Mikko Lahtinen: Kirjastojen maa [Land of libraries]

4 March 2011 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Kirjastojen maa
[Land of libraries]
Tampere: Vastapaino, 2010. 394 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-768-315-9
€ 43, hardback

Libraries are the most widely used cultural service in Finland. Kirjastojen maa describes the journey undertaken by the protagonist, who refers to himself as ‘the Library Man’, and his entourage to 250 public libraries around Finland between 2008 and 2010. Many of these sites were celebrating their 150th anniversaries at the time, since there was a great enthusiasm for establishing public libraries in Finland in the 1850s. This travel journal provides a history of libraries as an institution and their development into a central pillar of society. The author also considers Finnish intellectual space in this age of digital media. Libraries currently face significant challenges: the recent wave of local authority mergers, centralisation of public services and funding cuts are all hampering the development of library operations. The importance of libraries is further underlined by the fact that local residents have launched protests in support of libraries threatened with closure –  in spite of the usual difficulty of rousing Finns to man the barricades. The author is a philosopher, political researcher and active participant in public policy discussions.
Translated by Ruth Urbom

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