Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Love music? Love Finnish Libraries: Why Libraries in Finland are the best in the world

A little off topic here, but hear me out.

When I travel, I tend to make a point to check out Churches and Libraries (amongst other things). Now, I am not religious, nor do I read many books (at least not for pleasure), but I find that much can be learned from a city based on both the Churches and Libraries, in both a historical and contemporary sense. 

I was fortunate enough to go on a skiing holiday in Northern Finland last week, and as well as messing around in an Angry Birds themed kids park and shrivelling in a sauna, I checked out the public (or state) Library in Rovianemi, the capital of Lapland. It's modest, but amazing (how Finnish). Their Church is also awesome...

I specifically checked out the Music section and was blown away by the volume of sheet music (see image below), vinyl, CD's and music DVD/Blu-Ray titles available. It was also not a particularly 'shooshy' Library, with people chilling out listening to music on headphones and occasionally singing along. The books ranged from biographies to academic titles including those from researchers I have discussed on this blog many times. You simply wouldn't find these books in an equivalent Library of approximate size and in an area of comparable population in UK: Fact.

These are all books with sheet music, including (perhaps unsurprisingly?) metal bands

It's not that remarkable to discover a great music section in a Finnish Library. They are known both for their excellent Education system and musical proficiency, particularly in classical music (Music Teachers are often held in the same regard as Doctors or Lawyers). I also expect that their high rate of tax goes into excellent public services such as Libraries, and from talking it through with locals, this very much seems to be the case. Nonetheless, I was surprised to find a truly HUGE music section in such a small town.

After wrestling some Elk as I headed South, I stumbled upon the public Library in Turku, the former capital of Finland and the first city; it's more of what you could call a proper city with a big student population and multiple train stations, etc. The Library there was EVEN MORE AMAZING.

It's a mystery that there are more titles by Scottish band 'The Jesus and Mary Chain' in a Finnish Library than in any Scottish Library you could find

The music section was enormous and had thousands of CD's, DVD's/Blu-Rays, sheet music, vinyl, books... everything you could want. And MORE. They put on regular live music events, allow you to transfer old cassettes into digital format.. all sorts. I should note, their CD's extended to huge, expensive boxed-sets that cost around the £100 mark. They can all be rented for free, with no limit on how many you take out at once. An interesting poster boasts that they have titles that do not appear on Spotify, which caught my attention (see below).

Still not entirely sure what the thrust of this poster is, but I'm fascinated by it

So, what am I trying to say here? At the risk of sounding old fashioned, dull, etc., I had a blast sifting through all of the CD's and books in there for what my wife assures me was "for ages". If I lived here, I would be in this Library every week, and I would enjoy discovering the never-ending array of music titles on offer in a stimulating environment where I can be truly surprised with what I find. I would be hard pressed to find a good reason to pirate anything, because it's all down the road in the Library. 

I'm excited to be going back to Turku next month, where I suspect I will be spending much of my spare time in the Library. 

If you love music, then you will love Libraries in Finland.

They also do beer in 1 litre cans...

 Ergonomics aside, holding 1 litre of beer in your hand makes you feel like a real man (until you inevitably drop it)

Tweets when I'm not pondering creating a blog dedicated to my love for Finnish Libraries @musicpiracyblog

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