A woman borrows books from the library.

Helsinki’s libraries have opened calmly and without crowds – most libraries now allow clients to loan, return and pick up reserved items

11 libraries opened their doors with limited services in Helsinki already on Friday, 8 May. The majority of city libraries opened on Monday, 11 May. Some of the libraries will open later this week. Among others, the new Herttoniemi library, located in the local service centre Hertsi, will be open for visitors for the first time on Thursday, 14 May. The library buses will start their routes on Wednesday, 13 May. Helsinki City Library has altogether 37 branches and two library buses.

At the moment, only the basic services of loans, returns and reservation pick-ups are available, and clients can visit library premises for a longer time from 1 June onwards. People can stay in libraries only on designated areas, which means, for example, that all seating has been removed, and customer computers are currently unavailable. Reading rooms and work spaces are also off-limits until further notice.

It’s recommended to check the opening hours of your local library at helmet.fi/Libraries because libraries operate on limited schedule in May. For example, the libraries in Puistola and Suutarila, located near schools, open only at 2.00 pm on weekdays.
Both Myllypuro Media Library and the childrens’ libraries in Pikku-Huopalahti and Sakarinmäki will remain closed throughout May. On weekdays, many libraries reserve the first one or first two opening hours for at-risk groups. You can check this on each library’s Helmet website or by calling your local library. Helsinki library buses will return to their routes with limited services and on a new schedule on Wednesday, 13 May. The buses cannot be entered, but you can return materials and pick up reservations with the help of the staff. The buses will also lend out bestsellers. In other words, the library buses will function as sort of mobile loan and return kiosks. This week, the evening routes will be driven on Wednesday and Thursday, and on the next week, on Monday, 18 May and Tuesday, 19 May. Starting from Monday, 25 May, all routes will be driven on a normal timetable. The timetables can be checked at helmet.fi/Mobile_Library.

A small number of visitors, a lot of loans and returns

The feeling of reunion in the libraries that opened on Friday was a quiet one, taking all precautions into consideration. Despite prior preparations, there were no crowds in the libraries. On Friday, 8 May, the eleven opened libraries were visited by approximately 3,000 people altogether. When compared to last year, Friday, 10 May 2019, this year saw 77% less visits. However, first-time loans were almost as high as last year, and returns saw a 44% uptick. In other words, the clients who visited libraries on 8 May, both loaned and returned a great deal of material. On Saturday, 9 May, the Central Library Oodi was the only library to be open, and 758 people popped in for a quick visit. On the upcoming Saturday, many other Helsinki libraries will be open.

”The libraries’ personnel have created good safety measures and guidelines for the library premises, and clients followed these instructions carefully. The libraries that have opened with limited services look different from usual, because a great portion of a modern library’s services has had to be left out. We’re all waiting for the beginning of June, when we can incrementally open and start using the customer computers, printers and other devices, as well as the magazine reading rooms and work spaces, and start organising events,” says Katri Vänttinen, the City of Helsinki’s Library Director.

At the moment, there are numerous reservations sitting in the shelves. The reservations that went uncollected in March due to the library closings can now be picked up from the open libraries until 14 May, after which they will be given further to the people in the reservation queue. New reservations have been possible on Helmet.fi since Monday.