When people gather together to discuss a book they all have read, a unique atmosphere and kind of friendship is born. The multiple inner worlds contained in a single book flow together in speech through the group’s experiences. A similar atmosphere could be experienced on 23 January in the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art where people working in the field of literature joined the Helsinki Central Library’s “Kirjallinen aamupäivä” event. They included bloggers, publishing managers, authors, poets, teachers of literary art, Finnish teachers, reporters, media folk, and representatives of literature associations, organisations and institutions. All in all, the event attracted more than 50 book and literature lovers. Together their knowledge and talent created an entire new life for the book – with new forms of collaboration, concepts and points of view.
The culture of doing things together à la literature folk
The “Kirjallinen aamupäivä” workshops focused on planning a good future for the book and discussing ways in which the Central Library could act as the centre for the book and literary art. The Kiasma seminar room was filled with an enthusiastic buzz. The idea of creating an interesting literary culture in Helsinki did not fail in its idealistic nature. The promising project was clearly backed by people whose support can help make it reality.
“I get easily excited about good projects that feel important to me. Excitement is a great resource when different people want to create new things by working together. Of course, there are already many on-going collaboration projects in the field of literature, but the involvement of the Central Library could inspire the entire industry and bring it together. The goal should be set on supporting the entire field of culture, and improving the daily lives of people through wide-scale cultural collaboration”, says Laura Serkosalo, Executive Director of Nuoren Voiman Liitto and one of the workshop participants. “I am impressed with what a great and inspiring opportunity the Central Library provides, and what diverse, extensive but sensible discussion with open hearts and minds is already taking place. This is an opportunity to bring together all the major arts and cultural history actors in the Töölönlahti bay area. It is becoming a truly open space”, says Minna Joenniemi from Yleisradio.
How will literary trends affect the future?
The event was started with talks by Library Director Maija Berndtson, and former Minister of Culture and author Claes Andersson, who in 1998 first proposed building a new library in downtown Helsinki, in place of the current Parliament Annex.
The first mutual workshop discussed the hottest literary trends and phenomena of today and how they will affect the future. A talk by poet Teemu Manninen from publishing house Poesia outlined the change in the material aspect of literature. Electronic formats can complement the book: they can enrich it with audio, video or background material. They can turn the book into an interactive programme. In the wildest concepts, the book can even live a new life in the hands of a reader who can affect its content. “Changes in the material aspect of literature can also change us as readers and recipients” according to Teemu. Sakari Heiskanen of Gummerus Publishers was interested in the readers’ behaviour as consumers: how can we respond to the development of diverse groups of readers? What could experience shopping mean for books? Have we considered well the different contexts in which texts are read and consumed today? Author Laura Ruohonen brought up a paradoxical phenomenon: as reading is becoming a communal and social experience, people are starting journals, and fans are becoming networked, but in the process less time is being spent on actual reading.
Turning the Central Library into a house of stories – ideas for doing things together
The Open Space workshop discussed models for the “renaissance” of literature and different ways for literature people to work together in the Central Library.
The discussion produced a lot of ideas, such as the following:
- Connecting with the audience, and making the work of authors, translators and illustrators less opaque. Where ideas come from and what kind of background research is required
- An audiobook service (customer reads the book him or herself), “Kirja lahjaksi” gift service
- A space for experiential literary art instruction; flexible and modifiable; freeing the book from its cover
- More experimental and unconventional literature events – this involves adjusting the opening hours, after 8 p.m. the experience could be different
- A place for regular book publication events that the audience, publishing houses and authors can attend, e.g. publication breakfast events
- A communal book-writing project, free text/fan fiction, e.g. short stories are easy to write together; alternative endings/beginnings, diving inside a character
- An author’s workspace in the library: “artist in house/in-house artist”
- An author/editor could provide feedback and comments on customers’ texts through the library
- Helsinki does not yet have a House of Literature (see the International House of Literature Network and, for example, Litteraturhuset in Oslo), could the Central Library be turned into one?
- Examining content through common themes, mixing fact with fiction (e.g. the topical great famine as a theme), interaction
- Suggestions by literature lovers; you do not have to be an expert to suggest something you love to your peers
- Organising regular events and creating habits
- Participating in reminiscing; grandparents and grandchildren together; saving memories through digitisation
- Enjoying joint performances by several authors; confrontation; expressing differing views is encouraged
The Central Library is collecting a network of influential people! Let us hope that collaboration can effectively move the project forward. Come and join us – the Central Library already offers you a chance to meet the people working hard to make the city a better place.
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