New facility at Helsinki Airport lets passengers exchange second hand books

Images: Australian Business Traveller, Yalotar

By Raymond Kollau,

 In the fall of 2011, Helsinki Airport together with Finnair recruited eight so-called ‘Quality Hunter’s out of hundreds of applicants. The objective was to let the Quality Hunters travel the world for seven weeks – observing and commenting on their experiences on flights and in airports – in order to collect ideas and insights on how Finnair and Helsinki Airport could improve the passenger experience.

At the end of the project in December 2011, a total of 260 ideas were conceived by the Quality Hunters and their online followers, and both Finnair and Helsinki Airport said they would use the best ideas in their product and service development. For example, Helsinki Airport so far has launched art, design and fashion galleries and is introducing Finnish nature into the airport.

Airport Book Swap
In mid-June, Helsinki Airport launched an Airport Book Swap, which was voted one of the top three ideas in the Quality Hunters project. The new book swapping space allows passengers to drop off books they’ve finished reading and make them available for other readers passing through the airport.

Quality Hunter ‘Yalotar’ describes the book exchange facility as follows: “What started off as an idea, has now developed into something tangible: A small room with bookshelves and books. Anyone can come in and relax for a while. There are some cozy armchairs as well, in case you’re like me and actually need to read parts of the book before choosing. So, if you have a book in your bag that you’re already done with, you can leave it to the bookshelves. Just tag it with the Book Swap sticker, write down where the book has travelled with you and choose a new book to enjoy. So happy and proud for my input!”

The Quality Hunters community has been heavily involved in developing the airport book swap concept leading up to the launch. Helsinki Airport in March 2012 asked for ideas what the book swap should look like and also launched a ‘book swap board’ on Pinterest, where people could ‘pin’ actual decisions for the book swap. Says Helsinki Airport Customer Experience Manager Johanna Metsälä, “The Book Swap station’s interior design is based on suggestions made by the online community, as are the mechanics for book swapping. Even the Book Swap logo is a community member’s design.”

The first books to be placed into circulation have been donated by the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Re-use Centre, employees of Finnish airport operator Finavia and other companies that operate at Helsinki Airport. The Book Swap is open to all passengers free of charge, 24 hours a day, and is located on the second floor of the airport near Gate 27. More images of the Helsinki Airport Book Swap here, here and here.

Airport libraries
The Book Swap at Helsinki Airport follows other initiatives launched by airports to cater to the reading public. In 2010 the world’s first airport library opened at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Passengers waiting for their flights can read books by Dutch authors (translated in 29 languages), listen to music, watch short films and make free downloads. In March 2011, Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport opened the world’s first e-library as a way to showcase Taiwan’s high-tech capabilities. Passengers in transit can read 400 e-book titles for free on iPads and other electronic devices and make use of free WiFi or internet stations.


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