National Library of Finland

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Kansalliskirjasto / Nationalbiblioteket
(National Library of Finland)
National Library of Finland.jpg
The main building of the National Library of Finland
Country Finland
Type National library
Size 3M items
Legal deposit Yes
Other information
Staff 264 (2014)
Website Official webpage

The National Library of Finland (Finnish: Kansalliskirjasto, Swedish: Nationalbiblioteket) is the foremost research library in Finland. Administratively the library is part of the University of Helsinki. Until 1 August 2006, it was known as the Helsinki University Library.

The National Library of Finland is the oldest and largest academic library in the country. It is also one of the largest independent institutes at the University of Helsinki. The National Library also serves as a national service and development center for the library sector and promotes national and international cooperation in the field.[1]

The National Library is responsible for storing the Finnish cultural heritage. By Finnish law, the National Library is a legal deposit library and receives copies of all printed matter, as well as audiovisual materials excepting films, produced in Finland or for distribution in Finland. These copies are then distributed by the Library to its own national collection and to reserve collections of five other university libraries.[2] Also, the National Library has the obligation to collect and preserve materials published on the Internet.

Any person who lives in Finland may register as a user of the National Library and borrow library material. The publications in the national collection, however, are not loaned outside the library. The library also is home to one of the most comprehensive collections of books published in the Russian Empire of any library in the world.

The National Library is located in Helsinki, close to Senaatintori square. The oldest part of the library complex, designed by Carl Ludvig Engel, dates back to 1844. The newer extension Rotunda dates to 1903. The bulk of the collection is, nonetheless, stored in Kirjaluola (Finnish for Bookcave), a 57,600-cubic-metre (2,030,000 cu ft) underground bunker drilled into solid rock, 18 metres (59 ft) below the library.[3][4]

In 2011 the National Library of Finland welcomed a total of 166,300 customers. The library collections, the largest in Finland, comprised about 109 kilometres of shelf space. The collections included a total of some three million books and periodicals. Approximately 7.6 million pages of digitised material were viewed over the web. Some 224 million files were harvested for the Finnish Web Archive, which currently contains a total of 718 million files.


C.L. Engel and Gustaf Nyström, University Architects

The library is divided into two principal buildings. The Library's main building was designed by architect C.L. Engel 1836 and was built in 1840-45.[contradiction] The annex is called the Rotunda and was built in 1902-06 by architect Gustaf Nyström.

Main building (Fabiania)[edit]

The Fabiania building, named after its address at Fabianinkatu, was constructed in three phases. The middle part of the building was built for the University of Helsinki's Departments of Chemistry and Anatomy in 1844-46[contradiction] by architect Jean Wiik. The wing facing Kirkkokatu was built in 1888-90 for the Department of Anatomy, and the wing facing Yliopistonkatu for the Department of Pharmacy in 1895-97. Both wings were designed by Gustaf Nyström. The Library moved into the building in 1998. In 1995-2001 the Fabiania and the Rotunda were renovated, and an underground passage connecting the two buildings was built. The project was designed by the architect's office Laiho-Pulkkinen-Raunio (architects Ola Laiho and Sinikka Selänne).

The University Library's main building is one of the best known examples of the late 19th century Empire style in Finland and an important example of the European official library buildings of its time. Fire protection was the main idea when the building was planned: the building is not connected with the University Main Building, and the Library block was surrounded by leafy trees; the halls and rooms are all vaulted.

C. L. Engel used Neoclassical planning in designing the building, characterized by rigid geometry. Czar Nicholas I selected one of Engel's three alternative drawings for a library building.[5] The halls are symmetrically placed, and the ground plan can be traced to the Baths of Diocletian in Rome. The outer and inner architecture is based on a system of Corinthian columns. The façade echoes the architecture of a Classical temple: the pilasters and columns and the entablature above them are fitted exactly proportionally to the University Main Building.

The Library's large halls are all connected with one another. The main axis from the street leads straight into the heart of the Library, the Cupola Hall, and continues into the Rotunda. The Cupola Hall is connected with the two side halls that today are reading rooms, the South Hall and the North Hall. In the beginning there was no furniture in the halls, just the wall shelves behind the columns that support the galleries. The books were arranged by discipline. The columns are coated with stucco marble, and each hall has its own colour scheme. The painted ceiling ornaments are from 1881.

The three halls form a unique suite of rooms in Finnish architectural history, an academic temple devoted to research and science. This was emphasised by placing the entrance opposite the main entrance of the Cathedral.[which?] In this way the library building became a component in the total architectural setting of the Senate Square and its political message, to emphasise the political connection with Russia by architectural means.


In the 19th century there were works of art and plaster casts of ancient Greek and Roman statues in the halls. One of the lunettes in the North Hall was replaced in 1904 by a large oil painting, "The Golden Age", by Magnus Enckell. The North Hall was converted into a reading room in the 1890s.

Annex (Rotunda)[edit]

The work on the Rotunda extension began in 1902, and the new part was taken into use in 1906-07. It has six floors above ground. The semicircular extension is surrounded by radially placed bookshelves accommodating approximately 200,000 volumes. Fire safety aspects were taken into consideration, and the building has a framework of steel and reinforced concrete. It was a very modern building, the first of its kind in Finland. The staircases are of reinforced concrete, the window frames and the construction that carries the glass roof are of iron, and the windows are of armoured glass. Architect Gustaf Nyström placed his Rotunda at the back side of Engel's old building in a very natural way; the fittings are, however, in a typically early 19th Century Art Nouveau style.

Externally the pillars of the Rotunda are adorned with reliefs personifying the sciences by the sculptor Walter Runeberg.

Fabiania (View from Fabianinkatu)


The library yard was redesigned in 2001. The original iron fence and the trees are still on the Unionionkatu side. By the south wall there is a bronze bust of Czar Alexander I by Ivan Martos from 1814. It was originally ordered for the university in Turku, later it stood in the University's festivity hall and was placed in a library park in the 1950s. Near it is a memorial stone brought from Viipuri in 1988 that commemorates the book collector Matti Pohto.[6]


The National Library of Finland has made a major investment in the Digital Humanities. Finland's first professorship in research on digital resources has been established within the discipline of language technology at the Department of Modern Languages, University of Helsinki.

The research and education takes place in collaboration between the University of Helsinki, the National Digitisation Centre of the National Library of Finland, and the Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences. The area of the professorship is new in Finland and exceptional also in the worldwide perspective.

PhD Timo Honkela has been nominated to the professorship from the beginning of 2014. Honkela has earlier served as a chief research scientist at the department of information and computer science at Aalto University. He has a long experience in applying statistical machine learning methods in modeling linguistic and socio-cognitive phenomena.

One of the long-term objectives for the professorship is to generate new research that promotes the use of digital resources. The resources include digitized traditional publications such as books and newspapers, and modern internet-based conversations. Using statistical machine learning and pattern matching methods, it has become possible to analyze complex phenomena from multiple perspectives. For humanities and social sciences, these developments provide new opportunities to strengthen their position.

The topics explored will focus on methods for processing raw data into more usable resources as well as on methods for the content analysis of such resources. The goal is to provide new opportunities for research in humanities and social sciences, and to facilitate development of useful applications.

The professorship further supports the strong language technology know-how at the Department of Modern Languages. The research benefits from its connection with the international CLARIN project, the Finnish activities of which are lead at the department. FIN-CLARIN is the most comprehensive humanistic scientific infrastructure in Finland.

The Digitisation Centre in Mikkeli is responsible for the high-quality long-term preservation of the National Library of Finland’s resources. Preservation consists of digitisation, microfilming and conservation of Finnish newspapers and books. The Centre supports accessibility to collections via its web service with tools for e.g. free text search and crowdsourcing of clippings. It cooperates in the field of digitisation with the memory organisations in Finland and participates in developing the international digitisation of cultural heritage. A central aim of the professorship is to promote the active use of this cultural heritage.

Research and education is conducted in collaboration with the department of computer science with relevant strengths, e.g., in machine learning, data mining, probabilistic modeling, pattern matching, and computational linguistics. Collaboration with Aalto University researchers also continues.

Societally relevant experimental research in real world contexts is conducted in collaboration with Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences, Otava Folk High School and the city of Mikkeli.

Collections and services[edit]

The origins of the Helsinki University Library collections are usually thought to lie in the book collection of the Cathedral School of Åbo, which consisted of some 20 volumes and passed to the Royal Academy of Turku in conjunction with the Academy's establishment in 1640. After the Great Fire of Turku in 1827, the library was relinquished to the University of Helsinki.

Today, the library is responsible for the collection, description, preservation and accessibility of Finland's printed national heritage and the unique collections under its care. In short, the library completes the statutory duties required of a national library in Finland.

The library holds an almost complete collection of literature published in Finland or relating to Finland ("the Fennica collection")and extensive collections of other humanities literature. The library also holds several special collections (such as the Monrepos Library, the A. E. Nordenskiöld Collection, the Lapponica Collection and the Reenpää Collection) as well as special libraries (such as the Slavonic Library, the American Resource Center and the Music Library). In 2011 the library collections included a total of some three million books and periodicals. The online archive contained 718 million files.

As a service and development unit in the Finnish library sector, the National Library is responsible for maintaining the library databases of Finnish universities, universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschule) and public libraries. In addition, the library maintains several national databases, the most important of which are the National Bibliography of Finland (Fennica), the National Discography of Finland (Viola) and the Union Catalogue of Finnish University Libraries (Linda).

In addition, the National Library of Finland houses a large collection of manuscripts.

The Research Collection[edit]

The Research Collection consists of Finnish and foreign literature related to the humanities and social science fields. Besides research literature, it also contains a considerable number of reference works, bibliographies and source publications. The main categories are history, Antiquity and Medieval studies, art (music, literature, the visual arts), philosophy, linguistics, church history, theology, and Russian and Eastern European studies.

The older parts of the collection form Finland's most extensive collection of foreign research literature. The multidisciplinary collection also contains literature from the fields of jurisprudence and the social sciences and medicine and the natural sciences. As far as fiction in concerned, only critical editions of classics in their original languages, are acquired for the collection.

Besides books and magazines, the collection contains Finnish and foreign dissertations, newspapers in original and microform, maps and pictorial works. Parts of the collection can be used only in the Library.

The National Collection[edit]

Besides domestic printed products and sound recordings, the National Collection also contains foreign materials in the Finnish language as well as materials published by Finns and concerning Finland. The National Collection is the archive repository of the national imprint. Most of the materials have been obtained as legal deposit copies.

The National Collection is catalogued in the Fennica and Viola databases. A portion of the older materials have been catalogued only in the National Collection's card index. There are also microfilm and special material catalogues for the National Collection.

Protection of the collection necessitates certain limitations on use. The materials can be studied at the Fabiania Reading Rooms. Fiction and leisure magazines are loaned for research use only by special permission.

The Slavonic Library[edit]

The Slavonic Library acquires literature, primarily related to the humanities and social science fields, published in Slavic languages. Most of the collection, whose scope is approximately 450,000 volumes, is in the Russian language.

During the period of 1828-1917 the Library had the right to obtain a copy of every publication printed in Russia for its collections. The Russian legal deposit collection contains books, newspapers, magazines, maps, flyers and pictures. The scope of the collection, which encompasses all subject areas, is approximately 110,000 volumes.

The Soviet era is represented by the Library's collection of literature - mainly in the humanities and social science fields - from the Soviet Union and Slavic language areas. There is also a fairly comprehensive collection of Russian emigre literature published outside Russia and the Soviet Union.

The basis of the Polonica Collection, consisting of publications in the Polish, Czech, Slovakian, Serbian, Slovenian and Croatian languages, is the legal deposit copies obtained from the Kingdom of Poland when that country belonged to Russia.

Use of the collection

Books published after 1950 can be taken out of the Library as home loans; other materials can be used in the Library's reading rooms. Most of the collection has been recorded in the Helka database. The Library has an open collection. Publications in stacks can be ordered in advance through the Helka database or by e-mail.

The Music Library[edit]

The Music Library's collections

Music literature and periodicals Finnish music literature and magazines are obtained as legal deposit copies. The collection is almost complete. An extensive range of foreign music literature, scientific series, magazines and reference works is also acquired for the Music Library.

Sheet music publications The sheet music collection consists primarily of Finnish sheet music publications. The scope of the collection is approximately 50,000 items. Additionally, the intent is to acquire a comprehensive collection of music by Finnish composers published in foreign countries. The Music Library does not purchase foreign composers' individual scores, but anthologies are procured.

Music manuscripts The collection includes Finnish composers' and musicians' scores and individual documents. The manuscript collection spans a thousand-year period, but the emphasis is on the 1900s.

Collections of recordings Most Finnish recordings have been collected in the Finnish National Sound Archive. Beginning in 1981, the National Library of Finland has obtained legal deposit copies of all music and voice recordings produced in Finland. Vintage recordings are acquired retroactively. The scope of the recording collections is approximately 150,000 items.

Music-oriented ephemera The ephemera collection contains a considerable body of materials related to Finland's music culture from 1810 onwards: concert programmes, posters, annual reports, brochures, advertisements, guidebooks, publishers' catalogues and the indexes of music magazines.

The Finnish National Sound Archive[edit]

With a scope of approximately 150,000 recordings, the Finnish National Sound Archive is Finland's most extensive public recording archive. It operates in connection with the Music Library and it contains a substantial quantity of almost all the recordings issued in Finland. The oldest recordings are from 1901.

From 1981 onwards the Library has received legal deposit copies of all music and voice recordings produced in Finland. Vintage recordings are acquired for the Finnish National Sound Archive retroactively. The collection contains approximately 80% of Finland's sound recordings.

Recordings may not be taken out of the Library, but can be heard in the Music Library by special order. Music recordings are catalogued in the Viola database. Audio books, magazines and other information concerning voice recordings can be found in the Fennica database.

A digitising project for Finnish recordings is currently underway at the Library. Because portions of the recordings are deteriorating archive materials highly susceptible to damage, their preservation is urgent. The digitising all Finnish 78 rpm disks is the first task of the "Sounds of a Century" project. Copyright-free digitised recordings can be heard online through the Raita database.


The National Library of Finland has an almost complete collection of domestic newspapers as well as the country's most extensive collection of foreign newspapers. Information concerning domestic newspapers can be found in the Fennica database; foreign newspapers are catalogued in the Helka database. Most of the newspapers have been microfilmed; microfilms can be examined in the Library's reading rooms.

Domestic newspapers from the period 1771-1909 and their subject-related index 1771-1890 have been digitised and can be read online.

Digitised newspapers from 1910 onwards are accessible only at Finnish Legal Deposit Libraries, using dedicated workstations.

More detailed information about the Newspaper Collection can be obtained from the Microfilm database, the Reading Room´s card index and special catalogues.

Paper and digital copies can be made from microfilmed newspapers. Copyright legislation also applies to newspapers.

The most recent issues of newspapers are not immediately accessible in the Library, the exception being the newspapers in the Slavonic Library and the American Resource Center.


Magazines are grouped collection specifically as follows:

  • The National Collection's magazines
  • The Humanities Collection's magazines
  • Magazines arriving at the Slavonic Library
  • Electronic magazines
  • Digitised journals
  • The National Collection: periodicals 1810 -1944, digitised periodicals

Special Collections[edit]

Legal deposit collections - Russian minority nationalities during the period of Russian rule 1828-1917:

Arabica Armeniaca Caucasica Estonica Georgica Hebraica Lettonica Lithuanica Persica Russica Turcica Private libraries maintained as separate collections:

The Maurice de Coppet Collection The Minister Carl Enckell Map Collection The Otto Engström Collection The Richard Faltin Collection The Aleksandra Gripenberg Collection The Eino Mikkola Collection The Monrepos Library The A.E. Nordenskiöld Collection Brummeriana The Feminist Association Unioni Collection The Reenpää Collection The Von Wright Collection Special collections formed at the Library:

Aboica The Calonius-Naumannin Collection Dissertationes veteres - European dissertations until circa 1850 The Incunabula Collection Japonica Miscellanea Collections The Tibet collection Foreign Literature of the 1500s Collection Collections of Foreign Rarities, Rar., R The Special Collections are examined in the Special Reading Room.

Map Collections[edit]

The National Library's Map Collections contain approximately 100,000 maps, forming a historically and culturally significant entity. Besides legal deposit copies, the collections have been augmented by donations, maps and atlases acquired through purchases, as well as map collections contained in private collections. The Map Collections are grouped as follows:

  • The National Collection's Maps
  • The Humanities Collection's Map Collections
  • The Slavonic Collection's Russian Maps
  • The Minister Carl Enckell Map Collection
  • The A. E. Nordenskiöld Collection
  • Map Catalogues

The Manuscript Collection[edit]

The Manuscript Collection contains the archives of persons and communities related to the history of Finnish educational and cultural history. A considerable number of individual manuscripts from different fields are also found in the collection, the scope of which is approximately 3,000 meters of shelf.

The history of the Manuscript Collection extends back to the collections of the library at Turku Academy. A portion of the library's books and certain valuable manuscripts were rescued from the Great Turku Fire of 1827. Examples from this period include Henrik Gabriel Porthan's manuscript archives and Pehr Kalm's travel diaries from the years 1741-1749. The collection's older materials include papyri, Oriental manuscripts and mediaeval parchment fragments.

Materials related to the histories of Finnish culture, music, education and the University of Helsinki continue to be acquired for the collection.

The Manuscript Collection's materials are studied in the Special Reading Room. Using the material requires compliance with copyright legislation, the regulations governing the use of archived materials and the terms covering the use of the collection.

Digitised Materials[edit]

The National Library of Finland digitises its culturally and historically valuable collections to facilitate the use of the materials and preserve the original publications.

Finnish newspapers, historical everyday ephemera and vintage audio recordings are among the materials digitised by the National Library of Finland for freely accessible online use.

Digitised materials form an important source of materials for researchers and anyone else wanting the information.

Online Exhibitions[edit]

Women of Learning

The Literary Middle Ages


Year 2011

• local users of the research library 166 312 (173 136)

• local and interlibrary loans 500,000 (489,154)

• information service assignments 1,500 (1,800)

• items of research literature acquired 770,000 (622,200) €

• exhibitions and events 23 (30)

• new legal deposit copies 164,000 (155,000)

• new electronic legal deposit copies 224,000,000 (197,500,000)

• records in the Fennica National Bibliography 900,471 (887,188)

• ISBN, ISMN and ISSN codes 4,090 (4,005)

• new digitised pages 1,915,000 (1,064,000)

• downloads of digitised materials 7,605,000 (6,500,000)

• microfilms/exposures 1,118,000 (1,240,000)

• records in the national databases 9,254,000 (8,951,000)

• searches of the national databases 6,223,000 (5,607,000)

• searches of FinELib licensed materials 69,800,000 (68,900,000)

• items downloaded from FinELib licensed materials 21,500,000 (19,600,000)

• permanent employees 230 (213)

• employees in total 286 (330)

• man-years 284 (273)

• Median age of employees 47 (44)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Library of Finland Website". Retrieved 2 April 2014. 
  2. ^ Laki kulttuuriaineistojen tallettamisesta ja säilyttämisestä (1433/2007) Retrieved 2011-09-19
  3. ^ Rakennussuma purkautuu. Yliopistolainen 5/99. Retrieved 2007-10-24. (Finnish)
  4. ^ Keskustakampuksen kirjastojen kehittämissuunnitelma 1998–2005. University of Helsinki. Retrieved 2007-10-24. (Finnish)
  5. ^ James W. P., Campbell (2013). The Library: A World History. Univ. of Chicago Press. p. 225. ISBN 9780226092812. 
  6. ^ Kansalliskirjasto, Nationalbiblioteket, The National Library of Finland. "Architecture". 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 60°10′13″N 24°57′01″E / 60.17028°N 24.95028°E / 60.17028; 24.95028