I had a great chat with Harri Laakso a couple of days ago in Kassel, where we were attending the (contemporary art show) dOCUMENTA 13 with our students.

We have both seen (Harri for years in Ithaca and Chicago, me during one semester in Philadelphia) what superb university libraries CAN be – and we are now thinking about Ivy League libraries in the States.

In library circles it is a well known fact that the best public libraries in the world are in Finland – and by the way, this summer the world congress of libraries will be in Helsinki (late in the summer). In most countries people who are not affiliated with a good university have a hard time to find knowledge, but not here.

Howcome we haven’t been able to create a competitive culture (and economy) for university libraries, for people who need a very special kind of knowledge? Can the two be combined in one country?

I think Harri was right in claiming that if Aalto wants to get to the top, they have to develop a top library. How can we succeed in this?

Many of us do not have the experience – to be able to walk in and find all the Derridas both in English and French (Harri’s example), and stay in the library from 8 in the morning until 10 in the evening (which was possible at the U Penn where I spent a lot of time), and to find all possible videos and tapes, materials at one place. Do we need people with this experience to the boards working on developing Aalto’s libraries? Are they already there? Is it just a question of money?