Ukrainian book collection in Finnish libraries grows 20-fold in two years

Finnish libraries purchase Ukrainian books for both children and adults.
Libraries in Pasila, Oodi, and Itäkeskus have the biggest collections. Children and youth books are the most popular.

Nadiia Fedorova

Nadiia Fedorova

Published 26.02.2024 3:41

Updated 26.02.2024 3:41

As thousands of Ukrainians fled to Finland after the start of the war, local libraries tried to respond to the exploded demand.  

Information specialist of the Multilingual library Eeva Pilviö recalls the initial challenges of acquiring Ukranian books in the beginning of 2022 when libraries and bookstores across Europe were competing for these materials.  

“We grabbed all we could find, taking up to 10 pieces of each book”, says Pilviö.  

Still, it was not enough to fill all the requests. By summer 2022 customers in over 63 libraries across Finland were waiting for Ukrainian language materials. Consequently, the Multilingual library focused on acquiring more books in Ukranian. 

The library aims to create a diverse collection 

In 2023 half of the purchased materials were Ukrainian. Now the collection consists of about 4000 pieces. Before the war the collection had around 200 hundred books in Ukrainian. 

“We have enough books on the shelf and can fill the readers’ requests”, says Pilviö. 

The library aims to create a diverse collection, acquiring Ukrainian classics, literature from modern Ukrainian authors, and translations. Children and youth books are the most popular, with 75 percent of all readers’ requests going to them.  

The Multilingual library plans to continue ordering materials in Ukrainian only in smaller amounts. 

Municipal libraries also support the Ukrainian community by allocating funds for books purchases.  

According to Tatyana Vasilyeva, the information specialist at the Helsinki City Library, the budget for Ukrainian materials in 2023 was the same as for Estonian, the second largest foreign language community in Finland. 

Books are printed outside Ukraine  

The list of the books for purchase is created by the Finnish contract supplier, who has connections with different publishing houses abroad. Not all books are ordered directly from Ukraine. 

Because of war many publishing houses were forced to move their warehouses, and finding the right logistic chains became difficult. The publishing of Ukrainian language books was arranged in other European countries.  

Finnish libraries now buy a significant number of Ukrainian books from publishers in Sweden, for example.   

The readers can make suggestions for the acquisitions using feedback forms in the libraries or online. However, if the book was printed 3–4 years ago it is very hard to get it as the print runs have run out.  

“Books are a connection with home” 

Libraries have also been actively promoting their services among Ukrainian readers by creating informational materials and organizing events in their native language. 

Nataliia Golova, a Ukrainian pedagog-librarian from Espoo city library, says that books on the shelves are the most effective way of promotion of Ukrainian literature.  

“Ukrainians are not used to booking materials online. It is important for them to hold the book in their hands, to go through it before borrowing it”, Golova says.  

The librarian monitors the available Ukrainian materials in the library application Helmet and notes that many copies are borrowed or booked. Readers actively use the opportunity to read in their native language.  

“For Ukrainians, such books are a connection with home,” Golova emphasizes.  

The largest collections of Ukrainian language books in Helsinki are found in Pasila, Oodi, and Itäkeskus public libraries.  

Almost all libraries in Helsinki and Espoo have mini-collections featuring children’s literature in Ukrainian. Golova points out that all the books can be ordered to the customer’s nearest library.