A couple of years ago while discussing the library’s Internet services, a certain culturally prestigious personality from Hämeenlinna said to me, “No essential changes have occurred in the library since the incunabulum.” I was offended at the provocative tone. The utterance became permanently imprinted in my mind, until I grasped the idea of Web 2.0 and what do you know, my visitor was right; the library’s catalogues had only been transferred to digital form.
Printing enabled the mass production
of information. In this time of Internet and Web 2.0 technology, we are living in a digital network, which enables global interaction. Technology has decisively changed, but what about our thinking? Young people have been born into a digital world. In order to entice the new generations to the library, we must approach them with their own language, emigrate to their ‘digi-country’ and step into the life of its native dwellers. The library must be visible on the Internet and be found there. Communal Internet services have a certain sense, which is based in people’s natural behavioural models. It is a challenge for libraries to transfer from information management to information distribution.
Hämeenlinna Library 2.0
We decided to accept the challenge of the time and create a virtual version of our physical library with opportunities for real participation, social activity and carefree information retrieval by means of the clearest interface possible that seamlessly links patrons’ activities. We intended to combine existing Internet services into an Internet library to support the library community, and to provide services to as broad a client base as possible. Certain parts of the service, such as the literature section, should cover all of Finland at best; content production should be done in close cooperation with other libraries. The intention is to integrate the web site into a nationwide Internet service as flexibly as possible. Easy information searches require at least a conversational contact between the existing information systems, perhaps also a national, shared catalogue. The technological structures that enable the use of integrated information and library systems are waiting for nationally centralized solutions.
The building of a communal Internet library is a process, forever beta. It should be continually and openly evaluated. It should be built together, as a team work – together with library patrons also. The implementation requires mental agility, skill and education of the staff, it also requires more of the library user. At best, the process teaches new, flexible working procedures and leads to a more communal and more open workplace culture and to active patronage.
Premises for a communal Internet library
Hämeenlinna Library 2.0 is divided into the following sections according to how the content is chiefly produced: library space, the library patron’s own space, news centre, Häme-Wiki and the ’titbits’ link library. The library patron can comment and produce content in all of the sections. The core of the service is the Internet library, to which the patron is guided by different paths.The Internet library, library info, as well as virtual exhibitions, recommendations lists and groups and blogs maintained by the library, represent the space maintained by the library. Some of the services are produced manually; some are obtained from the system automatically. The most interesting, new technological service is that which makes recommendations to patrons based on their previous loans. It is an excellent aid, both for the library user and the one serving the user.
Library users can log in to their own account and edit it according to their own profile. They can manage their own information, save searches, make favourites lists and make their own reading circles. They can evaluate materials, add search terms and make comments. They can order information about new arrivals, discussions and evaluations. At the same time, they have the opportunity to create new social contacts with like-minded library users.
Library users meet at the news centre. The news area, marketplace and bulletin board form the virtual periodicals room, where library patrons can read Internet journals and collect RSS feeds about interesting subjects. They can comment on the topic or column of the week. At the marketplace, they can exchange books they have already read, or CDs, for others and buy bargain books. On the bulletin board, users can post invitations to evening gettogethers arranged by their hobby club.Communities on the net
Häme-Wiki, a modern, local database, is collectively produced. It places clear emphasis on culture and contains information about traditions and history, as well as completely new information in various forms: pictures, interviews and videos. In Häme-Wiki, creators of culture get the opportunity to present their works. The local Arvi article reference database and the digitised local material, the website Lydia, are closely associated with it.
The ‘titbits’ link library’s users are closely involved in the distribution.We are trying to create a solid community, the members of which are characterized by a certain like-mindedness. The page is being supplemented with the capacity for polls, favourites lists, comments and a blog.
The e-citizen’s modern library forum
At best, a public library strengthens an individual’s identity by supporting creativity and by offering culture, information and opportunities for social influence. Nowadays, we talk about ecitizenship, 24/7 service.More and more, citizens experience themselves as producers of media as well.Why don’t we get them involved in making an elibrary? The library must define its own place and role in the modern Internet world and find it there.What form does an Internet library take? How do we get local and global, traditional and modern, communal and private in the same format? How can it be open and closed, free and controlled?
The most important and challenging task is, however, launching the new service to library users. The Internet service may be brilliantly constructed, the library personnel may be especially skilled and active – but that is not enough. A communal service requires people in order for it to work: associations, active municipal residents, various enthusiasts, and specialists in various fields to compile a jointly shared information reserve. Only by marketing the service effectively to schools, local associations and library users can one get library users to produce content and to stay interested. An important part of marketing is the continual instruction in the use of both the staff ’s and library users’ continual social media.
Our goal is to form a functional library- minded Internet community for the Hämeenlinna region, which will be a part of all Finnish public libraries’ shared interaction and information forum. If we can meet this challenge, the library will live strongly and forever.
Acting Library Director
Hämeenlinna City Library
inkeri.jurvanen AT hameenlinna.fi
Translated by Turun Täyskäännös