Multilingual Library Services
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Multilingual library services in the Helsinki City Library

From the beginning of February 1995 the Helsinki City Library - Central Library for Public Libraries - was given a task by the Ministry of Education to act as a multilingual library in Finland. Helsinki City Library receives special state subsidy for the purpose.


The aim of the Central Multilingual Library Service is to enhance library services for foreigners, to establish connections with domestic and international organisations, to provide information and guidance, as well as to purchase materials in rare languages for the interlibrary use for the ethnic minorities in Finland.
Municipalities are still in the main responsible for providing library
services for the foreigners in their respective communities.

The more detailed aims - within the budgetary limits - of the Multilingual library are agreed upon annually in discussions between the Ministry of Education and the Helsinki City Library.
(Minedu 12.1.1995, 27/650/94)


The Central Multilingual Library Service purchases materials in the
so-called rare languages for nationwide use. Multilingual library does not purchase materials in the Nordic languages or in the so-called major European languages such as English, French, German, Italian, Estonian, Russian and Spanish. Both the Helsinki Library collection and the materials purchased by the Central Multilingual Library Service are available nationwide. Helsinki City Library has books in sixty different languages.

Municipal libraries purchase materials also in rare languages according to local population statistics. Especially the acquisition of newspapers and periodicals are considered to be the responsibility of the local libraries. Multilingual library supports this activity nationwide.


Multilingual library collection is situated in different departments of
the Helsinki City main library together with those materials purchased with the library.s own money. The collection contains mainly books in c. 60 languages. The overall collectionstatistics of both the Multilingual library and the Helsinki City Library can be found under the heading kirjat kielittäin, (books by language).

You can print lists of books and other materials from the following
Click the keyword-link. Type two asterisks ** and choose the language and the type of material from the dropdown menus.


Those living in the Helsinki metropolitan area normally acquire their own library cards and borrow directly from the Helsinki City main library.

Interlibrary services

You can ask your local library to make interlibrary requests by title and subject. Small selections can be sent for a 3- to 6-month loan
period. Interlibrary requests are made to the Interlibrary Loans

Although it is not the responsibility of the Multilingual library to
purchase materials in other Nordic languages nor in the so-called major European languages, the library does send individual loans to other libraries around the country through the interlibrary department.

The brochure .Public Library . gateway to knowledge. explains the
operational principles of the public libraries in Finland. The brochure can be freely copied and disseminated. It is available in following 14 languages:

The brochure is also available in simplified language three languages:

Introduction to the operations of the Helsinki City library is available in 15 languages:
Library Brochures of Helsinki City Library in 15 languages

UNESCO Public Library Manifesto is the international manifest of public libraries which IFLA, International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions has published in 20 languages:

Helsinki City Library's web-publication MCL - Multicultural Library,
provides services for foreigners living in Finland.

Demographic statistics

Information on the number of foreigners and different languages spoken in Finland can be found under the heading 'Väestö kielen mukaan lääneittäin ja suuralueittain' from the following address:

International co-operation

The Central Multilingual Library Service works in unison with the
corresponding Nordic multilingual libraries. In addition to national
libraries responsible for multicultural services, Århus city library in
Denmark has invested considerably on multicultural library work.

Oslo Public Library, The Multilingual Library
Det flerspråklige bibliotek vid Deichmanske bibliotek

International Library, Stockholm
Internationella Biblioteket vid Stockholms stadsbibliotek


International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions
Library Services to Multicultural Populations Section


Contact Information
Helsinki City Library
MCL - Multi Cultural Library
Ask a Librarian
City of Helsinki