According to the action plan approved by the annual meeting late last year, the Association will closely monitor the effects of municipal consolidations on the number and quality of library units and staff. National and international cooperation concerning copyright issues and the availability of e-resources were other important topics taken up by the annual meeting. The lively discussion on the education of library professionals is reflected in the current issue of Kirjastolehti. In addition to the more formal library education and training, the different working groups carrying out the practical work of the Association also play a significant role in the further education of library staff.
Bi-annual Library Conference 2013
The bi-annual national library conference will be arranged in Mikkeli in June with international guest speakers from EBLIDA and Tallin City Library (Estonia). The competencies and skills needs in the library and information services field will be discussed also at the conference. Other topics include service design, library cooperation, open source library systems and a national library vision, as well as crowdsourcing at the National Library. The lectures and workshops, receptions and working group meetings will bring together several hundred library professionals from every corner of the country.
Tuula Haavisto new director for Helsinki City Library
Tuula Haavisto is known as a former Secretary General of the Finnish Library Association, as an international library consultant, speaker and writer and for the past six years, as library director of Tampere City Library, one of the biggest and busiest library systems in Finland. It wasn’t all a bed of roses, though, as Tuula herself points out. During her time in Tampere, the implementation of the new library system caused problems and gave grey hairs to staff and public alike. Most of her memories from Tampere will be positive, though: the main library was renovated, the library renewed and developed its service culture and regional library cooperation intensified. Haavisto also names the celebrations of the 150 year anniversary of the library as one of the highlights of her time in Tampere.
Haavisto was also responsible for organising cultural services for the elderly, something she enjoyed and considered an especially interesting part of the job. She also stresses the meaning of library space, ”the third dimension alongside the digital and the traditional library”. Other key concepts are cooperation, networking, the sharing of knowledge and internationalisation. ”The strength of the Finnish library network lies in its overall good quality.”
Tuula sees cooperation between the National Library and her new organisation, Helsinki City Library, also acting as the Central Library for Public Libraries, as important. ”The time is ripe for a joint strategy for the two libraries.” Personally she’s going to start her new career by visiting all library units in Helsinki, introducing herself, exchanging ideas on the future of libraries and the profession.
Education of library and information specialists a theme for 2013
Kirjastolehti’s first issue of the year takes up the education of library and informations specialists which will be a recurring topic throughout the year.
This time, students of the first-ever Master’s Degree Programme taught at polytechnic level (Turku University of Applied Sciences) share their experiences.
Unlike the three Master’s Degree Programmes at universities in Oulu, Tampere and Turku (in Swedish), the polytechnic degree is geared at practising library professionals. The first patch will graduate at the end the year. Most assignments are practical and can be applied to the students’ own organisations. Still, committing to a degree programme while working full-time requires stamina and support from the participants’ own libraries and bosses.
While Riikka Uski from Aura Public Library has been suprised by all the hard work, the varying and social methods have made it easier. She mentions customer relationship management as one of the most inspiring areas so far, and is writing her final project on collaborative methods of customer engagement. Hanna Kotila from Seinäjoki Public Library is probably not alone when she remarks that the studies have improved her presentation skills and given her confidence. Birgitta Kurvinen (Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences Library) has found that adapting to the role of a student is a great help in her own professional role while teaching information search and retrieval to students. Being able to discuss the topics of the studies with fellow students is also a big part of the learning process. To qualify for the degree programme, applicants must already have 60 study points in library and information services, as well as three years’ work experience since graduation (Bacherlor’s degree).
How to serve the students?
Veera Ristikartano’s (Communication Specialist, Helsinki University Library) text echoes the same sentiments as Birgitta Kurvinen’s comments above. Switching to the role of a student can be a healthy experience for a library professional. ”What do you mean an e-book can only be lent to one user at a time?” Other questions from fellow students – who by now have realised they have a librarian in their midst – have included: Why do I have to install a new application to be able to read a certain article? What do you mean this doesn’t work on an iPad? How come the remote access only works on Internet Explorer? While a lot of the assignments, group work and discussions can be done online, access to course literature is limited and students are often required to physically visit the library, e.g. to make certain reservations. Makes you think.
To Shh! or not to Shh?
Jarmo Saarti, Library Director, University of Eastern Finland Library, takes up a topic which has lately been discussed in letters to the editors of Finnish newspapers (and elsewhere, here is recent American blog entry on the subject:http://www.salon.com/2013/01/31/bring_back_shushing_librarians/). What to do when a lot of the users demand peace and quiet but library staff also wish to accommodate for noisy teenagers, students working on school assignments or people discussing in groups. Saarti suggests dividing the space into different spheres, one for concentration and silence, another for collaborative discussion. It is a question of design and acoustics. Being able to concentrate quietly on the matter at hand is a skill the library can encourage – a skill still needed today.
A Library Is a Library is a Library
Pirjo Tuomi, Senior Lecturer at Oulu University of Applied Sciences, goes back to basics: a library is an institution where all auxiliary activities should support and promote the use of library materials, in one way or another. When libraries lend out Nordic walking poles and battery drills for their users, library staff should not have to change the sewing machine bobbins. And while library premises can be used for other than library-related purposes, where the image of the library as an institution and the professional knowledge of the staff is being used, the activities should somehow be connected to library materials and services and their promotion.
The second Annual Publication of the new-style Kirjastolehti takes up the most talked-about, important and interesting topics, events and developments of the Finnish library year.
The important events of 2012 are presented in pictures which indeed tell more than a thousand words. Many of the milestones of the year have to do with IFLA and WLIC 2012. Sinikka Sipilä, the Secretary General of the Finnish Library Association was in the second year of her term as President-Elect for IFLA and the World Library and Information Congress with a record number of delegates was held in Helsinki.
Hard times for libraries
As in so many other countries, libraries have been shut, budgets have been cut and services taken down a notch in several municipalities, also in Finland. Jukka Relander, the president of the Library Association takes up the fate of neighbourhood libraries: while bigger main libraries with their wider collections and assortment of services are important, children, the elderly and people with functional disabilities will suffer when local libraries are closed down. When more municipal consolidations are on the agenda, the friends of libraries need to be alert and work together with the libraries to make sure children can walk or cycle to their local library also in years to come.
When talking about the meaning and mission of public libraries, the poet Heli Slunga lets rip: Libraries are providers of culture and education, not entertainment. ”It is a hell of a lot more fruitful for one person to read Plato’s Dialogues than for 1000 users to borrow a guide in ’how to make your bum smaller’.” She remarks that libraries should not have to defend their financing on the grounds of issues and visits alone. Slunga states that the Finnish library network puts world civilization within everybody’s reach. ”The benefits and effects of culture are difficult to measure, yet they exist.”
Barbro Wigell-Ryynänen and Maija Berndtson to retire
Two internationally well-known and experienced library professionals will be retiring in early 2013, as unlikely as it seems. Councellor for Library Affairs Barbro Wigell-Ryynänen has worked at the Ministry of Education and Culture for the past 15 years, with 40 years of experience from libraries.
During her career, Wigell-Ryynänen has worked in libraries in Sweden and Finland, in different library sectors, with national, Nordic and international issues alike. At the ministry, her tasks have included responsibility for the national library grants for development projects, membership in national steering groups and committees and international assignments. The national library strategies and policies resulted in numerous invitations to speak at conferences and workshops abroad. As some of the most memorable achievements she mentions the posts as editor-in-chief for the Scandinavian Public Library Quarterly, now the Scandinavian Library Quarterly, and her role in the the Anglo-Scandinavian and Twin Cities networks.
Maija Berndtson, the Library Director of Helsinki City Library, also acting as the Central Library for Public Libraries in Finland, is retiring at the end of January. One of her last – and by no means least – tasks as director is sitting in the jury of the architectural competition for the Helsinki Central Library. (Six proposals have already been chosen for the second stage of the competition and are presented elsewhere in the annual publication – the final decision on the winning proposal will be made in June 2013).
Berndtson was only 30 when she started as Deputy Director at Espoo City Library, followed by a few years as Secretary General for the Finnish Library Association. The work of the Library Director in Helsinki is more than a local job, it is a national and international post.
The most difficult – and rewarding – phases in her professional life have been the reductions in the library network in Helsinki. Difficult because libraries have been under threat, and rewarding because the users have clearly shown how important they consider libraries to be. ”In the beginning of the 21st century, we talked about hybrid libraries, a few years ago it was the borderless library. Today, as I see it, we’re talking about libraries as a concentratro enriching people’s of ideas and thoughts. It is important to see the processes that originate in libraries, not the forms.”
New library buildings and mobile libraries
While waiting for Helsinki Central Library to take shape, several smaller, newly-built and renovated, libraries have been opened elsewhere in the country. The Library Journal Annual Publication presents three of these more throughly and a few others mainly in pictures.
The Palokka public library in Jyväskylä combines noisier gaming areas and quieter working areas. There is a separate room for playing computer games and another for surfing the net plus a meeting room which is also available for anyone who wants to have some peace and quiet. In Toholampi, a municipality with a population of around 3 000, the library got rid of the high shelving and a good portion of the collections when they moved back after the extensive renovation. The library appears more spacious, the young users got their own corner in the library and a multi-use facility was designed.
The city of Seinäjoki has been planning a new library building for years. Combining the existing Alvar Aalto-designed library (currently being renovated) with the new building posed a particular challenge for the architects but the result can be described as an all-round success. The new library building, the Clover, has already proved to be popular among the users and feedback has been positive.
It is not only library buildings that are being designed, though. Several new mobile libraries are also on the road. In Oulu, the staff played an integral part in the planning process which guarantees better ergonomy and driving comfort, e.g. the desks are all adjustable.
Up until now, all Finnish mobiles have been build on a bus chassis but now the first two mobile libraries built on a truck chassis have been introduced in Kirkkonummi and Mäntsälä. This is expected to lengthen the usage time by years.
E-resources in public libraries
If buildings and vehicles are seen as the all important frame for library service, materials and collections are of crucial significance. Pekka Heikkinen, the lawyer at the National Library of Finland, writes about the role of e-resources in libraries, particularly in public libraries. The more e-resources libraries are able to offer, the more they have to discuss, learn about and lobby for issues around data privacy and public access to information. The challenge is to find a solution which would combine the social and cultural mission of libraries with the commercial interests of publishers. According to Heikkinen, the way forward is lobbying as a school of small fish – there is power in numbers.
Aija Laine gives a survey of the situation of e-resources in libraries abroad. In Finland, a solution is being searched for in the national Next Media project, and especially its eReading subproject. eReading brings together publishers, researchers and libraries with the National Library and Helsinki City Library as active members. The goal is to develop new service concepts and commercial solutions but also answers to questions regarding licenses and distribution of resources through libraries at national level.
As a result of the increasing use of e-resources the role of the Finnish Repository Library is changing. Its functions should change accordingly, as Jarmo Saarti, Library Director of the University of Eastern Finland Library, points out. The biggest user group of the Repository Library are the public libraries while the research libraries mainly order article copies. These copies could be sent directly to the researchers demanding them. Public libraries could also place any newer printed materials used less frequently at the Repository Library which in turn should work more as a logistics center.
Developing systems, developing services
Library system development and migrating to new systems have been a hot topic during 2012. The Open Library project in Joensuu examined whether the open source systems could compete with the commercial ones and came to a positive conclusion. Ari Mäkiranta, the project manager, believes that the open source systems can lead to savings, even if the development of Koha or Evergreen also requires resources. Joensuu chose Evergreen which they plan to implement from the beginning of 2014. An international system means an international development team. The fact that the Evergreen integrated library system is already used to power a number of consortial catalogues was a definite plus when choosing the system, notes Mäkiranta. Joensuu City Library is open for regional and other forms of cooperation, both with libraries and other partners.
Some libraries have run into difficulties when changing systems. In Tampere, 90 % of customer feedback was negative right after the implementation: the problems were connected to e.g. user identification and the cumbersome and slow search functions. The system is being developed further and the last fixes are scheduled for early 2013.
Jarmo Saarti has written two books on choosing a library system. ”As long as things were simple and book lending was the main task of the library, there were no problems.” When the systems were also expected to manage information search and communication with customers, the problems started to pile up. Another problem is that libraries do not possess the experience necessary in the procurement, tendering and purchasing of systems. And the invevitable: ”Libraries are too nice.” They enter into agreements which don’t contain the necessary sanctions.
The development work being done in libraries has taken on new forms. Open and self-directional networks lead to new thinking and changes in the field. Some of the new forms are camps, labs and unconferences, all of which are gaining ground in Finnish libraries. Helsinki City Library has participated in several Nordic Camps together with colleagues from all Nordic countries. ”Having fun doesn’t exclude being efficient and working effectively” remarked one of the librarians taking part. More people mean more ideas, reflection may lead to discoveries.
The Labs.fi unit has already ceased to exist but it was also fun while it lasted – and made a difference in e.g. the visibility of libraries in the open data arena. The two coordinators acted as facilitators and developers, organising workshops, inspiring library professionals to thinking outside the proverbial box.
Finland’s pride and joy, Cycling for Libraries, is an excellent example of these emerging new forms of cooperation and networking. The cycling tour slash unconference has taken 100 library professionals first from Copenhagen to Berlin in 2011, and through the Baltic states the following year. There are no powerpoint marathons, no monologues, no traditional meetings. Instead, the participants are a part of the whole interactive process, which is also the case in camps and labs. All can have their say, on equal grounds.
The Finnish Learning Library network is based on the same premises of nimble and quick development without a rigid planning and administrative structure. Here, the goal is to engage library users in the development processes. As library customers tend to be satisfied with library services, it is not easy to get any new suggestions out of them. Co-designing can be the answer. Users have taken part in designing new library facilities, organising events and even deciding on budgeting as is the case in Helsinki where 100 000 euros of the Helsinki Central Library planning budget is being allocated according to suggestions from the users.
The Trial Point is a new kind of library space in Helsinki where users can test and get acquainted with new products and services such as a knotting device or a game teaching guitar playing. The idea is that users can evaluate the products, give feedback to the designers and be a part of the design process. All the services and products have to be ecological and advance the wellbeing and health of their users. This is well in keeping with the goals of public libraries.
Lobbying is an acquired skill, writes Pirkko Lindberg, the Oulu City Library Director of Library Services. (The issue is topical, the municipal elections being held in Finland in October.) Nobody else but you is going to speak on your behalf, she remarks, by “you” meaning the chief librarians. While our users may love us, it is not enough to save the libraries. Lindberg advises librarians to use figures, presenting the decision-makers with usage statistics, numbers of booktalks given, amount of group visits or co-operational projects.
Lindberg writes about the basics of lobbying with another accomplished Library Director,Jarmo Saarti, from the University of Eastern Finland Library. Libraries need to take initiative, be hands-on and proactive. It is important to know the decision-makers and adapt the library objectives into the larger organisational strategic framework. Be brief, be lively, be concrete and positive, use pictures, tell examples. And whatever you do, do not complain. Always remember to explain how the library adds to the positive image and visibility of the municipality or the organisation and makes is more attractive to new inhabitants, students, partners or co-workers.
Library directors are also featured in other ways in this year’s last issue of Kirjastolehti. Vantaa, the fourth biggest city in Finland, and a part of the HelMet libraries in the metropolitan region, got a new Director of Library Services in August. Before taking on Vantaa City Library,Mikko Vainio worked as Deputy Library Director in Helsinki, with administration and web library services as his main areas of responsibility. Wishing more outside financing for public libraries is what has earned him his reputation as radical. Even if he claims to be shy, he’s become known as a bold reformer of library services in his previous posts in Kouvola and Oulunkylä public libraries, irony and straight talk being his trademarks.
Another newly appointed library administrator is Susanne Ahlroth who started as a Senior Adviser in library matters for the Swedish-speaking areas in Finland during the summer. Her post is old but new, with her being the first Finland-Swedish official in regional government since the 1990’s. She has previously worked as Head of Department in Rikhardinkatu Library in Helsinki, and as a children’s librarian. Her new job is independent and mobile – she acts as a link between libraries in the Finnish and Swedish speaking municipalities, but also between e.g. schools and libraries. According to Ahlroth, cooperation is the key for a language minority. While libraries don’t have to do everything themselves, it is a case of working together, of making ourselves available and actively taking contact with potential partners.
Also the Finnish Library Association has a new co-worker, in the newly founded, if fixed-term, post of Office Manager. Kristiina Kontiainen is an experienced library professional who has worked as well with e-resources acquisition, library systems and administration. She’s held posts in university, public and health education libraries before moving into regional state government in 2004. Her work at the association has provided yet another perspective to libraries with new issues and challenges, not all of which are connected to the libraries themselves. She will run the association while Sinikka Sipilä, the Executive Director, serves as President Elect and later, as President of IFLA.
Four library directors were asked what games they played. Political and power games scored no points but most admitted to enjoying outdoor and board games while the only computer games mentioned were patience and quizzes (and some respondents confessed having been quite addicted to these at one point or another). Sudoku was also mentioned.
A one-stop shop to all Finnish public libraries – and later, all types of libraries – has been opened, or rather, reopened on the web as the first version stems from 1998. The Library Register is a databank containing contact information for buildings and staff, opening hours and information on library services. Users can also search materials but the register is not only a customer service, it makes the lives of library professionals easier, too. In the near future, it will provide any users with information on the special areas of expertise of the staff. On the one hand, there are more than one thousand libraries in the country, on the other hand – just one.
The IFLA WLIC 2012 is successfully over. The congress was remarkable by several standards: it was the biggest conference in Helsinki this year, and also the biggest ever professional library event measured by the number of Finnish delegates, around 800 in all. All in all, there were around 4 200 delegates from 120 countries. 240 volunteers made sure that the 218 meetings, presentations and gatherings ran smoothly. A new website presenting Finnish libraries from different angles with articles, interviews and videos was opened shortly before WLIC2012 at now.libraries.fi . The Finnish library web tv Kirjastokaista made short films and interviews on site, these are available at http://www.kirjastokaista.fi/kirjastoala/ifla-kirjastoala . Also, the Ifla Express materials are worth a look, whether you were in Helsinki yourself or not.http://express.ifla.org/
The latest issue of Kirjastolehti starts understandably with an overview of the next IFLA WLIC 2012 congress. Library professionals from around the world will be gathering to Helsinki in August with 200 Finnish volunteers making sure all the conference sessions, meetings, presentations, the exhibition and library visits will work out as planned.
Voluntary work is one the cornerstones of IFLA, and not only during the annual conferences. During her visit to Finland, the current IFLA president, Ingrid Parent, met with Finnish librarians and state officials at the Ministry of Education and Culture, and of course, the President-elect, Sinikka Sipilä, who will take over the post in 2013. The presidential theme of Ingrid Parent is Libraries – A force for change.
Unfortunately, daily life is not all sunshine and rainbows, even in libraries. The newly implemented library system in the Tampere region, the PIKI libraries, has proved to require more work than anticipated. While the system had to be shut down for longer periods of time because of data security problems and slow system performance, the new interactive functionalities of user and staff generated reviews and recommendations have since been met with positive reactions. 74% of the residents of Tampere use the public library, the majority also make use of the web library. The library director of Tampere City Library, Tuula Haavisto, reminds the readers that the Finnish public libraries are especially demanding customers when it comes to library systems: the volumes of use are big, libraries work as consortia and the music libraries set their own requirements on the systems. The PIKI consortium consists of 22 municipal library systems.
Violence and the threat of violence is fortunately a rare phenomenon in libraries. Still, library staff do encounter violence at work. To prevent this from happening, Helsinki City Library makes use of the city’s Occupational safety toolkit, an online databank with information on risk analysis, job safety and prevention of workplace accidents. The toolkit contains up-to-date information on emergencies and touch and go situations. Members of staff who have met with e.g. threats of violence enter the incidents into the databank. The managers are immediately and automatically notified by email. The city library also takes part in a project run by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health to develop workplace safety.
Established practises and situations have changed, also in acquistions. Where before the procurement of library materials was rather a straightforward process with the discount percentages being the most important determining factor, today libraries need to take several other criteria in consideration. While libraries welcome new suppliers and competition in the field, lately the change has meant that most of the public procurements of library materials have ended up in the Market Court through petitions made by one of the tenderers. It remains to be seen how the two main suppliers and the latest addition in the field will fare in the competition.
Minna Karvonen, the newly appointed Counsellor for Cultural Affairs at the Ministry of Education and Culture, is by no means a stranger to public libraries even if her background is in the museums sector. She has been Secretary General for the Finnish National Digital Library project and has also briefly worked at two branch libraries in Helsinki. Her experience and knowledge of the European Union and digitizing projects are valuable assets in her new post. In the interview she draws attention to the current programme of the Finnish government which is very ambitious when it comes to libraries. “The development of the national digital infrastructure still needs a lot of work but the decisions are made on municipal level.” Karvonen’s domain at the Ministry includes the National Digital Library, the FinELib national consortium for e-resources, information architecture, digital materials and services.
The national public library statistics for 2011 show a slight increase in the overall loan figures, especially in the issues of fiction items. More on statistics at http://tilastot.kirjastot.fi/en-GB/
The national Libraries.fi web services have gone through a revamp during early 2012 and there is more to come later this year, tells Jonas Tana, the editor and planner of the Swedish language services. Some of the reforms and new additions are the library register which so far has included all the public libraries in the country and will soon also contain information on the special and university libraries in Finland, plus a cavalcade of videos on Finland-Swedish libraries produced together with the Finland-Swedish Library Association and Kirjastokaista, the Finnish online video service of public libraries.
The Finnish Library Association urges all public libraries to acknowledge the municipal elections on October 10th. The joint themes they suggest are Library. Public right of access and Library is a neighbourhood service. Campaign material will be available for libraries.
The web services of the public libraries in the metropolitan region, HelMet, are being restructured and renewed. The project started almost two years ago and is managed by Jussi Vehviläinen, an engineer whose aim is a user-friendly website. The users have also been heard during the process. Coming from outside the library sector has allowed Vehviläinen to look at the library web services from a fresh angle. According to him, marketing and making the services attractive to users is the key. The expertise of the staff also needs to be highlighted.
The truth behind the perception of digital natives living their lives in social media and navigating with ease on the internet may come as a surprise to many librarians. The students at the universities of applied sciences are not making particularly good use of electronic materials, and even when they use e-journals or e-books they often say they prefer printed materials. What is needed is cooperation between teaching and library staff: information specialists should have a role in the planning of learning assignments, teaching and evaluation of learning outcomes, notes Leena Elenius who works at the library of Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences.
The state of library education in Finland is somewhat in turmoil, writes Titta Baer. Three universities and three universities of applied sciences (formerly polytechnics) educate librarians and information specialists. The restructuring process of the universities of applied sciences means e.g. that in Oulu the degree programme in library and information services will be shut down but continues as an option within the business economics degree programme. The degree programme in library and information services at Turku University of Applied Sciences continues after an initial termination scare. While a number of library staff will retire during the coming years, it is not a given that the posts will be filled. According to statistics, 621 library professionals were unemployed in August 2012. At the same time, there were only 18 openings in the branch. Are we educating too many library professionals asks Titta Baer. According to a report by the National Board of Education 180 posts will open in the library, museum and archive branch every year by the year 2020.
The changes in the library education at Oulu University of Applied Sciences mean that the future students will all start by studying business economy, the common core for the degree programme. This is not only a bad thing, as Terhi Mustakangas, lecturer in library and information services, remarks: the library students will have a sound knowledge of business, economy and marketing. The recent changes in the library decree also call for good quality academic education: 45% of the staff at public libraries must have a university degree.
Jarmo Saarti, library director at the University of Eastern Finland takes a look at the Finnish library IT infrastructure. The Nelli search interface has offered a federated search to licensed and open access e-resources especially for the users of academic libraries. It allows the authorised users to access and search across several databases and journals at the same time.The National Library is responsible for maintaining the service while the libraries are able to tailor the interface according to the local needs. 75% of Nelli use comes from universities, 21% from universities of applied sciences. Public library users make up a mere 5% of the searchers. This reflects the amount of e-resources in use in each sector. The National Digital Libraryproject coordinated by the National Library has so far tested a commercial search interface but has since ended up developing an open source solution using VuFind. The different library sectors still have their own library systems. Universities and polytechnics use the same system but have separate catalogues. Both special and public libraries use several different systems. To overcome the situation, libraries have initiated a project to model a modern library system suitable for all library sectors. The tasks are divided into working groups and most of the work is being done online.
The public libraries in Northern Finland began a collaboration with a couple of Russian libraries in 2006. The first partners have been children’s libraries which, unlike their Finnish counterparts, are independent organisations and not a part of a public library. During the recent years Russian libraries have been developing in leaps and bounds and the cooperation is more balanced than before. The staff from the participating libraries have met both in Finland and Russia, have visited different types of libraries in both countries, exchanged experiences at seminars and taken part in poetry readings tells Pirkko Lindberg, library director at Oulu City Library.
It probably hasn’t escaped anybody in the world of libraries that Finland will be hosting the World Library and Information Congress in Helsinki in August. Leena Uhlenius from the Åland Islands is one of coordinators of the local volunteers in Finland. She is well suited for the task as she volunteered herself during the Gothenburg IFLA conference in Sweden a couple of years ago. Working at the Central Library for the Åland Islands in Mariehamn, between Finland and Sweden, has given Leena and her colleagues a unique position: being able to follow the development of libraries in the two neighbouring countries has allowed Mariehamn to get the best of the two worlds. The library has actively taken part in both Finnish and Swedish collaborations. The archipelago municipalities also have a long tradition of local cooperation in Åland.
The first issue of Kirjastolehti in 2012 takes up the recent discussion on outsourcing and privatizing of library services. While in Finland no municipalities have outsourced library management and operations to commercial actors, the Swedish example of Nacka often comes up, also in this issue of the Finnish library journal. Rovaniemi City Library is examining the possibilities and consequences of outsourcing with a grant from the Ministry of Education and Culture.
Barbro Wigell-Ryynänen, Counsellor for Library Affairs at the Ministry of Education, discusses the situation in Sweden and Great Britain, while Jarmo Saarti, Library Director of the University of Eastern Finland Library, points out that some forms of outsourcing have worked well for the academic (as well as the public) libraries: the FinELib consortium which negotiates license agreements centrally on behalf of its member libraries and the Repository Library which stores and lends out the more seldom needed material. As Saarti reminds, the goal has to be better services achieved by rationalizing service production.
Another current theme is the local government reform and the new municipality structure which already has resulted in bigger, and fewer municipalities through consolidations. The division of tasks between the municipalities and the state is being redefined which will also have its consequences on library legislation. According to the Ministry of Education, what is going to remain, though, is the fact that Finland has a library act which states that the use of the library and its own collections are free of charge also in the future.
Pirkko Lindberg, Library Director at Oulu City Library in Northern Finland explains the administrative model of the new city of Oulu library. Even if the merger between five municipalities won’t happen until next year, the library has been preparing for the bigger municipality structure since 2010 – and the libraries already merged at the begining of 2011.
The new Oulu City Library consists of four regional libraries and 18 community libraries plus a hospital library and two mobile libraries. As there is a long tradition of cooperation between libraries in the area, it was decided that the other eight public libraries who’ve been collaborating with Oulu would join the library system. For the user this means one library card, access to a bigger collection, speedy delivery of materials from other libraries across municipality borders and same fees.
Osuuskunta Vastapaino, a cooperative publishing house, was founded in 1981. Teijo Makkonen, the publishing manager of Vastapaino, was also one of the founders. Vastapaino issues all its own Finnish titles both in print and electronic form, and has done so for the last 3-4 years. One of the biggest problems for e-publishing is the VAT, which at 23 % is considerably higher than the 9 % on printed books. Downloadable e-books haven’t yet caught on in Finland: a mere 400 downloads were sold last year while other digital media and online publications amounted to 10 000 sold items. The share of digital media on the book market was 9 % in 2010.
While the City of Helsinki celebrates the World Design Capital year, also the public libraries in Helsinki continue to strive for even better service by developing new concepts for visual communication and communication through service and space. One of the new visual details is a staff uniform vest which makes it easy for the users to recognise the library staff. The goal is not to make all the libraries – or librarians – look the same, but to offer professional and friendly service in a cosy and comfortable atmosphere.