FINLAND
We’re Marketing!

I became the director of Kotka Library in October 2005, having worked in project planning, marketing and administration for 16 years. While working with various projects, it became an undeniable fact that no matter how good a project was and how good your instructors were, the project could not be realized if there were not enough people who knew about it. Therefore, we had to get used to investing about one-third of the project administration costs in marketing. Visibility in different media is important. First we must spark an interest within the media, and only then can it be sparked in the potential target group.

I have also worked as a visual artist, visual advertising researcher and as an image analysis instructor. Colour, shape and sound, i.e. picture and music, bypass the ‘security system’ in a person’s brain. They have a direct emotional effect on the right hemisphere of the brain, without the control and analysis of the left hemisphere. This is why television advertising is effective. Picture and music function like the Trojan horse, which conveys the message to the brain.

To put it simply, it can be stated that libraries have, throughout their long, legislated existence, been deluded into believing that they are still clear in people’s awareness and that it is enough to serve those who find their way to the library building and who know how to ask for service. This has no longer been the case for quite a while. Growth in book borrowing stopped years ago. Many age groups have already grown up without using the library at all; they barely know of its existence. They download their music, their movies and their information from the Internet. Most of the course books for colleges and universities are e-books. Youth lives in rooms of social media.

I came to Kotka. I was horrified at the physical condition of the library. Although the building and the premises may have been well-designed and visually attractive in their time, decades ago, the decades have eroded the overall appearance and muddled the furnishings and the colour scheme. The premises seemed like a grim warehouse for the most part, where miscellaneous tables and chairs were socializing with dilapidated shelves.

Architecture and its influence on people has been studied for thousands of years. You only need to travel to Athens, where you can still sense the harmony which the architects of the Golden Age reached even before our time. Likewise, the atmosphere in churches was not created by chance. Although Alvar Aalto’s libraries have, in part, become functionally obsolete, the space they create and its effect on people has remained positive.Wood, brick, ceramic and natural shapes.

I began to renew the appearance of the main library and a couple of the branch libraries. Sometimes just changing the colours and furnishings is all you need to fix up and put the space in order; however, it is not until the energy currents of Feng Shui open up the space that it begins to work. Now, statistics indicate that the number of visitors has grown. Maybe the pleasant atmosphere has had an effect.

Because the society surrounding libraries functions on the Internet and electronically, I hired an IT-technician for the library who began to educate and train the staff. The most important process, which had to take place, was a change of attitude in the staff; a library cannot just be abandoned as a book museum, it must go with the flow, be reformed, greet new forms of material with joy, attract youth on their home turf.We are now on this path.

There were also other small changes made: info-screens where we advertise our own and regional events were acquired for the library, an instructional video on using the library was made for the children and youth library sections, which is also available on the Internet, a small music and image editing area was built for the library, and, most importantly, the staff was trained to guide users in how to use the space.

Our library began to develop a website together with other libraries in Kymenlaakso: www.kyyti.fi. The website was introduced on 8 February 2010, the name day for ‘Laina’ (Finnish for ‘borrow’ and also a woman’s name).

During this spring, we will also publish a book game, which is being created in collaboration with videogame developer NitroGames, a youth-interests author, youth manuscript writers and art and music professionals. The game will become an introductory product for the youth section. It is possible to make more gametype books with the same template.We made a visual brochure of the library, which works in many languages. The brochure can also be found on our website – www.kotka.fi/kirjasto.

Two things work in the marketing of libraries: a pleasant atmosphere with new practices and interactive media. We exist both in the form of a comfortable, physical space and as a virtual library. Borrowing has decreased, but visitors and online use have increased.

Since over 90 % of the books on the shelves have fallen into a deep slumber, we must radically reduce the material and acquire, for example, the sort of book displays one finds at the Academic Bookstore, where the books are at the customer’s flicking fingertips. In this way, we entice indolent and busy people to decide to borrow books.

Tempora muus, vi mutantur.

Heleena Lönnroth
Director of Libraries in Kotka
heleena.lonnroth AT kotka.fi
Translated by Turun Täyskäännös

Director of Libraries in Kotka