Thursday, March 25, 2010

Reclaim The Public

Originally uploaded by Sameli
I have spent approximately 1-2 days lately working at the National Library. This place is amazing. It is incredibly quiet, as central as things can get, equipped with an astonishing collection of material and a café downstairs. The great thing is that you cannot take your bag in so you have to think what you need.

As I am writing this, I sit at an old wooden table with a beautiful view to the Senate Square. I ended up here by accident a couple of weeks ago. I had 1,5 hours between meetings and had forgotten my wallet home. There was no point walking to the office or taking the metro home. So I decided to give this place a try.

In the last weeks I have learned to use microfilms to look at newspapers from the 1970s or read articles on cultural policy from the 60s. The most surprising things is that this beautiful place is very very empty. As I for a long time, most people never think about it as a public place. They somehow think it belongs to the university or should only be used by researchers.

Let´s reclaim places like these. Let´s start at the library and work our way to the City Hall. We have somehow forgotten what public means. We too often end up looking at these places through the eyes of the primary user.

I mean what café in Helsinki has all Finnish newspapers from the 19th century onwards, all books published in Finland, every doctoral thesis from the University of Helsinki, all cultural magazines in handy collections and such silence. I wonder if the library people themselves even now what kind of a gem they possess. This place is perhaps the best evidence to how we get more by sharing.

Come over.


rns said...

I'd love to use that library more. I think it was the unfriendliness towards a new library user that turned me away. Somehow I did not feel very welcome there. But that was years ago. The attitude must have changed!

CathM said...

Sounds like an incredible place and space. Thanks for sharing :)