Editorial: Are we really so international?

For national libraries, there is really no difference between being national or international. Every national library around the world encounters similar issues. The Nordic countries are true leaders in many of these issues: Norway is, hands down, the leader of digitisation, Iceland is the leader of seamless solutions (free access to web archives for all), Sweden has gained a good reputation for making functional general plans, Finland has been a forerunner in web archiving, digitisation, the digital library system (the nationwide Finna), et cetera, and Denmark – they know themselves how good they are…

I have recently worked for IFLA and FAIFE and these years have been truly the high-light of my career. FAIFE led the discussion at just the right moment; we discussed the trends three years before Edgar Snowden. And then everything exploded.

Nothing came as a surprise to most of us. FAIFE is still very dear to me.

In most cases, international teamwork gives you more than you can ever give in return.

We carry out cooperation in Scandinavia and the Baltic countries on a regular basis, and therefore we hardly think of it as being international. There is, naturally, healthy envy among libraries, but it is accepted in good spirit, for example the extraordinary buildings of Copenhagen Black Diamond and the National Library of Latvia in Riga.

Library collaboration

Working on the European level usually means working with familiar libraries: Scandinavian libraries, the British Library, Bibliothèque nationale de France, BnF, DB Germany and KB Netherlands are primarily responsible for activities. These libraries have usually been the leading dogs that pull the sledge in the snow, but other libraries are heartily welcomed.

The rest of the world is more difficult. Finland has had a favourable relationship with Russia; we share the same history and collections.

Could do more

Outside Russia, the largest collection of material in Russian is located in Finland. Reaching Africa, India or Latin America is more difficult. Cooperation is greatly needed, and we could do more. Adopting libraries and endangered collections and assisting staff would be suitable actions for our internationalism. We simply could do more.

Director of The National Library of Finland