Public libraries in Finland have always been open to everyone and their use free of charge. The library's role is to provide the citizens with information and to give them an opportunity for recreation and independent learning. Public library activity is municipal; the local authorities decide on library developments and set the budgets. State funding has however been considerable ever since the 60s. Today municipal libraries receive up to 86% State subsidy for their library expenditure.
Helsinki City Library was founded in Helsinki in 1860 on private initiative and was taken over by the City in 1876. In 1994 In addition to the Main Library there were 34 branch libraries and two mobile libraries.
In the years 1991-1993 the total number of library visits rised by 63%, and loans by 35% (over 8 million loans in 1993). Statistics from the world's major cities indicate that Helsinki ranks among the top book-borrowing capitals of the world.
The Cable Book is a pilot project in Helsinki City Library, specialised in information technology, art and culture. The project prepares the ground for integrating Internet into the services of all public libraries.