The Finnish Library Museum fosters library and cultural heritage

“The library is the mediator of educational and cultural material in both traditional and digital formats – a local and regional cultural and informational center.”

Library Strategy 2010

 Vaasa was an excellent choice for the library museum because Finland’s first ‘reading’ library, Läse-Bibliotheket i Wasa, opened in Vaasa in 1794. The reading library was Finland’s first lending library that was intended for public use. The library was situated on the same premises as the Court of Appeal in Old Vaasa. Today, the building is used as a church for the Mustasaari parish. The library’s first librarian, Justice, Court of Appeal Olof Langen-stein, explained how the reading so-ciety began in his letter to Stockholm’s’ Court Chancellor Zibet from whom permission to establish the institution had to be requested.

“On the 2nd day of August 1794, cer-tain people established a Society, in other words a so-called reading library, in the City of Waasa for fun and to pass time…” Members of the Vaasa Court of Appeal and a few other gentlefolk established the library, but “to be able to expand the Collection at one time, the Society has permitted other Residents in the City to participate in reading for a small fee.”

The reading library was the child of the Enlightenment. The library’s abundant collections, which were almost completely in Swedish (some works were in German and French, but nearly none in Finnish), contained everything from Polynesian maps to the works of Montesquieu. The collections contained many novels and plays, the most widely read material at the time. Printed cu-mulative catalogues of the collections were published 1813 and 1828 (catalougues of new works were also printed in the early years).

The library also has portraits and cop-per drawings that were almost never loaned; however a type of art-lending library was in the making. The reading library functioned until the year 1845. The regulations concerning censorship during Russia’s rule of Finland were one reason for the decline in the library’s activities.

Digitizing old, delicate collection rarities for researchers and others interested

Preserving and mediating library and cultural heritage for future generations is an essential part of the functions of the Finnish Library Museum. The purpose of digitizing material is to facilitate availability and use now and in the future. The library museum began digitizing library-related photographs in 2010.

The photos by Kalevi Keski-Korhonen, who has worked as a photographer for the library journal for decades, are on display in the permanent exhibition at the library museum. Keski-Korhonen has photographed library employees, patrons, premises, equipment, etc. in libraries all around Finland. His photos depict how libraries have been used and how work has been done there. They also depict the libraries’ end product: the encounters between pa-trons and the contents of the collec-tions, invigoration and learning.

Vaasa City Library and the Finnish Library Museum have received subsidies from the Ministry of Education and Culture to digitize the collections of the reading library and other unique collections. The work has been carried out at the digitization center in the National Library of Finland in Mikkeli.

The museum uses the WebMusketti museum database, which has been designed to manage collections in mu-seums. The application enables museums to save information about different types of objects and pictures in a standardized way.

In recent years, developments in digitization have progressed at an extremely fast pace. The development of technology has offered opportunities to do things in a new way. Finland’s National Board of Antiquities takes part in European projects and follows field-related developments in other mu-seums, libraries and archives.

In Finland, the National Digital Library Project has indicated that the current situation in the museum sector is problematic with regard to content de-scriptions and cataloging. The seman-tic commensurability and efficient data transfer between systems would require common cataloguing practices and systems to support them.


Kirjasampo, (, was published in 2011. It contains information about 73 000 novels, short stories and collections of poetry as well as information about 24 900 authors and contemporaries’ evaluations of 15 500 works. Kirjasampo also contains cover pictures and links to other online services for fiction. The data in Kirjasam-po increase constantly because de-scriptions of older fiction and new releases from BTJ Oy are saved in the database. Descriptions of author pre-sentations and works are also transferred into Kirjasampo.

There are also some digitized works from the reading library in Kirjasampo: Ringen eller den tredubbla qvinnolisten, see for example:

and Werthers nöjen, som yngling. Werthers lidande och nöjen, som man, see


The Association of the Finnish Library Museum

Additional information