In the picture you see the Multilingual Library

Our library – my language 

Reading and library services should be accessible to all – regardless of their language. Multilingual Library brings services to the customer’s local library.  

Free access to education and libraries is a strength which may have made the greatest contribution to equality.  The library services are based on the Public Libraries Act, which was reformed just a while ago. 

The library is open to all, and it must be available and accessible to everyone. 

The needs of Finnish- and Swedish-speaking customers must be given equal weight. 

The needs of the Sámi-speaking customers must be taken into account in the Sámi native region. 

To safeguard linguistic and cultural rights, the needs of other local language groups must be given due attention as well.  At the end of 2017, 373,500 persons with a mother tongue other than Finnish, Swedish or Sámi lived in Finland. According to population statistics, approximately 160 different languages are spoken in Finland. The number may be even higher. How can we acknowledge the needs of all these language groups in our libraries? 

Library workers and decision-makers showed great foresight when the Ministry of Education and Culture assigned Helsinki City Library with the task of providing library services for persons with other native languages and acquiring materials for joint, nation-wide use. 

Global cooperation enhanced internationalisation, which affected the composition of the library customer base as far back as the early 1990s. The Nordic countries had considered solutions for arranging library services for different language groups. Library workers and decision-makers showed great foresight when the Ministry of Education and Culture assigned Helsinki City Library with the task of providing library services for persons with other native languages and acquiring materials for joint, nation-wide use.  This was how Multilingual Library got started. Multilingual Library is given an annual operating grant by the ministry. 

Reading in one’s own language is a right that belongs to everyone.

Today, Multilingual Library is the local library for all library customers, regardless of their place of residence in Finland. Reading in one’s own language is a right that belongs to everyone. Even if you move from one country to another, your mother tongue will always accompany you. Being well versed in your own mother tongue improves your chances of learning the language of your new home country, too. This is indicated by international studies. Furthermore, it emerged that there are, in fact, more people in the world who are bi- or multilingual than monolingual, and they use several languages fluently. 

Multilingual Library reaches users in their own neighbourhoods, because they can order material to their local libraries free of charge.

Multilingual Library has a selection of more than 20,000 works in different fields, intended for readers of all ages and listeners of audio books and music. Non-fiction books, poetry, thrillers, biographies, history, popular fiction, fairy tales, picture books, world music—the number keeps growing by approximately 2,000 new titles annually. Multilingual Library reaches users in their own neighbourhoods, because they can order material to their local libraries free of charge.  So, we encourage you to inform your local library about your wish to read material in your own language. Russian Library, serving the Russian-speaking population, operates on the same principle. 

The story diploma, intended to nurture storytelling, contains a book list specifying the languages that a certain book is available in.

Various actors have made efforts to promote reading among children and young people. It is important to start reading together with the child at an early age. The story diploma, intended to nurture storytelling, contains a book list specifying the languages that a certain book is available in. Thus, families and children in day care centres and playparks can pick a book that can be read simultaneously in each child’s mother tongue. The Story train (Satukaravaani) brings storytelling sessions in various languages to children’s local libraries. The storytellers can be found, for example, through Helmet libraries’ joint language database for storytellers. If you are organising an event, you can use the database to borrow a storyteller or someone who can give you book tips in your own language. 

Besides promoting reading among children and young people, we must pay attention to persons with reading disabilities and ensure that they have access to printed publications – in various languages, too. The Marrakesh Treaty makes it easier to publish works and exchange them between countries. Worldwide, less than seven percent of all published books are available in an accessible format, such as audiobooks. Celia library works to remove these barriers and serves the whole nation. 

We hope that as many libraries as possible will participate in the annual Multilingual Month (Satakielikuukausi), which is a great opportunity to highlight multilingual materials and services. 

In the picture you see Riitta Hämäläinen

Riitta Hämäläinen works as a Multilingual Library information specialist at Helsinki City Library.  

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