Starting 1 June, the Helsinki City Library network will once again provide close to full library services. This means that computer workstations, printers, copy machines, scanners and other equipment, as well as magazine reading areas and various meeting and study rooms will be reopened for use, in addition to loan, return and reservation operations. This summer, some libraries in the city will also be open on weekends.
Helsinki’s libraries will return to near-normal operations soon, observing new summer opening hours from 1 June to 9 August. The use of some library services, facilities and equipment will remain limited or off-limits. For example, premises that can be booked for private use at varaamo.hel.fi will be used at 50% capacity to ensure social distancing, i.e., meeting rooms for ten people will now be limited to groups of five. Some of the library premises will not be taken back into use at all for this reason, and equipment made of porous material, such as headphones, VR headsets and toys, will not be made available. Each library has a different selection of services and equipment, so please check the website of your local library, if you are looking for something specific.
The number of computer workstations in Helsinki’s libraries has been cut back, along with seating in reading rooms and other library spaces. This will ensure that people in the libraries will maintain the one to two-metre distance that the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare has deemed safe. If it proves necessary, the library staff may have to limit the number of customers at times. It is recommended that customers use the loan and return automats and practice self-service until further notice, if possible. Customers seeking face-to-face guidance are asked to respect the social distancing guidelines and take care of their business quickly. Only some of the Helsinki libraries will handle cash, so customers are encouraged to pay with credit or debit cards. Cleaning will be stepped up at all Helsinki library locations, in accordance with guidelines issued by the Finnish Institute of Occupation Health.
More libraries open on summer weekends
This summer more libraries in Helsinki will be open on the weekend than in previous summers. For example, libraries in the Helsinki districts of Malmi, Pitäjämäki, Roihuvuori, Töölö and Vallila will join the Oodi Central Library in providing services on Sundays.
Some of the libraries in the city will also reserve an hour or two for risk groups to use their services during the summer months. These special opening hours vary from one library to the next, as they are determined by when the library has the fewest customers. You can check the special risk group opening hours and general summer opening hours on the website of your local library.
Evening routes of the city’s library buses will take a five-week break after Midsummer (20 June). Before that, you might be able to spot them in unusual places, such as playgrounds, outdoor swimming pools, parks and market squares. The buses will work according to a pop-up principle through the summer, as customers are not allowed inside the vehicles. For this reason, staff will instead make material available outdoors. Library buses transport books, lawn games, tables and chairs, and experts in children’s and youth literature.
Renovations and streamed events
Several Helsinki libraries are being renovated this summer as planned. The library serving the eastern district of Viikki will close on 1 June for a projected one-year renovation. During the closure, a pop-up library run jointly by the city and the University of Helsinki campus in Viikki will open for local customers and university students, starting operations on 22 June on the fourth floor of the campus library building. The historic Rikhardinkatu library in the city centre will also be closed for renovations from 19 June to 31 July. The Etelä-Haaga library will have some minor repair work done this summer that will not require the library to close, but may affect opening hours. Expansion of the Arabianranta library will also start this summer, affecting opening hours there. The starting date for construction work will be determined later.
Library events will continue to be live-streamed and archived on the City of Helsinki’s Helsinki-kanava video service through the month of June. A schedule of upcoming streams can be found on the Helmet website (in Finnish). Library events such as children’s nursery rhyme circles, book clubs and author interviews will begin once more in August. Streamed content will also continue in the autumn.
The ‘Summer reading to your door’ campaign designed for residents over the age of 70 will also be carried out in June. Participating libraries will gather good condition books that would have otherwise been taken out of circulation into bags. These book bags are then either delivered to the homes of self-isolating elderly along with Helsinki Helpline food and medicine, or made available for library customers to pick up and deliver to their loved ones. Library staff follow safety precautions by wearing gloves during assembly and sealing the bags before they leave the libraries. The books inside the bags are a surprise for the recipients, who are not required to return them.
Read more on the 1 June resumption of services at metropolitan area libraries on the Helmet website.