The e-library idea predates the pandemic restrictions

Espoo’s web library turns the page on inaccessibility

Espoo’s web library turns the page on inaccessibility

A fine example of a digital service increasing the value of its offline counterpart

The City of Espoo in Finland is unique for its decentralized urban plan and lack of a defined downtown core area. It is instead characterized by a network of five urban centres, all of which offer equal access to services and greenery to their residents. This decentralized approach has also been taken to the city’s digital realm with the electronic library project

The e-library is Espoo’s contribution to an EU project called UserCentriCities, which, as its name suggests, promotes the user orientation of city services. was deemed so good in fact by the project organizers that it was named one of three finalists for the UserCentriCities Awards, which were held today.

A whole library in your pocket

Espoo is also home to the highest density of international talent and the highest education level of all Finnish cities. A staggering 52% of residents over 24 years old hold a university degree and English has an official status as a public service language. With these stats in mind, it is no wonder that reading and consuming information are held in high priority there.

The arrival of the COVID pandemic and the restrictions in its tow showed the need for guaranteed access to library services on a large scale. The idea for an e-library, however, was born much earlier than that and the city was ahead of its time in its interest to grow its presence digitally.

The result is a joint e-library service catering to over a million residents in Espoo, Helsinki, Kauniainen and Vantaa. The service is available in multiple languages, such as English, Finnish, and Swedish, and can be accessed through the Taskukirjasto application, which means Pocket library in Finnish.

The app has the user’s library card bar code, which basically makes it a digital version of said card. Users can make reservations, renew loans, get reading recommendations, list their favourites and borrow materials from friends. In addition, from e-books to e-magazines to music and training courses, the over three million items catalogue is free and open to everyone.

The joint e-library service caters to the larger Helsinki metropolitan area, which apart from Espoo, also includes Helsinki proper, Vantaa and Kauniainen. Of the 30 million visits to Helmet libraries per year, 17 million are online, and a survey from the city revealed that the app can boast a 98% acceptance rate among citizens.



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