The contents of kirjastot.fi are divided into channels and published in three languages,each with its own domain and profile:
- Kirjastot.fi – in Finnish,is the most comprehensive version
- Biblioteken.fi – is, as far as possible, equivalent to the Finnish version but particularly geared to meeting the needs of Swedish Finns and Nordic users
- Publiclibraries.fi (to be replaced by libraries.fi) – is an English collage and presentation of the services, also serving foreigners living in Finland. Contents of Kirjastot.fi
The Libraries and Catalogues channel is a gateway to all library services: public, other and foreign libraries, catalogues and databases. Its core is the Library Register, containing contact and service information about all public libraries and their units. Libraries, collaborating networks, online-catalogues and staff lists – all can be searched according to various criteria. Additionally, libraries can be identified by the library system they have in use. Information about the branch libraries also includes data and pictures of the buildings. The channel presents new databases, catalogues and other web services. The Library Register features a trilingual user interface.
The Search Services channel aims to offer one route to various information sources, guiding the user both to information on the Web and to catalogues and databases within libraries. Vital public search services with instructions in both Finnish and Swedish are gathered here with an item containing the basics about seeking information on the Web. Our own productions are Ask a Librarian, Link Library and Meta Searches.
Ask a Librarian is a joint online reference enquiry service with a t rilingual user interface. At the moment, 28 public libraries and the Parliament library are available for answering questions. Replies are given within three working days, and most are stored in a public archive. Underlying the service is a special reply application that runs on a database with a browser-based user interface. In its present form the service was started in 1999; some 3,000 answers are given each year. The possibility of linking a chat channel to this enquiry service is currently being explored. Ask a Librarian has a sister service called igs (Information Gas Station) to which questions can be sent and replies received as text messages via mobile phones.
Link Library is a database of selected, described and systematically organised web material. Libraries produce it jointly and its contents can be searched and browsed in various ways. It is classified according to the Decimal Classification System of Finnish Public Libraries and the cataloguing format follows the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set as far as possible. At the start of 2002, Link Library had about 8,000 links and dozens of active cataloguers who place links they consider useful straight into the database in accordance with joint selection and cataloguing directives. These guidelines are amended in co-operation with the catalogue rs, who are not allocated specific subject areas. The editorial staff of Kirjastot.fi keeps an eye on the activities and edits the catalogue, but the main responsibility for cataloguing lies with the cataloguers. The addresses of links are checked automatically.When selecting links, the emphases are on originality, usefulness in search services, quality, reliability, and evidence that the site is actively maintained. Material intended for children is marked separately.
The Meta Searches service enables users to search several catalogue databases and other sources simultaneously. At the moment,meta searches within Kirjastot. fi are not based on the Z39.50 standard, but they will be developed in co-operation with the National Electronic Library (FinELib). The most popular meta search has been the catalogues of the Provincial Libraries.
Developing user-friendly meta searches from various information sources is one of the vital areas Kirjastot.fi is focusing on from now on. The database of the Link Library and the archive of the Online Reference Enquiry Service will constitute vital parts o f Meta Searches.
The Literature channel offers literary links and current information about literature. In particular it presents pages produced by libraries. For instance, it features information about the most borrowed books, reading tips,interviews with authors and a Forum for reading experiences. Part of the channel is a separate database called Modern Finnish Authors. The Finnish Library Journal participates in maintaining this channel.
The Children’s channel highlights pages that libraries have produced for children or about their literature, book lists of various topics, tips and instructions for teachers and others working with children. Soon to come on this channel is a particular interface enabling children, for instance, to look for their own links in the Link Library and to Ask a Librarian.
The Library branch channel includes professional information and service. The contents consist mainly of links. Libraries can, for instance, place their job advertisements on the Library Bulletin Board.A vital part of this channel are the mailing lists with archive.Most of the mailing lists will be transformed intoWeb Forums,from which messages can also be directed straight to one’s e-mail.
In addition, Kirjastot.fi contains a few services for registered users.
The contents of Kirjastot.fi are composed of three parts:
- material produced by the editorial staff
- links and presentations of services and catalogues of libraries
- decentralised maintenance,in other words material produced by libraries (Link Library, Ask a Librarian, Library Register, Library Bulletin Board,Mailing Lists and Web Forums).
The editorial staff at the Networked Library Services Unit, located in Helsinki City Library, is responsible for editing, development and user interfaces. Database technology and programming is bought from specialist firms, and the IT unit of Helsinki City Library is responsible for the servers.
Kirjastot.fi is produced by Helsinki City Library – the Central Library for Public Libraries and it is financed mainly by the Ministry of Education. Its board of editors consists of library directors forming a steering group of networked library services. The Bulletin Board and Forums are important ways of activating libraries to participate and of collecting feedback, as are the many workshops that have been held during previous years. The foundation of Kirjastot.fi lies in national strategies documented in Towards a Finnish Information Society – National information management strategy, 1994, Cultural Information Society, 1995, in the Library Act of 1988, in the Finnish Library Policy programme 2001-2004 and in the support of the Ministry of Education.
Kirjastot.fi consists of hundreds of pages, five databases, Bulletin Board and Forums,an xml-based publication system and a meta search application. Its use is measured also by a browserbased method and, in the year 2000, the service received some 8 million page-views.
Kirjastot.fi was founded in 1995. The current version was launched in the autumn of 2000 and the next will ap – pear in 2002. The aim is to offer users a route via the Internet to library services, to increase the accessibility of libraries, catalogues and library professional know-how and to produce search services. For libraries the aim is to create virtual co-operation that transcends regional and organisational borders, to collect know-how from libraries nationally, to offer a channel for marketing library services and to be a tool for rational networking. One of the most important targets is to improve the competitive edge of libraries on the Web by marketing them as one united service via the Kirjastot.fi domain and portal.
In 2002 the user interface and graphics of Kirjastot.fi will be renewed and its usability and technical efficiency will be improved. Another example of aspects that are under development is highlighting the music services and know-how within libraries. Co-operation with research libraries is also being strengthened. It will be particularly important to ensure that user-friendly, advanced and intelligent search services are developed together with the National Library (especially with FinELib) and the Provincial Libraries, drawing together the entire spectrum of information sources and library know-how.
The goal is to make use of shared technology, sharing also the contents of databases, ensuring that they can be locally adapted. In 2003, Kirjastot.fi will probably be produced for new distribution channels, such as for wireless connections and digi-TV.
Translated by Britt and Philip Gaut