Photo Credit: Okko Kuivalainen
Author: Okko Kuivalainen
Rautalampi is a municipality of 3300 people, located some 350km to the northeast from Helsinki, thecapital. The regional centre, Kuopio, is some 70km away. The large wooden church, built in 1844, is the main landmark of Rautalampi. The landscape is dominated by forest, lakes and small hills – in other words, typical environment in the eastern parts of Finland.
Despite the small size of the municipality, Rautalampi opened a new library in the late 1980s to replace the old library that operated in an old wooden building. The investment was sizeable for such a small municipality, reflecting the importance placed on development of public libraries in Finland. It is worth noting that the building serves a number of other functions in addition to housing the library; for example, a number of local associations hold their meetings at the library, and the library is available for various events, such as art exhibitions, plays and meetings.
Statistics are readily available: In 2015 the library had a collection of 39,731 books – of these 1,634 were in foreign languages. The library had 37,704 visitors during the year. Going by the numbers, the library records an impressive number of visitors – more than 11 visits per inhabitant per year. The library has a wifi network and there are computer terminals are available to visitors. A large number of newspapers, magazines and DVDs are also available.
My aunt, moved here in the late 1980s as minister of the Rautalampi Kyrka , and has been a semi-frequent user of the library ever since. She has mentioned in the past that the service provided by the local library is excellent, and that the staff truly make an effort to provide assistance to customers. A few months ago, my aunt heard a book review on the radio, and asked the library about the availability of this book the following day. As the book was not available in the library’s collection, the staff decided to order a copy – and my aunt was able to borrow the book soon after. Most impressive!