Quality recommendation A national goal

The Ministry of Education and Culture’s Library Policy 2015 program outlines national strategic focal points for public libraries for the upcoming years. The program’s main objective is to safeguard citizens’ cultural rights and access to information and culture in a quickly changing environment. The program emphasizes expertise and quality as central focal points for the development of public libraries.

In the spring of 2009, the Ministry of Education and Culture appointed a workgroup to renew recommendations. The workgroup consisted of representatives from public libraries and state administration. The basis for the work was the quality recommendations from the previous library policy program in 2001-2004, drawn up for the library and information services of an information society. The recommendations have since been partially modified and have been used widely as a tool for local, regional and national evaluation. With the drafting of the Library Policy 2015 program, it became clear that the previous quality recommendations and goals for public libraries had to be revised.

The assignment of the workgroup was as follows:

  • to draw up a presentation of a national set of criteria for quality for public library operations, which observes local and regional conditions and which generate tools for libraries’ self-evaluation
  • to draft a presentation about how the social impact of public libraries can be measured on a national scale
  • to make proposals about new key figures to be used in the public libraries’ statistics database.

The work of the workgroup was primarily based on the municipalities’ responsibility for organizing the library and information services needed by the population and on the municipal libraries’ obligation in terms of library evaluation, as stipulated by the Library Act. A quality recommendation primarily aiding and supporting the development of operations and the municipalities’ own self-evaluation was set as a goal in the very early stages of the group’s work. For the evaluation of the influence of library services, a research project funded by the Ministry has been launched at the University of Tampere’s Department of Information Studies and Interactive Media. The project is a study of the importance of public libraries in the daily lives of residents, in relation to other methods of information acquisition. The results will be published in spring, 2011.

It was decided that the Finnish public libraries’ statistics database should include, in addition to the requested information, the following sub-categories: staff ’s level of competence, more accurate cost distribution, acquisition and use of electronic materials and production of library events.

The quality recommendation drafted by the workgroup includes a background frame of reference for evaluating library operations, a quality management recommendation for quality work in libraries and quality descriptions, presented from the point of view of a good and high-quality public library.

The drafting of a national library services quality recommen- dation is the agenda of the Ministry of Education and Culture, and it clarifies the rights of the library user and the availability, accessibility and quality of the services. High quality library and information services provide timely and economic benefits and positive, lasting social change. The quality recommendation is a logical continuation of the previous recommendations and goals and it supports the implementation of national library policy agendas. The core competency of libraries – content management – will continue to produce added value for which there is a demand. More and more, libraries have cause to develop their operations on all levels from the point of view of the library user. The development and revision of public library services require active interaction among different participants, continual evaluation of operations, marketing and information and, above all, a competent, motivated staff, whose work ensures high-quality library and information services.

The quality recommendation for Finnish public libraries is also being published in Swedish and, later in the spring, an edited English version will be released.

Hannu Sulin
Counsellor for Cultural Affairs
Ministry of Education and Culture
hannu.sulin AT
Translated by Turun Täyskäännös

Counsellor for Cultural Affairs Ministry of Education and Culture