The public library: a living room of Turku

As I had mentioned in my post about Zucchini, one of my best Friends was visiting me a couple of weeks ago. Together we took the train to Turku and there we were joined by our Swedish friend (Quite the international group!). We spent 3 days in Turku in total, Saturday morning until Monday evening. This was actually more than enough. I’ve started to become more and more aware of the fact that most of Finland really is, just made for summer visits; a lot of the interesting and fun things are closed down or finished before the end of August. Our stay in Turku, wasn’t unpleasant however. When in a good company, you don’t need a lot to keep away boredom. We spent a lot of our time walking around town, but the cold made us seek refuge wherever we could find it. One of the locations we stumbled up on, was the Turku Library, a place I had been wishing to visit anyway.

The new building in the front and the old library building in the back

You see, I have this obsession with books and anything that has even the smallest thing to do with books. Whenever I get to a new city I try to pay a visit to the library. I’ve visited quite some libraries on my travels because of this. some beautiful, others quite dull. But the one thing that I have seen in almost every library so far, is that unless it’s a super famous library (such as the Trinity College Library in Dublin, which has exhibitions of the Book of Kells and a very old library part called the long room which makes it a huge tourist attraction) the normal libraries in general are usually very quiet.

But not in Turku. Oh no, the Turku library was completely crowded! This was true when we visited on Sunday afternoon, as well as on Monday afternoon (A work day!). Never in my life have I seen a library so full of life and people, it was quite refreshing to see!

Because we entered the building from the café, the first thing we stumbled upon was the new paper hall. Filled with newspapers and tables were people were reading a newspaper, or typing away on their laptop. Quite the surprise! Especially when we found out that it was this crowded everywhere in the library. The Turku library consists of several different rooms and sections. On one side was the old building, with the general/normal library a floor above this was filled by the music and DVD collection(quite extensive!) and literature on music.

On the other side of the newspaper hall were the children’s and young adult books. Which was a lot bigger than any children’s section I’ve ever seen! Most of the books were obviously in Finnish or Swedish, but there was a huge section of books in other languages too, even in Dutch!

Despite usually preferring old looking libraries, the children’s part of the library was definitely my favourite. The library had put a lot of effort into the design and facilities of the children’s area. A Zeppelin hovering above steam-punk styled check-out machinery, a weird Lego like blob in the middle of the area, big windows, a reading pit, big blown up tires that you could sit in, and even small details, like glass tiles on the floor, showing a dolls house, fairy tales or the underground book sorting system where you could see carts with books passing underground. I could really see how this would speak to the imagination of children. Heck, even as an adult I loved walking around and exploring the place!

One of the things that melted my heart was this little girl sitting in one of the blown up tires reading a book out loud to herself. We sat down for a while, not too far away from her and at one point she ran off (on her socks) to get her parents to listen to the story she had been practising on her own.

The little girl reading her book

What I liked so much about this library is that it felt so incredibly welcoming. It was like all the locals had made this library into their living room, Turku’s living room, where anyone could come to work or read, or just relax for a bit. It’s quite an interesting concept, especially since so many people believe books and especially libraries, to be a thing of the past. Turku’s library showed me a way how a library could really become more than just books, it could become a community meeting place. We too, got to experience this feeling and ended up spending a lot more time in the library than originally expected!

My friend and I, reading in the window (A special thanks to Jessie for making this photo =) )

So yeah. This library completely changed my view on libraries and I hope to find more libraries like this across the world. What do you think? Have you ever been to the Turku library or any other library that you found particularly amazing? =)

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2 thoughts on “The public library: a living room of Turku

  1. That library really was something else! 🙂 I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much time in a library just hanging out. (And of course the kid’s section would be where we hung out most…) I really love that picture of us 🙂 almost as nice as the one in Mini-Europe in front of the mini Eiffel tower!

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