How does a tourist access a self-service library, if the door only opens with a key card?
FOR A TOURIST, a library is the figurative shop window of an entire municipality. At its best, the library provides more and better information on the municipality than any paid advertisements or glossy brochures. Municipal decision makers would do well to remember this when they consider the significance of a library for a municipality. A visitor is able to draw vital conclusions on a municipality and its spirit by visiting its library.
A SMALL LIBRARY provides a snapshot of the most essential elements of a library: appropriate facilities and equipment, professional staff, up-to-date materials and sufficient opening hours. From a tourist’s point of view, at least two things have to be in place: well-displayed local material and opening hours that are not restricted to office hours. If the library’s collection is compiled in a professional way and takes the special features of the municipality into consideration, even a visitor who has never been engaged in sports might become interested in shot-put.
THIS YEAR, libraries are under threat of being closed down in at least twenty municipalities. In many municipalities, a self-service library has been considered as a possible alternative for closedowns. When the opening hours are extended through the use of self-service facilities, the premises and materials are better accessible to the customers. However, the only library in a municipality cannot be converted into a full self-service library. According to the Library Act, libraries shall have library and information service staff available to the customers. This may sound like stating the obvious, but this basic requirement needs to be regularly pointed out.
THERE ARE also other snags along the road. How does a tourist access a self-service library if the door only opens with a key card? Children under 15 years of age would also be in the same situation if key cards are not granted to them. The Finnish Library Association has received comments from concerned customers who wonder how invisible the work of library professionals will become if libraries are only seen as a kind of logistics centre. Municipalities are also questioning the need for appropriately trained library staff or their need for further education and training.
THIS SPRING, more grants than usual have been made available to library staff. The Finnish Library Association, the Finnish Library Foundation and the IFLA Fund have distributed a total of EUR 50,000 in grants to a total of 59 library employees. This also provides indirect support to library employers, as library employees enhance their knowledge and skills with funding that they acquire themselves.