Reaching out to users everywhere

We all know that there are a number of search engines, such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo for example, that provide all kinds of information when you type something in the search box and press enter. Those search engines provide some kind of information from some source or another in some format. However, there is a certain distinct difference between the new portal Finna and them.

Finna is intended for users interested in items available in libraries, archives and museums, be they books, paintings, CDs, old bus timetables, chainsaws, scientific articles or whatnot.

To put it simply, Finna endeavours to provide information on material in all Finnish memory organizations in a meaningful, simple, yet informative and explorable way to users aging 6 to 106 years old. This certainly is an ambitious goal that Finna is trying to achieve.

No ads

Finna offers information in an easy-toread, comprehensible format, providing first a selection of the results with small thumbnails and nutshell information of the search and then an option to “dig down deeper”.

Selecting one of the results gives you information about the type of item in question, the author, painter or archivist, date of manufacture, publishing or discovery, and even information on where the item can be borrowed, viewed or downloaded. What’s more, you can find many other mindboggling pieces of information from reliable sources… and guess what? No ads.

At the time this article is being written, Finna continues to be under development. The launch of the 1.0 version is planned for October 22nd. Currently, there are (only) 9 million entries in Finna, but the number is growing rapidly as more and more libraries, archives, and museums join Finna and their collections are added to it.

Different search features

Finna has many features that the commercial discovery portals lack, such as support for different standards that the memory organizations use in storing their material or support for partial material. For example, songs on a CD can be found by searching for the CD itself or a particular song on the CD in question. Go ahead and try it! Just go to www. finna.fi. Select a language from one of the three languages on the interface, and search for Jean Sibelius, for example, or The Ramones, or Edgar Rice Burroughs or Steve Jobs or even “moottorisaha” (which means “chainsaw” in Finnish).

Have a look, explore and see what Finna can do already. And don’t forget to try the different search features, such as the timeline selection tool, different facets, geographic search tool and the other advanced search tools.

Supports multiple applications

The version of Finna found at www. finna.fi is based on VuFind open source software (vufind.org) and our version of it supports only Finnish, Swedish and English, but additional languages can easily be added to the system.

In addition, support for multiple background systems such as Voyager OPAC, picture banks and e-book systems already exist and more will be added in the future.

Finna already supports multiple applications for users to log in and manage their loans, make reservations for material in different libraries, save their searches with automatic alerts of new results (when e.g. new material is added to Finna), and export reference information of search results to e.g. EndNote, RefWorks, Facebook or even Google+. When the resource description access (RDA) format comes along, support for it will already be in Finna.

Continues to develop

For the administrators in Finna’s member organizations, an easy-to-use, what-yousee-is-what-you-get (wysiwyg), customizable administrator panel allows them to create their ‘own’ version of Finna, which has their organization’s own look and feel and a selection of their preferred search tools.

For example, administrators can decide on the appearance of the search results and ranking. Naturally, a powerful statistic tool is also provided and it is based on open source software called Piwik (piwik.org).

The plans for Finna’s development in the next years include e.g. adding support for the use of ontologies, functional requirements for bibliographic records (FRBR) and authority control. We see Finna as a service that continues to grow and develop far into the future.

The making of Finna 

Now there are many reasons why the use of open source is justified:

1) the additional value of the software is in how it either enhances existing activities, and/or enables new, more efficient ways of doing things

2) the value also depends extensively on how easy it is to use and deploy the software

3) the extent of the functionality of the software in question alone is not sufficient; rather, the usability, connectivity (integration capability, with flexibility and open interfaces) and easy modifiability (customization, personalization) are also extremely important features of open source software.

To put it simply, using open source software means that we can explore and develop the source code of the software in question by ourselves to build an application, tool or system that suits our needs.

One significant aspect of Finna is that the development of it at the National Library of Finland follows the agile software development method, Scrum, and progresses in short, three-week cycles. During the three-week cycles, issues based on feedback by the end-users and member organizations are prioritized according to their importance and addressed.

Hope others will join

More information pertaining to Scrum and agile software development is available at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Agile_software_development en.wikipedia. org/wiki/Scrum_(development).

In 2013 and the following years, the quantity of material, number of organizations, and the functionality of Finna will continue to increase at a fast pace. We also hope that others will join in and develop the components of the Finna open source software, making it even better.

And remember, the Finna system and its source code is available to each and every organization that longs for a dis - covery service.

Head of Development National Library Services National Library of Finland