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Public libraries have traditionally performed a unique role in supporting citizens as a "knowledge hub" based on information. Because of the rapid change in society in the 21st century, public libraries are expected to take on a new role that is not only book lending. In an effort to satisfy this expectation, tens of thousands of events are held in advanced public libraries every year. Although many researchers have focused on specific events, such as information literacy education (Hedemark & Lindberg, 2018) and conversation-based events (Johnston, 2018), no research has been conducted to provide a comprehensive analysis of those events, for instance, to determine what events are taking place and to what extent they are taking place. Mathiasson & Jochumsen (2019) and Mathiasson & Jochumsen (2020) have analyzed events posted on Facebook in Danish public libraries with a similar problem in mind. However, the purpose of their study is to establish an analytical method for Facebook and analyze the content of the page, therefore, the analysis of the event details is not sufficient. In addition, some events are held without being posted on Facebook.
The purpose of this research is to elucidate in detail what kind of events are held in the Helsinki Central Library (Oodi) in Finland, since a variety of events have taken place in the library. Furthermore, we have analyzed the impact of COVID-19 on library programs by examining events before/after the 18th March 2020 when the library was closed due to the COVID-19 epidemic.
Data on events posted on Oodi’s webpage were collected by running a script every day. The Library Act in Finland, which came into effect in 2017, says "provisioning premises for learning, recreational activities, working, and civic activities" and "promoting social and cultural dialogue" as duties of public libraries as well as reading and information services. In other words, they promote various activities at the legal level. The number of events is 1,330 between on the 13th August 2019, and on the 31st October 2020. The collected event data were categorized by discussion among the researchers based on kind of activity such as reading, learning and social meeting.
In conclusion, Oodi provided opportunities for any kind of learning and experience. The traditional philosophy of public libraries, which is to eliminate social disparities and ensure the equality of citizens, has not changed. On the other hand, many events were held to provide citizens with a place for social interaction and dialogue, which created connections between citizens using the physical space of the library. Furthermore, in the case of the COVID-19 epidemic, although the number of events has decreased, the advanced library, Oodi, has continued some events online. Oodi has maintained their events under such an epidemics situation, and these events can be still effective on their residence, and lead to the reduction of inequalities and recognition of diversity in civic society.
Tomoya Igarashi, Graduate School of Comprehensive Human Sciences, University of Tsukuba
Momoka Watanabe, College of Knowledge and Library Sciences, School of Informatics, University of Tsukuba
Yumi Tomita, College of Knowledge and Library Sciences, School of Informatics, University of Tsukuba
Yuki Sugeno, College of Knowledge and Library Sciences, School of Informatics, University of Tsukuba
Motoko Yamagishi, College of Knowledge and Library Sciences, School of Informatics, University of Tsukuba
Masanori Koizumi, Faculty of Library, Information and Media Science, University of Tsukuba