TWIN CITIES 13.-16.5.2009 IN HELSINKI AND TURKU
Innovation into practise - new service concepts
Updating Finnish Library Policies
Counsellor for Cultural Affairs
Ministry of Education
Ladies and Gentleman!
So little by little we are coming to the end of our session work during this day. After lunch starts the
library tour in the Capital area and in the evening we are going to have dinner at sea, because
Helsinki is also known as a daughter of the Baltic Sea.
I'm going to tell you about updating Finnish Library Policies and I have divided my presentation into
four parts: library legislation, library policy, quality standards and the impacts of the library services
and finally financing and administration.
Firstly: Library legislation
Our Library Act and Degree 1998 are still going strong. The basic definitions are furthermore
modern and there isn't well-grounded need to make totally a new legislation, which also takes time.
In the paragraph two of the Library Act the tasks of the public libraries are defined as follows:
quot;The objective of the library and information services provided by public libraries is to promote
equal opportunities among citizens for personal cultivation, for literary and cultural pursuits, for
continuous development of knowledge, personal skills and civic skills, for internationalisation, and
for lifelong learning.
Library activities also aim at promoting the development of virtual and interactive network services
and their educational and cultural contents.quot;
Personally I think that the last sentence has had an essential influence to all net services we have
produced in more than ten years, because it has given the legitimation to produce and finance
online services beside the traditional library services.
So, what have we done and what are we going to do with this updating project?
We have started with the competence requirements. By the new proposition 45 per cent of all
public library employees should have higher education including a certain degree of library studies
and then up to 65 per cent should have other education including a certain degree of library
studies. Earlier we have only had regulations concerning the competence of the library director
(master-level degree, which remains) and that two-thirds of the library employees should have
library education in general. If we want to develop library services and concepts the most important
is that we have in libraries well trained employees.
There are also some other major points, we would like to include to the library legislation:
- adding the cultural and civic rights to the preambles of the library act
- emphasizing the nature of the public library services as subjective basis services
- accentuating lingual rights and multiculturalism
- specifying quality standards
- multiplying the obligation to the co-operation at the national level
- harmonizing the basis of the library fees
- modernizing the tasks of the central library and regional libraries
- toughening the status of the public library state provincial administration
With these changes and supplements we focus on the future and by the updating of the legislation
we want to give to the libraries statutory possibilities to develop libraries´ new service concepts.
Secondly: Library policy
Our Library Strategy 2010 - Policy for access to knowledge and culture was published 2003. The
strategy was completed 2006 by the publication quot;Library Development Program 2006-2010quot;.
Our aim is to update our strategy towards 2015. Our strategy has been a good tool in making
Finnish Library Policy, but after that many premises have changed. In Finland people are
concentrated more and more to the cities and city surroundings; age structure is rapidly changing -
the number of young people is decreasing; people live longer and they are healthier: immigration is
the number of the municipalities is reducing; the productivity of the public sector has dropped - the
service structures need revaluating; the communication technology has dramatically changed our
ways to act and use services; there is a hard competition about peoples´ interest and how they use
their time; the ways we read and write and search information have changed - not decreased, the
targets and methods of learning are different; there isn't any more a homogeneous culture - the
world is full of different subcultures; here and now -thinking, because there are real alternatives.
The public library has been and can also be in the future a success story, but we have to create
new ways to act and we have to be able to give people that kind of added value, which others can't
give or we do it better. We have all the facilities (data, staff, skills, space, good name, history) and
we are in the middle of the society and we can work at all levels of society.
So, I can't in given time to go deeper in all variables, but I'm quite sure that these trends are under
active discussion in most countries. In Finland the municipalities are very independent and their
main duty is to organise basic services. Municipalities are still too small and if we want to
guarantee equal library services to all citizens, we need national public library strategy and policy.
Legislation is the most important base and by means of that we make our national public library
policy statements to steer the library development in certain running time.
Thirdly: Quality standards
Public Library Evaluation Indicators were defined in the Policy Programme 2001-2004. They were
meant to be an assessment tool for the public libraries and public library state provincial
administration. As indicators there were accessibility of services, staff, IT-facilities, library
materials, databases, library area, in-service training, the use of library services and financing. In
the evaluation process the municipal environment was taken into account. The indicators have
been used at local, regional and national level. Last year we planned to update the indicators, but
then we decided to open the problematic little bit more. Actually we wanted to get some quality
standard specifications to the Library Act and Degree. For the process we have established a
working group just a couple days ago. The main task of the group is to formulate a proposal for
Finnish Public Library Standards. In addition the working group makes a plan how we can
nationally measure the social impacts of library services. The working group can also propose new
indicators to the Finnish Public Library Statistics Database. The term of the working group is to the
end of this year. The quality standards should be done in a way that makes it possible to led a
more exact evaluation frame to be used in the local, regional and national evaluation work.
Fourthly: Financing and administration
The state subsidizes public libraries´ annual expenses by state subsidies. This year the grant in the
state budget is 120 M€. In addition the grant for state subsidies to the library constructions has
been annually almost 5 M€ and state grants to public library development projects are together 4,5
By state grants we implement our library strategy and policy in projects. The Ministry of Education
is responsible for outlining national library policies and for the development of legislation. So we
don't have in the ministry any operational activities. Because the municipalities are responsible for
organizining basic services including library services, it's better that the functional development
work is done in the operational environment - not in the administration.
To carry out the national library policy the Ministry of Education makes annual and performance
contracts with state provincial administrative boards, the repository library, the central library for
public libraries, the National Library of Finland and regional libraries.
Together with state provincial administrative boards, the Ministry of Education directs the
implementation of strategic goals by funding projects on a national, regional and local level.
What are the benefits of the library projects? I shall mention some examples:
- the professional knowledge acquired from the projects stays with the library
- good practises are obtained with reasonably small costs
- the practices can easily be spread to other libraries
- at best, via the pilot projects we can test the direction of the national strategy and get useful
In Finland the number of municipalities is decreasing year after year. The main target is to get
bigger units, because our municipalities are mostly too small. That also means bigger library units,
so that there is enough versatile know-how to develop new concepts. At the state provincial
administration level there is a huge reform at the beginning of next year. It means to us new
challenges, because we have to revaluate the state administrative tasks at the regional level and
also the operational tasks of the regional libraries. But that's is going to be another story
I think that I have used my time. Thank you very much for your attention and I hope that you have
a pleasant visit to Turku tomorrow. Turku is Finland's oldest town. By the way I live in Porvoo,
which is Finland's second oldest town and was founded almost two hundred years before Helsinki.
To get Helsinki started King Gustav Vasa of Sweden ordered inhabitants from Porvoo to move to
Helsinki. Little by little they came back and life in Helsinki was rather quiet. When Helsinki 1812
was raised to be the Finnish Capital (we were at that time an Autonomous Grand Duchy as a part
of the Russian Empire), the City of Helsinki enlarged rapidly and the Empire Style centre was built.
In the evening we can see, how it looks from the sea.