Partnerships in the North Calotte

The province of Lapland is located in the North Calotte Area and the Barents Region. It borders Russia in the east, Norway in the north, Sweden in the west and the province of North Ostrobothnia in the south. The area of Lapland is 98,985 km, which makes it Finland’s largest province, covering 29 percent of the country’s entire area. Distances, both within the province and to the more populated areas, are long. There are 21 munici- palities in the province of Lapland, three of which are cities. There are three more densely populated municipalities and the rest of the municipalities (15) are rural. The population of the province is approximately 183,000 and the population density is two residents per square kilometre.

The circumstances in Lapland pose challenges to library activities: producing library services costs more, library professionals are isolated from their networks and the development of library services is hindered due to the long distances. These threats were acknowledged long ago, and they were transformed into engines for development. The basis of development has been collaboration, which, in many cases, has developed into partnerships. Collaboration is on-going and continues within the province and all directions of the compass across provincial and national borders. Partnerships involve concrete activity based on mutual needs and objectives. The goals of this activity are deemed so important that the various participants are solidly committed to achieving them. Commitment creates trust, which is a vital condition for partnership.

Collaboration pertaining to library systems has been on-going since 1992 when the Aurora Library Network (currently Lapland Library Network ) was established. The network, which has grown gradually, now covers nearly 80 % of the region’s municipalities. Presently, a library network inquiry is being initiated by the Provincial Library of Lapland, based on a system and user interface that cover at least the region of Lapland.

A joint library system has been the focus of many projects, but new developments in technology have been extensively evident in the services offered.When the library system made independent interlibrary lending possible for patrons at the beginning of the millennium, the Rekku service was initiated and it involved the transportation of library material cost-effectively all around Lapland. Rekku has significantly influenced the joint use of material, making use more efficient, and put interlibrary lending in Lapland at the top of statistical charts in Finland. Rekku also has connections to the transportation systems of the libraries in the North Ostrobothnia and Kainuu provinces.

Regional partnerships are important in the everyday activities of libraries. Regional collaboration among libraries involves materials acquisition, continuing education and mobile library services. The five municipalities of Sea- Lapland have created a joint strategy for developing regional library services. The purpose of the regional service plans is to serve the region’s patrons as equally as possible by producing the same level of services for all. This synergy has also generated advantages relating to the use of resources; the same service is cultivated once and then replicated around the region. Representativ library on the Swedish side of the border between Finland and Sweden have also participated in the meetings involving the region’s libraries. Regional collaboration has also paved the way to the establishment of two joint libraries in Lapland: the Sompio library consists of three municipal libraries and it was opened at the beginning of 2009. The Tornionlaakso library will open in 2011 and it will combine two municipal libraries. The idea behind the establishment of the libraries was the optimal utilization of administrative, professional and developmental resources. The combining of libraries was the idea of the library administration and staff and not the municipal administ- ration. Library administrators have justified many times the reasons why a joint library institution is an important and sensible solution in the region. Partnership among the libraries has been a crucial factor in these administ- rative reformations. Collaboration with the North Ostrobothnia province has been close. Two library networks cross provincial borders and they are bound by local culture and a long history of collaboration. The joint assessment project, Parkki, which took place at the beginning of the millennium, gathered together libraries that represented different sectors in both provinces. The project involved the development of assessment methods; after the project, collaboration involving assessment continued in North Ostrobothnia among the libraries in the entire province.

The construction of the Pohjanportti database service involved the gathering of professionals in the north as far away as the Kainuu province. The service makes it possible for patrons to use databases in public and academic libraries and to obtain material from networks in several public libraries located in the three most northern provinces. Pohjanportti was an extensive joint endeavour, which consolidated partnership, especially among the regional libraries that created the service.

Collaboration in Lapland has not been limited to activities among libraries; rather, it has been extended to include other related organisations, such as museums and cultural centres. Data service collaboration with museums began with the Monet project at the turn of the millennium. The Lapponica data service, which was created during the project, comprises libraries from all sectors, the larger museums and the latest newcomers, the North Calotte Cultural and Research Centre in Sweden and the institute for the research of the Kven people located in Norway. The data service team is highly specialized in knowledge about the North, and it is a part of the nation-wide Aska- librarian network service. Joint knowledge of the expertise and data systems available in different organisations has promoted collaboration and offered a channel with which to serve mutual patrons. The Lapinkävijät network is also the product of mutual expertise in cultural centres.

International collaboration began officially in 1963 when library directors representing the main libraries in the North Calotte Area gathered in Rovaniemi. One of the outcomes of the meeting was an agreement to exchange collections. The meetings among the directors were extended in 1971 to include library staff in the Calotte region, and this tradition has continued every other year with the Barents Library Conference. During the initial years, the region’s challenging characteristics and mutual, contiguous cultural history, which comprises the Kven, people who speak Tornedalian Finnish (a language spoken in the Tornionlaakso region) and the Samí people, were unifying factors for collaboration. In 1987, collaboration was extended to include the Samí library district. International collaboration has continued in the form of projects pertaining to digitisation, content production and training. International collaboration also involves the activities of two mobile libraries: the Muonio mobile library runs in four municipalities in Finland, Sweden and Norway and the Karasjoki mobile library in three municipalities in Finland and Norway. The joint bookmobile supports and strengthens     a regional identity that is artificially fractured by state borders. Joint mobile libraries make the use of resources more effective and the entire existence of the service in general possible.

The state-run regional administration for libraries is located in Rovaniemi in Lapland and Oulu in North Ostrobothnia. The scanty human resources are utilized in joint planning and to initiate further education, the bases of which are the needs pertaining to library work in the North and the interaction of professionals.

The levels of collaboration and partnership have changed and become more diverse. The various needs have gradually led to more focus on less extensive, expert-level networks as opposed to organisation-related partnerships on the administrative level. According to former director of the Provincial Library of Lapland, Heli Saarinen, all possible resources from the joint data systems have been used and it is time to combine staff resources. She emphasized that collaboration is efficient and productive when the level of trust is high. Collaboration is carried out and partner- ships are created when doing things together generates mutual added value. Collaboration in Lapland has produced concrete financial savings and made activities  ore efficient. This is where the North is a pioneer.

Satu Ihanamäki
Senior Adviser,
Library Services Centre for Economic Development,
Transport and the Environment for Lapland

Translated by Turun Täyskäännös

Senior Adviser, Library Services Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment for Lapland