Literary paths for children in Northern Finland

The City of Rovaniemi and the Rovaniemi rural commune merged in the year 2006, which made Rovaniemi the largest city in Europe with regard to area. In addition to the main library, the Regional Library of Lapland has libraries in four of the larger residential areas. The amount of loans exceeded 1.3 million in 2007, more than 33 % of which were taken out at the children and adolescent department. The City of Rovaniemi and the Rovaniemi rural commune merged in the year 2006, which made Rovaniemi the largest city in Europe with regard to area. In addition to the main library, the Regional Library of Lapland has libraries in four of the larger residential areas. The amount of loans exceeded 1.3 million in 2007, more than 33 % of which were taken out at the children and adolescent department.

The different library locations clearly have different roles based on age. Adults account for most of the loans taken out at the main library, but in the smaller libraries, children and adolescents account for nearly half of all loans. There are more families living in the residential areas – when the library is close by, it is safe and easy to visit. Moreover, school groups visit more often when the library is just a stone’s throw away.

Some of the villages in the municipality may be as far as 100 km from the centre of Rovaniemi. There are village libraries in conjunction with ten schools and two ookmobiles that service the extensive area of the municipality. The bookmobile has a total of 33 routes and 262 stops, some of which are near schools and daycares. Children and youth especially are the absolute number-one patrons in the bookmobile; nearly 70 % of the loans comprise material for children and adolescents.

Games, movies and books

Merging the municipalities did not cause any great upheaval in children’s library work because the Rovaniemi city library and the libraries in the rural commune were already working in close cooperation.Work in the children’s libraries is far-reaching and strives to obtain partners among various bodies. The work is also rather mobile, i.e. library staff, equipped with their book bags, visit schools, daycares, afternoon school clubs and parentteacher meetings to talk about the wonders of reading.

The library’s cooperation with daycares involves familiarizing children with the library and the presentation of movies. When children visit the library, the staff utilizes an idea from the Espoo municipal library; it is a game in which the children solve the mystery behind a mystery card, ponder over book allergies, visit the book hospital, and change themselves into a book being loaned. The Minikino movies are presented in the libraries every spring and autumn. The presentations have been organized for more than 10 years and last year’s 21 presentations attracted more than 1,700 viewers.

More than 350 school groups visited the libraries in 2007. The visits include a presentation of library services, use of databases, and guidance in seeking information. The Regional Library of Lapland works in close cooperation with the Lyseonpuisto high school. First-year students visit the library in the autumn and receive guidance in seeking information. Just over onethird of the visits by groups involve presentations of literature and book recommendations, to help children find books best suitable for them and to offer alternatives alongside the bestsellers. Indeed, a recommended book is not necessarily the absolute latest in literature because there are interesting reads among older literature as well; it just has to be properly marketed. Book recommendations not only include fiction, but also non-fiction, poems, picture books and comics.

Participation in a number of projects

The Regional Library of Lapland has been involved in many projects which promote reading. One of the projects involved book recommendations, teaching of information seeking, visits by authors and shadow plays. The idea was to present non-fiction literature in association with textbooks used in schools. Fifth- and sixth-graders from various schools took part in the project. History was chosen as the topic and book packages containing both fiction and non-fiction about the Middles Ages, the Iron Age, and ancient Egypt were created. Raili Mikkanen, writer for young people, was a guest speaker, and she told about the writing of historical novels. Under the direction of puppet theatre artist, Leila Peltonen, pupils made shadow plays of their stories. The project culminated with an afternoon together when pupils presented their shadow plays to each other.

The ‘Lupa lukea’ project came to an end last year. During the course of the project, library staff visited village schools in Rovaniemi recommending books and providing tips for good reads. The project reached nearly 1,200 children and youth.

Teachers and teachers-to-be are important partners for libraries. Cooperation regarding children and reading has been carried out with the Department of Education at the University of Lapland. Each year, students studying to become class teachers learn about the work in children’s libraries and book recommendations.

Photo: Tiina Niemi

Books on the go

The Regional Library of Lapland offers anthologies for schools to use that contain fiction, thematic packages, poems and plays. The sizes of the anthologies vary from 10- to 30-book packages of the same book for children in different grades. At the moment, the collection comprises more than 300 anthologies, a total of nearly 8,000 volumes. The anthologies are available to all schools in the province of Lapland and transportation can be arranged with the joint transportation system in the Lapland library network.

Schools in Rovaniemi also utilize the library collections; reading packages are made from the collections upon request, or classes visit the library and borrow what they want to read. Teachers in Rovaniemi are given class library cards, which they use to borrow reading packages.

Dancing into the world of poetry

The library has strived to expand book recommendations to young adults as well, working in cooperation with teachers of Finnish and literature in high schools. Anthologies representing various themes were put together, including books that were forbidden during different periods in time, literature from Lapland, poems and plays. The purpose of gathering together various reading recommendations was to introduce readers to the library’s diverse collection of material and lower the threshold for taking advantage of it, while at the same time to present literary works that teachers do not have time to discuss during lessons. There has been a demand for this type of cooperation even after the project was finished.

The purpose of the Runotanssi project is to arouse interest in living literature by offering a setting for various forms of art, poetry and dance. Dance is used to arouse a desire to read; what happens when rhythm, word and motion are combined? Several different bodies are taking part in the project, the efforts of whom have helped to prepare the poetry and choreography for the presentations and to carry out the performances. Runotanssi visited various schools in Rovaniemi during May 2008, and the project will continue during the upcoming autumn.

Other events intended for young people include ‘Kirjastorokki’ and ‘24 h’ comics event. The annual ‘Kirjastorokki’ was organized for the first time in the music department of the Regional Library of Lapland. The occasion offers an excellent opportunity to both local bands and bands around Lapland to perform. Throughout the years, ‘Kirjastorokki’ has grown to such an extent that it requires large premises such as youth clubs.

The library worked in partnership with the Lapland cultural network and the Arctic Comics Centre in organizing the international ‘24 h’ comics festival for the first time last autumn. Comics hobbyists conjured up characters and stories and drew their comics around the clock in the library’s facilities. The completed works were put in a joint exhibition in the lobby of the Regional Library of Lapland in May last. The comics event will continue in the upcoming autumn.

Helena Kokko
Senior Librarian
Regional Library of Lapland

helena.kokko AT

Translated by Turun Täyskäännös