as it was more popular than going to school.

The music studio has professional equipment including 2 keyboards, and Logic professional mixing software. It is booked constantly and workshops are booked out 6 months in advance.
Musical evenings are held regularly and studio workshops are conducted to show people how to use the professional software and hardware that is available in the music studio for mixing and editing. Hip hop and rap artists are invited and there is a music teacher on staff.

When we visited the library it was hosting an exhibition for children called Mikko Mallikas for 2 months. The exhibition comprised large installations designed for children to climb on, explore and play. It was very popular, and some children were coming every day to participate. The entrance to the library was designed to host such exhibitions and generally they are aimed at adults. This large space is a real asset for the library.

The biggest point of difference from Australian libraries is the size of the building. It is more than twice the size of Victoria’s largest public library. The rental cost of 1.5 million Euro a year (around $3 million Australian) illustrates the importance that the city places on its public library. It is a busy and attractive space, with very good facilities and a quality fitout. The emphasis on music and culture is also a point of difference with the provision of a fully equipped studio and 2 pianos, one a Steinway Grand. I wish!!

29 October, 2008

100th post - the Delft Library

This is the 100th post on the blog - and it seems a fitting thing that I should devote it to the most amazing library - DOK - the Delft Public Library in the Netherlands.

Service desk, DOK
Delft is a one hour train trip from Amsterdam. The library is in the centre of town, in what was formerly a warehouse. The architecture is of the exposed concrete school, with bright primary colours throughout. There is a dominant staircase leading to the upstairs area where a coffee shop does great business next to the large AV area. The overwhelming feeling is of a bright, vibrant, happening space - and this is supported by a wide variety of programs and services.

Entrance to DOK
The Director of Delft Library, Eppo van Nispen tot Sevenaer, was formerly the CEO of a tv station in the Netherlands. A couple of years ago he wanted to give something back to society and recognised public institutions as very important and libraries as treasures. He has very strong ideas about what libraries can be - and he says that life is about having fun, but most libraries are about not having fun. Their theory is that “life is all about having more fun than you can think of, and it starts at the library." Eppo told us that annually, visitors to public libraries are dropping 6% in the Netherlands, yet librarians seemed unconcerned about this - in any other industry, people would be very worried about losing this market share.
Eppo described the Library Concept Centre as like Ikea where people can test things. They are working with companies and public broadcasters to engage with the users. He says there is nothing more beautiful than a beautiful story; but we must remember its about the story not the media. This was a continuing emphasis during the tour - that it is the "word" or the "story" its not about whether it is a book or a dvd or online. Books are not the future, people are. And books aren't dead, they are going digital. He talked about the added value that libraries can offer - letting people find / try something new.

We heard about the series of philosophy lectures that attracted 250 people. We heard about the summer camp, where library staff take 150 kids aged 6 - 12 away and teach them how to do tv shows; they take their mobile studio, theatre and music. They work closely with schools to encourage more use of the library by young people.
Chair for listening to music

DOK is truly a library of the future, and has been described as the most modern library in the world. There is content everywhere - books, cds, dvds, magazines. There are screens and playstations and chairs where you can listen to music. It is a beautiful story.

20 October, 2008

More on overseas libraries

Amsterdam Public Library (OBA)

The trip is now over and I am back at my desk with my head brimming with ideas! We saw some wonderful libraries on our tour, undoubtedbly some of the world's best.

This time last week we visited Amsterdam Public Library (OBA) in the morning and Delft Public Library (DOK) in the afternoon. I will tell you about OBA today and next week about DOK.

The Amsterdam Central Library (OBA) is a magnificent new library in a prominent position, close to the Central Railway Station in Amsterdam. It is the largest public library in Europe, at 28,000 sq m over 10 floors. It was opened on 7th July 2007 after 10 years of planning and building. The concept of the new library is to transform from a lending library to an adventure library. The architect is Jo Coenen, a well known Dutch architect.

The most impressive feature of the library is its size and the quality of its fitout. It is the highest public point in Amsterdam and many visitors come for the view of the city. The escalators lead the visitor up through the building, ensuring that all levels are visible and easily accessible.

There are 2 eating places, a small café near the magazine area and a restaurant. The restaurant "Du Monde" on the 7th floor has a seating capacity of 250 and also takes care of receptions and corporate catering. It is becoming very popular both with users of the library and visitors. The library has a profit sharing arrangement with the restaurant.

The City of Amsterdam recognises that the library needs to be regularly refurbished and renewed. There is a budget for total renewal in 10 years. The AV area will be renewed in 5 years; it has not been fitted out to the same high standard as the other areas to reflect this.

The Children’s library is a magical place of discovery and adventure. It has small storytelling areas, many comfortable seats for sharing stories, and has a craft room that is permanently set up for children to draw, colour and paste.

A Radio station is located in the library, broadcasting in the afternoon and evening to a city and national audience. People are invited to come and have their say about issues of the day in the open studio. This has given the library a high profile.

There is a grid for IT on all floors of the entire building and a wireless network. There are 600 pcs, many of them Apple Macs. Seating for the pcs is comfortable and stylish – there are a number of different configurations throughout the building. There are 8 lending machines (Lendomats) / self-loan desks; 110 OPACs; 50 workplaces with multimedia facilities; 10 print and Xerox facilities and good facilities for payment. All libraries in the Netherlands have RFID and OBA has a book sorting system that delivers the books to each floor.
The Conservatorium is next door to the OBA and students use the library heavily, often playing in the library, and using the music rooms, creating a real cultural space.

The Theater van ’t woord is professionally designed with the latest in light/ sound/ recording technology. It seats 270 (the 10th largest in Amsterdam) and is linked with the library. Nearly everything is possible: film/ music/ lectures and it is also linked to catering and conference rooms. It already hosts 25 performances a month. A smaller children’s theatre seats 40.
Librarians work on the floor, the information desks are designed to consult with the borrower side by side. Increasingly programs are being held on the weekends, requiring more staff to work then. 50 new staffing positions were created for the new building.

There are a number of exhibition spaces within OBA, including 300 m2 of professional exhibitions supplementing what the library offers. The current exhibition features the OBA’s architect, Jo Coenen, with an exhibition called 3 buildings, 7 themes, 1 story.

The OBA costs around 1million Euro per month to operate. The Library Director acknowledges it is a lot of money, but also emphasises to the funders that it is cheap for what they get. The library gives a lot back to the City and is the most popular building in Amsterdam. It is a combination of information, education, culture and meeting place. There is the possibility for everything in the library. It is a tourist attraction as well as a library.

02 October, 2008

Library tour

I am on a busman's holiday as they say - a group of librarians are visiting the best libraries in the world. Fifteen of us from Victoria, Queensland and South Australia are on a 3 week study tour to learn from our colleagues.

Our first stop was Singapore. Singapore libraries underwent a radical overhaul in the early noughties - many wonderful new libraries were built and usage rose dramatically. It has been interesting to see the sustainabilty of this enormous investment that the government made to their library service. We visited the beautiful new National Library that was opened in July 05 - The building consists of two 16 storey blocks, which are linked by skybridges on every floor. It houses two libraries, the Central Lending Library in Basement 1 and the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library from Levels 7 to 13. The lending library was full of people using the space and the facilities and the reference library houses over 8 million items.

We also visited the Esplanade library which is a special public library for the performing arts. The Esplanade building is a landmark building in Singapore, sometimes described as looking like a durian fruit. The library has collections in dance, music, film and theatre and has facilities such as pianos for practice as well as recitals and a wide audiovisual collection.

Our final visit was to the Bishan library which is the newest library in the system. The library is spread over four floors and a basement, with a coffee shop on the first floor. It has over 200,000 items for loan. A feature of this library are the windows that protrude out of the building which are reading pods for readers who want to read quietly. They are very popular with teenagers, who are at the doors every morning on opening to claim one of these spaces.

Singapore libraries are world's best practice in their systems and processes and the work they have done in developing self service has really led the way. They are now looking to the future to ensure that they continue to meet the needs of the people of Singapore.

Last night we arrived in Helsinki, so my next post will be about these innovative and exciting libraries.