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Touring a library


The mantle of World Design Capital, ever growing numbers of visiting cruise ships and a livelier restaurant culture have increased Helsinki’s popularity with a vengeance. This has been the best tourist summer in history, and it is obvious that the future Central Library cannot ignore tourists in its planning.

We asked foreign visitors to summer Helsinki about their wishes for the library. What do tourists think is a must for the library?

Finnish culture and board games!

Joey Lin, 27, from Taiwan is aware that Finnish people often go to the library. “I would like the library to have exhibitions about Finland, Helsinki and Finnish culture, in English of course. There could be a desk near the entrance hall of the library with guidebooks, maps and books about Finnish culture and countryside. You could listen to Finnish music and read Finnish literature translated into different languages.”

“I would also like the library to arrange English lectures, walking tours, concerts and other events. It would be nice to borrow board games with my fellow travellers and play them inside the library and outdoors in the park. The building itself could be clear-cut and beautiful: plenty of natural light and environmentally-friendly materials and elements”, Joey thinks.

More encounters between locals and foreigners

Nadia Hamdan, 37, from Germany is interested in secrets that lie beneath the surface. “It would be nice for the library to offer information that traditional tourist guides do not have. It would be fun to have a common database where you could leave your own tips on somewhat peculiar places to visit in Finland and elsewhere in Finland. A message book for future tourists! And of course Finns themselves could leave their own references and stories.”

Nadia also wishes that information in English were more readily available on different events in Helsinki. “It would also be nice if the library had a rest room for city trekkers who are exhausted. For example, it could be a small cinema with comfortable chairs showing short films about Finland. Nearby you could have a large restaurant serving home- or library-made food using natural Finnish ingredients!”

A look at Kalevala and a peek at “village idiocy”

Maiko Okawa, 33, from Japan visits Finland almost every summer. She is attracted by Finnish music and culture, and is already quite familiar with Helsinki. “I must say I wonder why Kalevala is nowhere to be seen. Finnish people are proud of it, but I have found hardly anything connected to Kalevala. The library could have both translations of Kalevala into different languages and perhaps a large, permanent exhibition on the subject”, Maiko suggests. “And Moomin characters too, like in Tampere and near Turku! Why are there no Moomin characters in Helsinki?”

Tomás Vargas, 41, from Brazil is in our country for the first time. “Finns are funny and crazy. I had the chance to go to a friend’s summer cottage, and it was exciting. We whipped each other in the sauna and tossed pieces of wood around in the forest. I also heard about all kinds of strange summer contests, such as wife-throwing – or what was it? The library could have information about Finnish people’s weird events and cottage humour. If books have been written about the subject, they should be translated into different languages immediately and put prominently on display in the library. In fact, I could write such a book myself!”

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Text: Siru Valleala
Photos: Maiko Okawa, Jonas Tana, Pirjo Sallmen, WDC Helsinki and Helsinki Tourism


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