FINLAND
Yield of the library forum: The local library at the top of the wish list

Diversity and free-for-all services, face-toface service, and opportunities to spend time with others are features of a library that patrons wish to have in Finland in the future. As 2008 came to a close, participants in the www.otakantaa.fi forum, maintained by the Ministry of Justice, voiced their opinions concerning the future prospects of the public library. Diversity and free-for-all services, face-toface service, and opportunities to spend time with others are features of a library that patrons wish to have in Finland in the future. As 2008 came to a close, participants in the www.otakantaa.fi forum, maintained by the Ministry of Justice, voiced their opinions concerning the future prospects of the public library.

Otakantaa.fi – Have Your Say is an online forum where people can comment on on-going projects in the government’s various ministries. The forum has been in its current form since 2007, and since then there have been nearly 40 online discussions on various topics and 13 discussions led by various government officials. The Library of the Future forum engaged more than 12,000 participants; the topic was certainly one of interest, and just over 100 comments were published.

The library of the future: preferably a community centre

The preferred type of local library is one that is easy to reach. The personnel is familiar with the area and its residents and is able to meets their needs. The public library should remain free of commercial activity; the preservation of free library services interested forum participants the most. Nearly all of the participants felt that the services offered by libraries should be, for the most part, free of charge.

Libraries should have multi-functional, convertible facilities: areas to just spend time with others and areas for surfing online with sofas and tables. In addition addition to the more traditional library services, forum participants wished for more cultural events and opportunities for discussion. Spending time with others and sharing experiences seemed to be the hot topic of the day.

People felt libraries and the services they offer should reach out to the surrounding areas and offer more opportunities than at present for patrons to use the library through the Internet. The library should go where the people are. In this way, the library would reach residents of different ages.When the various organizations in a municipality collaborate to organize events, for example, the library would acquire new patrons. A multi-service bookmobile could also be responsible for transporting goods, e.g. mail and medicine to sparsely populated areas.

The participants in the forum wanted to use Internet services both inside the library and outside. They also felt that there is a need for guidance in using the Internet, which the library personnel could provide. In addition to the online library services, forum participants wished for auxiliary services for critiquing literature, sending ideas, etc. A positive bonus would be to have more wireless connections so computers could be taken to different places in the library. The library could be open more frequently and have extended opening hours. Many forum participants felt that being open on Sundays would be welcomed by many and improve service at the library.

Personnel highly valued

Many of the forum participants felt that the amount of personnel in libraries should be increased and they should receive proper wages for their work. Comments were also made about increasing the appreciation of the library personnel. Face-to-face service is important, not everyone is able, nor do they want to use self-service to borrow books or use other services.

The present personnel was described as being somewhat passive in a few of the comments. There were also comments pertaining to the selection of material. Typical librarians – middle-aged women – choose a certain type of material that does not fulfil the interest of all patrons.

The personnel should be given opportunities to attend courses pertaining to media and networks, e.g. designing and introducing network services. A suggestion for a business idea was also made: librarians could assist those who do not know how or do not want to seek information themselves in finding the information they need for reasonable compensation.

The participants also wished for services, activities and material that the library already has, i.e. residents are not familiar with what libraries have to offer – there is a need for active advertising. The library should lure people of all ages, both in its physical space and its network environment.

Oili Salminen
Network Designer, Ministry of Justice

Kirsti Kekki
Ministry of Education

Translated by Turun Täyskäännös

Oili Salminen Network Designer, Ministry of Justice
Counsellor for Cultural Affairs, Ministry of Education and Culture Compiler of library legislation and writer of library policies and strategies