Library work across sectors

Collaboration among libraries in Jyväskylä

Collaboration between different sectors in the library field varies from place to place in Finland; some places collaborate frequently and others less frequently. A good example of active, productive collaboration can be found in Jyväskylä where the Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences Library and Information Services, the Jyväskylä City Library – Regional Library of Central Finland and the Jyväskylä University Library engage in well-functioning collaboration.

The above libraries have carried out systematic library collaboration for nearly 10 years now. Local collaboration was complemented in 2008 when the AO Library of the Jyväskylä Joint Municipal Authority for Education was invited to join the Liaison Committee of Jyväskylä Libraries. The aforementioned libraries are hereinafter referred to as the Jyväskylä Libraries.

Collaboration began in 2003 when the information services strategy for Jyväskylä was completed with project funding provided by the Ministry of Education and Culture at the time. One of the proposals in the strategy was to make library collaboration in Jyväskylä permanent and to organize a committee for the libraries, which would coordinate collaboration between sectors. The purpose of the committee would be to draw up a plan each year for the further training of library staff in pedagogy and information management and to ensure the training is carried out. The committee would also organize events to enable library staff exchange expertise and get to know each other. Furthermore, the committee would ensure the information services strategy is carried out and also evaluate the success of it.

The committee’s first meeting was held in 2003. During that meeting the members decided that library staff could participate in the open training of the different libraries. A joint training calendar was created for this purpose where each library could notify those interested about upcoming training opportunities; the calendar is still used today. Patrons may also participate in the open training organized by the libraries and therefore they benefit from the calendar as well.

During this first meeting, the members of the committee also decided to organize a seminar that would concentrate on creating a joint description of the functions of the Jyväskylä Libraries. The costs of the seminar were divided among the different library units based on the number of participants. Dividing the costs was seen as a good practice and it is still in use. The committee also decided to organize future trips for the library staff to take together, for example to book fairs, etc. As with this meeting and the ones that followed, the greatest contribution has been the exchange of experiences among the staff members of the libraries.

The Liaison Committee meets 4-6 times a year. The chairperson has changed every two years. Each library takes its turn in organizing the meetings. At the time this article is being written the university library is responsible for chairing the meetings. Over the years, the following tasks have become the responsibility of the committee:

  • Coordinating and developing library collaboration
  • Evaluating and ensuring the infor – mation services strategy is carried out
  • Organizing training for the staff members in the libraries in Jyväskylä
  • Distributing information and in creasing information flow
  • Organizing and carrying out joint events
  • Carrying out development projects
  • Collaborating to develop library services and practices.

The Liaison Committee has created sub-committees as needed; at present, there are sub-committees for customer service, training, the music library and online services. A sub-committee may be given the task of compiling guidelines for customer service, making a proposal for a new practice or organizing a day of training. Joint training opportunities are organized once or twice a year. The theme(s) of the training is based on people’s suggestions and feedback to ensure it is appropriate for all of the participating libraries.

Joint projects

Subsequent to the first information services strategy, the libraries in Jyväskylä have carried out several joint projects, for example the website for the Jyväskylä Libraries and a study on libraries, studying and material in electronical format.

The Central Finland Library Portal, which works through the NELLI portal, was created to help patrons find information more easily, i.e. it is a joint information search channel for the Jyväskylä Libraries and the Aalto libraries in the region, which allows users to search for information in the databases of all of the libraries belonging to the

Kirjastoportti conglomerate.

Finished in 2005, the Kirjastoportti was a good example of the regional collaboration between academic libraries and public libraries, and at the same time it was the only library conglomerate of its kind in Finland.

During the past couple of years library staff members have worked in other libraries less familiar to them through job rotation. In August 2011, 40 staff members took a sightseeing tour around the province to visit the different library locations.

It is safe to say that the first mutual circle closed on 8 February 2011, Lainan päivä = loaning day in Finland, when the Jyväskylä Libraries published a revised plan, compiled in collaboration with the city’s educational services department, to promote information literacy. The 2003 joint information services strategy for the Jyväskylä Libraries was used as the basis for the plan. The purpose of the completed plan is to facilitate information

searches and to develop skills in obtaining information. The plan provides guidelines and means to organize teaching in information acquisition and to consider information acquisition more closely in teaching curricula. The plan also elucidates the distribution of work in the libraries.

New introduction at IFLA 2012

Although the members of the committee have changed over the years, the committee has remained active. The notion of library work across sectors has been introduced at international, field-related conferences in 2008 and 2010. The aim is to introduce it again in the 2012 IFLA Conference in Helsinki.

Many things have been accomplished through collaboration, but there are still many things to do in the upcoming years. To mention just a few of these challenges: increasing the mutual visibility of the Jyväskylä Libraries through marketing and communication and establishing the activities in the information literacy promotion plan.

Johanna Vesterinen
Library Director
Jyväskylä City Library
- Regional Library of Central Finland

Translated by Turun Täyskäännös

Library Director Jyväskylä City Library Regional Library of Central Finland