The regional library agreement between the municipalities is built upon mutual trust and respect for the professional skills in the libraries
The Joensuu region includes seven municipalities, which form a contiguous economic and employment region. The region’s center is the town of Joensuu, which is surrounded by the municipalities of Kontiolahti, Liperi and Pyhäselkä, all with growing populations. Eno, Outokumpu and Polvijärvi are rural regions with declining populations. On the whole, however, the Joensuu region is an area gaining in net migration.
Regional cooperation in the Joensuu region is dynamic. Several regional projects have been launched and new ones are in the works, but no extensive cooperation has yet been successfully initiated in the economically significant regions. Projects involving cooperation are handled in permanent branch-specific service workgroups. The vision for cooperation is that the municipalities carry out open and confidential cooperation to strengthen the region’s industry, economy, employment opportunities and services. The objective is to act together and develop the region into a uniform, competitive, strong and viable area with a good image.
Cooperation among the region’s libraries already has a long history. Kiihtelysvaara, currently part of Joensuu, (consolidation of municipalities 1.1.2005), Kontiolahti, Outokumpu, Polvijärvi and Pyhäselkä established a joint library system in 1991 and formed the ‘Jokunen’ library group. Joensuu’s city library and Liperi’s municipal library joined the group in 2005. Currently, Eno’s municipal library has a separate library system, which is being integrated with the others in connection with the formation of the regional library. Shared materials and patron databases will form the functional basis for the regional library. The libraries have already been working together to make the best possible deal in obtaining important acquisitions for over ten years.
They are used to planning and implementing projects and programs together.
The area of the regional library includes approximately 110,000 residents, just under half of which use the library yearly. The libraries’ book loans totaled about 2.6 million in 2005, there were 1.43 library visits and almost as many visits to the web-pages (1.39 million). Total loans per resident in the region were 19.33 and the national average was 20.26 loans/resident. The area residents have grown accustomed to using libraries in other municipalities and due to this, there has been pressure on the libraries to jointly develop patron services. In the beginning of 2005, Joensuu’s city library had approximately 11,000 patrons whose domicile was in another municipality in the region.
Upon the proposal of the work group for educational, recreational and cultural services, regional library reports were drawn up for the Joensuu region in 2003-2004. The reports were written up by Pyhäselkä’s library director, Kaisu Kärnä. The regional administration addressed the regional library reports and the proposal by the educational, recreational and cultural services concerning the establishment of the regional library in its meeting on 22.3. 2005. They decided to form a work group for preparing an agreement and making calculations for the establishment of the regional library 1.1.2007.
The agreement proposal and calculations were completed in January, 2006. In spring of 2006, all seven municipalities made the favorable decision to begin a regional library.
Regional library operations will be arranged according to the so-called host municipality model. Joensuu will act as the host municipality. The current library employees of the other municipalities will be transferred as experienced employees into the service of the city of Joensuu. The regional library will thus have a staff of 91 persons. Immovable assets will remain in the possession of the municipalities and the regional library will not pay rent for the facilities to the municipalities. Movable assets, including library buses, will be transferred to the regional library without compensation.
Joensuu’s city library will serve as the regional library’s main library and the other former city and municipal libraries will, in short, be libraries (6 in all) for which the library director will be responsible. The libraries will have their own departments and local libraries as they now have. There are 11 local libraries all together. The library buses (4 in all) will comprise their own functional unit.
The municipalities’ population base will be the basis of division of net costs for operating. The municipalities will continue to receive their separate state subsidies – the change will not affect them in any way. The regional library’s budget is approximately 4.2 million euros. In addition to this, expenditures for library operations include about 1.4 million euros in total for property costs and each municipality is independently responsible for its own property.
Financial obligations have also been set for the libraries’ cooperation. The libraries committed to keeping costs at a minimum accruing a certain degree of savings. The calculated savings goal is 150,000 euro and savings from the municipalities combined share of payment is just under 70,000 euro.
The regional library agreement between the municipalities is built upon mutual trust and respect for the professional skills in the libraries. The levels of service in the library, such as the amount of hours the library is open per year and the number of manyears, are not binding in the conditions of the agreement in any way; the details of the arrangement of library operations are left up to the regional library authority. There is also a desire to ensure the continued professional development of the library and therefore the agreement stipulates that the library director must have training in municipal library and information services, which is in accordance with the library act, in the future as well.
During discussions about the regional library, many municipalities held constructive and far-reaching discussions about the future of library activities. It will be a big challenge to continue this discussion and to keep elected officials committed to library operations in the new situation.
The reason for establishing a regional library is to achieve functional advantages, partially by centralization and partially by distributing work. Human resources and financial administration will be concentrated in Joensuu as much as possible. Every director and cataloguer need not do everything – it is sufficient if one person does the job and distributes the results to the others. The regional library solution also brings reinforcement to professional development in today’s drastically changing library world.