Library 10 and Meetingpoint – Kari Lämsä

Kari Lämsä
Library 10 is a modern library in the center of Helsinki. In addition to having a broad collection of musical recordings, the library is equipped with versatile computer workstations. Library 10’s 800 m2 of public space welcomes approximately 50 000 customers per month and is Helsinki’s most popular library. The library is open on a daily basis and for a total of 78 hours each week. The statistics of Library 10’s users are much different than other branches; 60% of them are men and 60% are under the age of 30.
Of the customers that frequent Library 10, about half come to loan items from the library. What is interesting, however, is what the other half does. While some come to read newspapers and surf the net, a growing number of customers are coming to make their own music, edit images and videos, or then to see and hear the works created by other customers in the form of exhibitions and performances.

From reading rooms to work and event facilities
The traditional function of libraries is changing dramatically in Finland, as it is with other Nordic countries. Walking between shelves and browsing the library’s collections now happens via the library’s online collections catalogue. Nowadays reading suggestions are requested less from librarians, but are more likely to be found among the reviews of other readers on sites such as Amazon or other forums. If the assistance of a librarian is sometimes needed, then it is taking place more often online using either the library’s “Ask online” chat service or “Ask a Librarian” via email.
In order for libraries to continue drawing people in through their doors, then the use of the library’s premises must be rethought. Library 10 has observed that the items on the shelves are not what entice people to come to the library as they have once before. Items are reserved online and picked up at the Circulation desk. Library 10’s Circulation desk and automated self-return point are open each weekday at 8a.m. A growing number of customers are spending only 10 minutes at the library, specifically using these services.
On the other hand, it is the services that are not connected to the collections that are enticing new users into the library. Subsequently it is these people that spend more time in the library than those that just check out and return items. Particularly among younger users, the library is becoming more a place to work or study as opposed to being a place to hang about. The wireless network connection combined with small portable desks allow customers to establish their own laptop workstations anywhere in the library they choose. Library 10 has headphones, scanners, compact DVD-players, memory card readers, etc. available for loan that can be used in tandem with laptops.
Library 10 is a place for cultivating and presenting cultural works.
The library’s rehearsal room and recording room, not to mention video editing and publishing workstations, are in heavy use. Customers are free to bring their own instruments or then loan the library’s own instruments and microphones. They can record and edit their own works in the recording room. If they so choose, customers can have their recordings placed in Library 10’s demo-tower and the staff can place samples onto the library’s homepage for others to investigate. When their talents grow, bands can reserve the Stage and give a performance to the library’s users. With the video editing and publishing workstations, customers can edit their own videos and images and publish them on social media sites such as YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, etc. Computer use has also become more social. In place of working solitarily, it is becoming more common for friends or classmates to work together on computers. All of this is available with the library card, free of charge. Library 10 issues dozens of new cards each month to customers that have not previously needed the library.
Library 10 has become the city center’s most popular venue for events. In cooperation with schools, artists, and organizations, the library offers a diverse program throughout the week. Afternoons can see students of classical music entertaining customers while in the evenings ethno bands and rap musicians bring rhythm into the library. During Sunday’s 10-Club, one can chill to the music selected by a DJ. Also popular are the panel discussions, where customers can grill politicians or artists with questions. The Stage is fitted with quality sound reproduction and lighting equipment with the added capability of being able to broadcast live directly from the library.

Meetingpoint serves information needs
Meetingpoint operates in tandem with Library 10 and is a part of the Helsinki City Library system. However, its customer base is not limited to just library users. All age groups are welcomed from anywhere in the world. Though it is a part of the Helsinki City Library and primarily serves those customers, it often provides services to people who do not even have a library card.
This ‘library’ has no book collection and the idea of its operations is to provide the city’s populace with practical advice and guidance in electronic communication and living in an information society. Meetingpoint is an experimental unit that develops new methods and frameworks for cooperation with other corporate and public bodies.
Meetingpoint has multimedia computer workstations along with a video editing workstation that library customers can book in advance. These workstations have professional photo editing tools and scanners. With those customers can edit their own videos and images and publish them on social media sites such as YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, etc. Meetingpoint and Library 10 both have ‘drop by’ computers that are available for quick visits. Meetingpoint also holds a variety of scheduled classes and has 12 laptops available that are arranged in sets of 6 pairs for easy tutelage. The unit functions as a centre of know-how for electronic services, digital materials and mobile services.
Meetingpoint’s laptop doctor provides personal guidance and advice in the use of one’s own laptop computer. Customers are able to book appointments to consult with the library’s laptop doctor. The service aims to diagnose and treat the various problems that customers may encounter with computer upgrades, updates and software installation. A comparable service is unavailable in Helsinki. The laptop doctor is free and easily accessible, and consequently receives lots of positive feedback from customers. The City of Helsinki is apparently the first city in the world that employs a laptop doctor!

The Laptop-club convenes once a week at Meetingpoint for learning and improving computer skills in a peer group of senior citizens. The club is run by Meetingpoint employees, but sometimes features visiting instructors from other libraries. The members can directly affect the topics that are discussed and taught in the club. This spring for example, the club’s program has included sending e-cards for Valentine’s Day, shopping on the internet, watching internet-TV and learning the new Vista operating system. The Laptop-club responds to the constant demand of Meetingpoint customers for courses and learning opportunities while using with their own laptop computers. Learning is especially fun in a peer group with interactivity. The Skype-courses for example instruct customers how to make Internet based calls to friends abroad, and Facebook courses coach users on how to network with others in their own profession.

The staff’s new skills
The transition of what tomorrow’s customers do and need from the library requires new skills from the staff. It is not sufficient that the library merely offers the tools and premises for producing and presenting. At least a portion of the staff must be proficient with the audio and video editing equipment, as well as the sound reproduction and lighting equipment. Presenting concerts and other events require specialized skills as well. We have had positive experiences working with interns that are studying in those fields. We are currently schooling new employees that will receive education in both the library and media fields.
The library competes for the customers’ leisure time with other entertainment and cultural offerings. Therefore events and services must be marketed efficiently and effectively. Some of the good and gratuitous channels for marketing used thus far have been local radio, free daily newspapers, Internet forums, blogs, and other social media.
Cooperation with companies, organizations, and customers is increasing and is happening on a more concrete level. Naturally this requires special know-how, but above all organizational capabilities and the ability to see and understand the big picture. Library 10’s most prominent specialized know-how is that 80% of the staff are professionals in the library field and a certain “libraryness” quality can be seen in all functions.
The library’s physical premise can be seen on the web. Concerts, discussions, clubs and other events are filmed, recorded, and stored on the library’s web pages.

Design of interior space and equipment
Library 10 and Meetingpoint’s operations are based on a customer oriented approach. Already in the planning phase for any activity, the question “What do customers do and how do they do things?” is posed. Library 10’s most important development tools are customer feedback, questionnaires, interviews, and the dialogue between customers and staff. Thus the materials for loan as well as the technology available for customers evolve and are constantly being updated to reflect the wishes of customers.

Library 10 and Meetingpoint have invested specifically in flexible technology, easily adaptable interior solutions, customer independence, and new skills in its staff. The library’s numerous computer stations, desks, terminals, and other IT-related furnishings are all fitted with wheels. Electrical outlets and data ports are located in the ceiling. Consequently, the space and technical equipment can be quickly rearranged for different needs. In addition, the Stage area can be expanded from a display area to a small concert hall in a matter of moments as the shelves are also fitted with wheels. The library’s floor plan has been designed to have a natural customer flow towards the self-loaning and return points, through which 70% of material passes.
Library 10 and Meetingpoint are the most visited libraries in the capital’s metropolitan area. Each year hundreds of domestic and foreign cultural and library professionals, architects, politicians, IT-professionals, and other visitors come to acquaint themselves to what Library 10 is doing. The greatest interest at the moment is: what is it that brings young, primarily young male, users into the library? If we are to believe the messages relayed to us by these various visitors, then Library 10’s functional model and individual solutions are currently being copied by dozens of cultural and library premises around Europe.

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