Creating social sites

The responsibility for publishing Scandinavian Public Library Quarterly has been transferred to Helsinki for the next five years, but the editorial work will continue unchanged. The previous meeting of the editors, where the theme of this issue was determined, was held in Copenhagen last autumn; the next meeting will be held in Stockholm this spring. For the most part, editorial work and communications are conducted online, there is no real editorial office. The responsibility for publishing Scandinavian Public Library Quarterly has been transferred to Helsinki for the next five years, but the editorial work will continue unchanged. The previous meeting of the editors, where the theme of this issue was determined, was held in Copenhagen last autumn; the next meeting will be held in Stockholm this spring. For the most part, editorial work and communications are conducted online, there is no real editorial office.

This year, it was Finland’s turn to take the chair in the Nordic Council of Ministers and in the committees. Cooperation between Scandinavian countries has a long history, but is there a future? It seems that European and global networking is becoming more attractive to the youth than the traditional cooperation with Scandinavian neighbours.

Scandinavian public libraries have a long, shared tradition and common point of view concerning the role of public libraries in the knowledge society. There is a common concern about young library patrons; they should feel that library services are also for them, they should learn to make good use of library services.

As a target group, teens are often considered to be difficult. Library projects involving teens are often focused on poetry or music, but as book presentations have unexpectedly risen to a new high in Finland, there is a growing number of enthusiastic librarians with a challenging new mission. When done with wholehearted involvement book presentations are bound to be a success.

A generation that spends its time on the Internet communicating with likeminded people, will not necessarily find the library’s online services very interesting. In-depth information searches are indeed much more demanding than Googling, collections which have been classified and catalogued according to the rules are not half as entertaining as the miscellaneous lists of favourite books on the social networking sites. Should libraries be more visible also on these sites, should they go outside their traditional frames to meet young library patrons in their favourite spaces? It might be worth a try, and anyhow there is definitely a lot to be learned here.

Sello is the name of a shopping centre in the municipality of Espoo in the metropolitan area, built for an urban lifestyle, with market squares, pedestrian and bicycle routes, cafés and shops. Sello is also a concert hall with four hundred seats and the spacious Sello Library. In Pointti (the Point) young patrons can borrow books, read, listen to music or use the computers. The Gamepoint area is, as the name indicates, designed for computer games and console games, here for instance Runescape can be played by up to twelve participants. In the digital music studio patrons can make their own CDs. At Yesbox youth leaders answer all possible and impossible questions.

Young patrons can also click into Habbo Hotel and create their own avatar and discuss with avatars chosen by youth leaders from the entire metropolitan area. Mobbing and game addiction are examples of talking points in Habbo Hotel’s netari.fi. About half of young patrons visiting the library have a foreign background. Sello Library is, in many senses, a welldesigned social site for young library patrons.

Library 10 in Helsinki is another example of a library that largely attracts young people. Library 10 (see article in SPLQ 4/2005) immediately became the city library’s most used location when it opened on April 1, 2005. The majority of patrons in this library are 20-30 year-olds and 60 % of the borrowers are – atypically enough young men.

To succeed in attracting young library patrons there should apparently be a conscious acclimatisation to the various demands of new lifestyles, an understanding of the special needs of this target group. A free-floating ambience with enough space for patrons’ own creativity seems to be essential. Doing things together, interactively.

Barbro Wigell-Ryynänen
Counsellor for Library, Affairs Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland
barbro.wigell-ryynanen AT minedu.fi

Retired, former editor