I'm researching library in Finland. I have two questions.
Question 1: When and where the first library was established in Finland?
One source says that "Finland’s first library was founded in Vaasa in 1794" (http://www.vaasa.fi/Other_languages/In_English/First_page/General_Info/…).
But another one says that first one was in Turku Academy in 1640.
(World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services, p.294)
I was wondering which is correct.
Question2: Why is the library so important in Finland?
Both answers are correct in a way. In 1794, the first "public" library, Vaasan lukukirjasto, the Vaasa Reading Society, was founded. "Although the Reading Society was originally meant for its members or partners, other people were also allowed to borrow books for payment. The Reading Society in Vaasa was thus both a “proprietary” and “subscription” library. It is a rather new idea to consider the Vaasa Reading Society to be the beginning of public libraries in Finland. It is usually thought that libraries which provided reading for the Finnish-speaking less-educated majority were the predecessors of public libraries in Finland. However, reading societies at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, which were an undertaking of the Swedish-speaking educated classes, were actually the first “public” libraries in Finland."
Source: Yleiset kirjastot Suomessa 200 vuotta (1994) (English summary, p.104)
The old gymnasium in Turku was in 1640 converted into a university, the Royal Academy in Turku. The Royal Academy library can be considered as the first academic library http://www.nationallibrary.fi/infoe/introduction/historia.html
The importance of libraries in Finland can be found for example in the first Library Act 1928 that stated that municipal libraries are to offer literature and staff services free of charge to the citizens to increase their level of education and to promote independent study.
Finnish public library policy 2015
Here are some comments about the importance of libraries: