When I lived in Northern Lapland for a year, the closest libraries were in Muonio and Kittilä, 30 km and 50 km away respectively. Then, after the tiny bookshop in Kittilä closed its doors, Rovaniemi (capitol of Lapland, 200 km away) was my nearest source. Sodankylä (135 km) also had a bookstore, but I never had any reason to go there, especially since I didn’t even manage to make it to the Midnight Sun Film Festival.
Fortunately the Finns have a wonderful solution for this dilemma. Every three weeks a library bus would come by and it stopped just three kilometres from our house. The selection is large enough that I always found something interesting to check out. Kittilä’s bus was still very new, having been taken into service less than a year before we moved there.
Finland has a lot of space for its 5.4 million inhabitants (16 people per square kilometre) and since most of them are concentrated in the southern quarter of the country, there is even more breathing area for those up north where there are only two people per square kilometre. This means hours of driving for the library buses – 1630 kilometers total in the municipality of Kittilä during a two-week period and 790 kilometers in Kolari on six days. In Kittilä the average daily driving adds up to 145 km with the longest day involving 200 km on the road. There are 138 stops on the Kittilä route and 84 in Kolari.
The shiny blue bus has 100 meters of shelving which hold about 4400 books and 50 different magazines as well as a selection of CDs, DVDs and comic books.
I certainly was grateful for this fantastic service when I lived there!
For more photos and details see the Finnish library pages:
The other bus that stopped nearby on a regular basis (every two weeks) was an ice cream truck. Some might imagine it to be a bit odd to be waiting in the darkness at -20°C in order to buy boxes of ice cream, but Liisa and I were never there alone – there were always other neighbors there as well. So as you can see, the basics were taken care of. Books and ice cream – what more does one really need 200 km north of the Arctic Circle or anywhere else for that matter? Unfortunately the ice cream truck doesn’t come around anymore though.