The Main Library in Kaisa House will soon welcome its 500,000th visitor

The autumn customer numbers of the new University of Helsinki Main Library in Kaisa House suggest that the half-million visitor mark will be reached by the beginning of 2013. The overwhelming majority of visitors have given positive feedback. The library services were designed as part of the official World Design Capital 2012 programme.

On its opening day on 3rd of September 2012, the new University of Helsinki Main Library in Kaisa House welcomed 8,700 visitors. The number of visitors totalled 130,000 in September and 146,000 in October; in other words, some 6,000 people visited the library every weekday.

“We had attracted a total of 400,000 visitors by the end of November and so we expect to reach the half-million mark by the beginning of 2013,” says Project Manager Inkeri Salonharju of the Helsinki University Library. The library has also welcomed some 150 groups, including many Finnish and international visitors interested in architecture and design.

Mostly positive feedback

The majority of visitors have given positive feedback on the new library. Comments received during the opening week described the building as stunning, ingenious and ideal, and a good place for quiet contemplation. Particular praise was given to its airy, clear, functional and stylish interior. Suggested areas for improvement related to excessive noise, a lack of quiet reading rooms and uncertainty about the purpose of some facilities.

“The policy of total silence has been abandoned at the library, and we are currently in the process of profiling open spaces for various purposes. This is necessary to ensure that different users can find the work spaces suitable for them,” Salonharju notes.

Customers have access to a total of 1,000 places spread across quiet reading areas, group work rooms and diverse open spaces. They can also use sofas and comfy chairs for relaxation and conversation. The library facilities are divided into three zones according to the levels of noise permitted. Discussion and group work are allowed in the green zone, whereas quiet conversation and the use of laptops are allowed in the orange zone. The red zone is reserved exclusively for quiet study. The noise levels are in line with the concept of ‘library etiquette’, developed during the Library’s Smart Design project.

User-driven design to continue

The Main Library’s Smart Design service design project aims to turn the library into an inspiring learning environment in which customers can both learn and relax.

Users can already enjoy many of the new services developed through the service design approach, such as an interface for mobile devices and a map application, which help customers find information about library services and collections. The library also supports collaborative learning through an online platform for study groups, and promotes the use of electronic resources with an electronic bookshelf. Library services have also been reorganised to be more uniform and user-friendly, and service communication has been enhanced. Current areas of development include customer feedback and the library’s developer community.

“Though the service design has addressed only a small number of our service challenges, it has led to the creation of new knowledge and skills which we can use to forge ahead in our efforts to develop services. Our next task will be to establish the new services at all the University campus libraries,” Salonharju says.

The new Helsinki University Main Library in Kaisa House is Finland’s largest university library. The library and its collections are open to all. The service design project will improve the library’s on-site and online services aimed at its user base of above 100,000.

Additional information

  • Project Manager Inkeri Salonharju, Helsinki University Library,, tel. +358 9 191 24377 or +358 50 415 5528

Veikko Somerpuro