Events in abundance at the Cultural Capital’s Library

The City of Turku’s designation as the European Cultural Capital for 2011 came atan opportune time as it coincides with theorganisational reforms taking place in theTurku City Library. At the turn of 2009-2010, a new concept was created wherebythe organisation of events and exhibitionsfor different target groups plays a more definiterole in the library’s activities. In March 2007, Turku’s architectural wonder,the new main library, was opened. Itsspatial dimensions lure city-dwellers in tospend time and enjoy themselves, to participatein various events and the library’sactivities.

The Turku City Library has become an extremely popular meeting place; it is Finland’s largest library as regards the number of visitors. It is open every day of the week.         On weekdays, approximately 4,000 patrons visit the library each day and at the weekend about 2,000 people visit each day. Patrons have been especially satisfied with the fact that the library is also open on Sundays, which makes it easy for families to visit the library together.

Aiming for theme-based productions

Previously, the different sections at the main library and its branches, which engaged in small-scale cultural activities, planned, and for the most part, carried out their own activities and events. The concentration of events activities into one unit was one result of the organisational reforms, the purpose being to create high-quality, concept- and theme-based productions, which often include all of the library’s branches. The only unit in Finland that concentrates on organising events is also responsible for user training and services for special groups which include library services intended for immigrants and the aging. Schoolaged children are offered the Kulttuuripolku program, which ensures children acquire skills in using the library in an exciting and informative way. At the moment, the Events Office is a rather small activities unit. There are six full-time job positions there and one part-time position for the Cultural Capital 2011 coordinator. Other activities units also have employees whose job it is to use 40 % of their working hours to handle events activities. Those involved in the events activities make up the theme work team whose combined efforts reach across unit boundaries. The head of the team is the service manager for the events.

The events and exhibitions are in close interaction with the library’s collections and other activities. The events enrich and broaden understanding and provide new perspectives pertaining to the creation of library services. Creating concepts and themes and defining target groups are some of the central goals of the events activities in the Turku City Library.

Shared library space

Often, the word ‘event’ refers to a public occasion or to an occasion intended for a certain group – a presentation, lecture, instruction session, exhibit, guest author(s), guest artist(s), music hour, storybook hour, reading circles, etc.With the organisation of events, today’s library elaborates, decorates and flexes book covers according to the situation and present needs. This is how many different types of information can be interwoven.

Established, popular and much awaited events include the Southwest Finland poetry week in late autumn and Kirjastokaruselli that travels from library to library attracting the younger generation. An extensive multicultural event will get underway in 2011. Lectures by experts offered to senior citizens during the day activate the aging. Seriestype, repeated events ensure the message of the events is received and available to all.

Shared library space requires shared activities. The Turku City Library endeavours to inspire patrons to generate ideas for exhibitions and events through patron councils, for example. The library offers a forum for patrons to use, and coordinates activities and creates services. The patrons, e.g. various groups of enthusiasts, senior citizens, students, immigrant organisations, and institutions affiliated with the cultural affairs office in Turku, such as     the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, in turn produce activities they feel are important, and in this way are able to participate in the development of the library’s activities.

Eras and chronicles of lives The projects taking place during 2011 expand the library’s already multivarious networking and break down the images people have of the library as an institution that only provides instruction and loans material. When events spread out into the Sirius courtyard or the House of Arts, i.e. the rotunda of the old library, eras and chronicles of lives meet. One impulse leads to another and, behold, something unusual, new and never before experienced is created. The library building is the most appealing building in downtown Turku, and it will be seen and have strong influence during the Cultural Capital year of 2011. The library will be carrying out its own projects during 2011 and participating in programs initiated by the Cultural Affairs Centre and the University of Turku. Some of the projects will get underway this autumn; getting a head start is a good way to acquire visibility and clout.

Scope of activities widens in 2011 The ‘Encounters in the library’ program package is the library’s detailed plan for the Cultural Capital year. Its most noteworthy program is the ‘Culture Out Loud!’ series of events, which introduces the literature, music, dance, language and traditions of various cultures. The various cultures living in Turku will be introduced through exciting  exhibitions, story hour and media recommendations intended for schools, all of which will take place in the main library and its branches.

The presentation of the different dimensions of information and the promotion of different reading skills are still current issues in the functions of the library. The joint project, 876 Shades of Darkness, will be visible in the library in the form of a series of lectures pertaining to death, for example, taking place in the autumn of 2010. It will be preceded by lectures about Judaism organised in cooperation with the Åbo Akademi University. These lectures are not a part of the program for 2011, but they strengthen the library’s informational contributions to the public. An exhibition related to the topic of the lectures will also be produced.

Night of Reading and Weekend of Darkness will be carried out as the library’s part of the ‘darkness’ project, By the Reading Light. The events take place, in part, on the national level, and the purpose is to make known to         the public various types of fiction, nonfiction, children’s and youth literature and authors, as well as music and therapeutic writing throughout the autumn 2010 and in 2011. Night of Reading invites everyone along for experiences in the early hours of the morning.

The Turku Fire, which took place in 1827, ignited the spark for the Fire! Fire! project, one of the more significant events for the year 2011. Blazing Love will spark up in the spring 2011. Programs pertaining to romance literature and music are in store for people of all ages. Turku University’s TIUKU – science and culture in Turku project is    a springboard for extensive reading circle activities, the purpose of which is to promote the gratification one gets from reading and, on a more indirect basis, coping in life. There are a total of eight reading circles that gather on the library’s premises. They provide an opportunity to meet new people, exchange reading experiences and encourage the participants to produce their own material.

Dialogues between exhibitions and events

The exhibitions engage in dialogues with the various events taking place. Exhibitions geared toward children are already a concept in the children’s section of the library, Saaga. Barbie dolls and comics, gathered together with ardour, are put on display to amaze others of the same age. The exhibitions call for coordination sensitive to different situations, because an adventurous, informative and visual display needs an aesthetic eye and the right spaces, as well as appropriate exhibition props for each individual event. New contractual practices are also being prepared in the Turku City Library. The purpose is to create more structured cooperation with representatives of various fields.

All in all, more than 22,000 people have taken part in the library’s events between the summer of 2009 and the summer of 2010. Eleven specialized and theme-based exhibitions and 90 exhibitions to present new books and current affairs were organised. Blogs, social media, online guides and supervised use of the net are quickly expanding the library’s online services, and they lure those who do not normally read into the library sphere.

Taina Ratia
Service Manager, Events
Turku City Library

Translated by Turun Täyskäännös

Service Manager, Events Turku City Library