Public libraries are an important agent in reading promotion

Finnish people are active readers and users of public libraries. There are public libraries in every municipality (311), and in 2016 there were 744 libraries and 137 mobile libraries in Finland. In 2016, the lending totaled 87.5 million items (16 per capita), the annual number of library visits was 49 million (9 per capita), and e-books were used 400,000 times (not including electronic newspapers, magazines, or journals). [1]

Public libraries are an important agent in reading promotion, and schools and libraries have a long tradition of collaboration in Finland. Finland is also one of the top countries in the world in the field of library services. The collections and information services provided by the public libraries are considered to be part of society’s intellectual capital, which is why the basic services are free of charge for all users. Under the Library Act, every Finnish municipality must provide library services that meet certain standards. Public library services, as all other public services, must be equally accessible to everyone. [ibid] However, during the last 35 years the number of libraries in Finland has halved which has created concern among experts [2].

Public libraries utilise digitalisation in their service production and development of operations, and they support and guide library users in managing the digital environment. The Library Act was revised in 2017 with the aim of strengthening the operational preconditions of public libraries and to promoting active citizenship, diversity, commonality, democracy and lifelong learning. In addition, changes in the age structure, internal migration and immigration affect the activities of public libraries. As a consequence, libraries are required to provide activities and services that are more pluralistic and multicultural than before. [3]

In addition to the Library Act, further guidelines are provided in the national Library Policy (2015). According to the policy paper, libraries are to support the information and media literacy skills of children and youth, library staff ought to have expertise and training to meet new challenges in our rapidly changing information society, and to be able to provide guidance on information searching and management to students. Library services should be of high quality and meet the needs of inhabitants in their area, in order to diminish a digital gap and marginalization in terms of information society.

A supplementary document, Library for Citizens – The Way Forward for Public Libraries 2016–2020 [4] provides tools for librarians in their everyday work. All the recent policy documents will also affect the planning and construction process of the new central library of Helsinki ‘Oodi’, expected to be open in late 2018. The library will be the biggest in Europe with open spaces and socializing opportunities. [5]

Sources of information:

1] Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland: Finland is one of the top countries in the world in the field of library services 12/2016 http://minedu.fi/documents/1410845/4150031/Library+services/65df0ce2-685f-4c3c-9686-53c108641a5c/Library+services.pdf

2] Statistics Finland: 10.6.2016: Number of libraries has halved in 35 years https://www.stat.fi/ajk/tiedotteet/2015/uutinen_018_2015-06-10_en.html

3] http://minedu.fi/en/article/-/asset_publisher/kirjastolaki-uudistuu-aktiivinen-kansalaisuus-demokratia-ja-sananvapaus-uusia-tehtavia

4] https://www.kirjastot.fi/sites/default/files/content/yleisten-kirjastojen-suunta-2016-2020-web-en.pdf

5] New Helsinki Central Library Oodi  http://www.oodihelsinki.fi/en/