Saturday. 26.11.2022

The treasure of Finnish libraries

Since 2010, Finland has lost more than 100 public libraries and the number of books stored in them has been also reduced. However, last year the 736 existing libraries throughout the country still received 50 million visits of people who borrowed 84.5 million books and other items.

Oodi-library-Helsinki-read-public by Aleksi Poutanen (c) Helsinki Marketing
A reading room in Oodi, the new Helsinki library. Photo: © Aleksi Poutanen/Helsinki Marketing.

The Finnish library network has been scaled down in recent years, but it is still huge in relative terms and by international comparison.

In the year 2000, Finland had altogether 936 public libraries, branch libraries and institutional libraries across the country. In 2018, the total number had been reduced to 736, this was over 21% less than at the beginning of the century, according to the figures provided by Statistics Finland.

The number of visitors also declined as the century progressed and the Internet gained more and more users as a leisure alternative, but Finnish public libraries are a treasure that remains at the center of the authorities' strategy to promote culture.

This is shown by the evolution of the expenditure made in the last years to maintain the network: almost 320 million euros in 2018 versus 208 million euros in 2000. Last year, the opening of Oodi (the new library of the city of Helsinki and the largest in the country) filled the country with pride and also proved the Government's commitment to libraries remains firm.

Public-Libraries-FinlandSource: Statistics Finland.

Increase in multimedia materials

Apart from the density of the service network, the quality of the library services has been also influenced by the volume and contents of the materials offered. In 2018, the collections of public libraries comprised more than 30.2 million books and 4.1 millions of items of other materials (records, CD, films, video games...).

During the past few years, especially the number of books has decreased while the amount of other items gained more and more space in the shelves. Today, libraries also offer a wide variety of services via Internet and many of them host events such as conferences, debates, music spectacles, movie screenings, exhibitions, theater and other performances.

The use of public libraries

The figures on the use of libraries are still high, although they have been falling in recent years.

According to Statistics Finland, almost 2 million persons (over 35% of the country's population) borrowed something from a library in 2018. Over the 2000-2018 period, the share of borrowers in the total population fell by nearly 12 percentage points.


Despite the decrease in the number of users, the loan figures show that, for those who still use them, libraries continue to provide a great service.

Those almost 2 million people who visited them in 2018 took altogether more than 84.5 million loans. Expressed per capita, this means each Finn made 9 physical visits to libraries and took 15.3 loans in 2018. They may be less people than 20 years ago, but they are still loyal and regular visitors, as showed by Statistics Finland's data.

38 million virtual visits

Altogether, almost 50 million physical library visits and 38 million virtual library visits via the web services were recorded in 2018.

The figures also show the debacle in the number of physical visits seems to have come to an end. And if virtual visits exceeded physical visits in 2010, now that trend has reversed too. In 2018 the number of virtual visits grew by almost 3% compared to 2017, but they were considerably less than physical visits.

The treasure of Finnish libraries