I’m a book lover and lucky to be born in a country like Finland. It has been rated as one of the most literate countries in the world, and its literary scene is diverse. In recent years, libraries have been in a special focus. Close to our Mehackit headquarters, Aalto Learning Space has attired a lot of attention thanks to its design and innovativeness. Currently I am, among others, looking forward to the opening of Oodi, a new central library at the heart of Helsinki.
So, although we read and find information in increasingly diverse ways – not only through books and papers – libraries are not disappearing. They are constantly following the changes in the society and adjusting their services. I wanted to hear more about this transformation, and visited Iso Omena Library in Espoo.
“Experimental Library – Full of Surprises!” they promise on the web page. And I have to approve.
The Iso Omena Makerspace, Paja, is one of the biggest ones in Finland. In addition to books, magazines, CDs, and other more traditional items at the library, Paja is equipped with computers, 3D printers, a heat press, a laser engraving machine, a vinyl cutter, a small workspace for woodwork, sewing machines, and much more. (Go explore yourself!)
At the library, there is also a music studio, quiet study areas, and conference rooms. Several other public services are located at the same area. Am I in a library anymore?
Yes, I am. Antti Luoto, Library Chief Pedagogue makes me convinced. “The role of a library is to preserve knowledge and values, as well as share and teach new skills – and that’s what we are doing!”
Antti points to a small 3D-printed Star Wars figure. “We’re like modern Jedi Temples for cultural activities.”
Libraries were created to assemble, organize and preserve all kinds of knowledge and thoughts. They are here to transmit and share cultural cultivation and values from generation to another. So, since the forms of shared information are undergoing a technological change, libraries are changing too, to keep up with their role!
That is also true for a librarian’s work. “I didn’t really know what position I applied for”, Antti laughs. In addition to more traditional library work, he collaborates with teachers and schools and is engaged in makerspace activities. Last year, he was organizing the Espoo Mini Maker Faire to inspire visitors to explore maker culture.
One of his current projects is printing and programming a life-size InMoov robot, initiated by a French designer, Gael Langevin. Antti is doing the project together with other librarians and interested customers.
The open-source ideology in maker culture fits well in a library. “It is important that technological knowledge is accessible for everyone, and that’s why we need this kind of open spaces”, Antti highlights. Making things is a creative way of learning. And creativity is, according to Antti as well as to the World Economic Forum, one of the top skills needed in the future. “In makerspaces, you learn by playing, through trial and error.”
Antti also points to another critical skill, namely critical thinking. “With this era of fake news and information flood, you cannot ignore your sources.” And where would you get access to diverse sources as easily as in a library?
“In a way, libraries are transforming into cultural hybrid spaces”, Antti concludes.
I’m not worried about the disappearance of libraries anymore, but starting to be more and more fascinated by their future!