The National Library of Finland is Finland’s oldest and largest research library and is open to everyone. Its collections represent a continuum of hundreds of years of research literature and literary culture. The National library serves the entire nation by preserving Finland’s printed national heritage for generations to come. By acquiring domestic and foreign research material it serves research in the humanities and social sciences both in Finland and abroad. This year, the library is celebrating its 375th anniversary.
Known as the Helsinki University Library until 2006, the National Library of Finland is a part of the University of Helsinki conglomerate and it is one of its independent subsidiary institutions. The library functions as a research library and offers IT and other infrastructure services to the library network and also to other memory organizations.
The role of the National Library as a research library is based primarily on its foreign collections. The older collections cover all disciplines, but nowadays the acquisition of new material focuses on history, classical studies and medieval studies, Russian and Eastern European studies, art history and philosophy.
Acquisitions archival copies of Finnish publications for the national collection are based on legal deposit. In addition to printed and sound recordings, the collection contains a sample of Finnish webpages stored now over a period of ten years, thousands of e-books and tens of thousands of digital editions of newspapers.
Revising collection policy
The library also stores Twitter messages and YouTube videos. The national collections’ holdings are archive material that may be used for research purposes on the library premises only. Foreign material, with the exception of rare books, is loaned to library patrons to take home as well as to domestic and foreign libraries as interlibrary loans.
The library’s current Collection Policy dates back to 2008 and will work until the end of 2015. The Collection Policy includes a supplementary acquisition scheme compiled according to disciplines using the Conspectus classification.
The National Library is revising its Collection Policy and updating the acquisition scheme this year. The new Collection Policy is being drafted for the years 2016-2020. In addition to the Collection Policy, the library also has a separate digitisation policy.
The Collection Policy defines the guidelines and preferences, which the National Library uses as the basis for developing its supply of material. Material refers not only to material that has been supplemented, purchased, licensed or otherwise made available to patrons as legal deposit collections, but also digitised material and research data obtained from it. The disciplines represented in the material, as well as its availability and usability are considered in the Collection Policy.
External forces of change
One of the greatest changes involves ebooks and their new acquisition models, which have transferred more responsibility for the collection development from the library staff to the patrons. The share of e-books in the Finnish university library collections has increased decisively, even in the humanities.
At the same time, the university libraries, a traditionally important part of the national research infrastructure and information service, increasingly cater to the needs of teaching and research in their own frame organization. Unfortunately licensed e-books are not available for the national use as interlibrary loans as printed monographs have been before.
The role and importance of the National Library as a nationwide actor in the humanities has grown. Information needs are heterogeneous and often very special, for example in the classical or medieval studies, that especially small libraries cannot guarantee to fulfill all the needs of the research by their own collections.
Further, on several cases in the humanities research is only possible with vast and profound historical collections. One of the themes in the Collection Policy is, indeed, the nationality of the National Library: The National Library is a humanistic research infrastructure that serves the entire nation.
Cuts in budget
During the preparations of the new Collection Policy, it became evident that our country’s new government is imposing significant cuts in financing for teaching and research. The need to save funds will increase in the entire University of Helsinki organization beginning 2016, and, according to the university’s calculations, will amount to 106 million euros at the end of this government term in 2019- 2020. This means 15 percent of the university’s total income.
As part of the University of Helsinki, the cuts affect the National Library as well. In addition to cuts in financing, the government is requiring universities to profile their teaching and research. However, profiling is slow on the one hand and on the other hand it does not necessarily help universities to define which direction their support services, such as the library, should be developed.
The National Library, especially, must define the disciplines it supports based on its historical collections’ strengths and optimize new acquisition. As a humanistic research infrastructure, the library must concentrate on what single students or researchers cannot obtain easily elsewhere, i.e. expensive source editions and reference books that support research.
Principles of the Collection Policy
The collections at the National Library are seen as a whole that forms a significant research infrastructure that focuses on human sciences and history of learning. For historical reasons, our collections have usually been viewed from two different perspectives: the foreign collection has been thought to serve especially the needs of the University of Helsinki, while the national legal deposit collection serves national needs.
From the viewpoint of the National Library, however, these collections form an entity that serves the entire Finnish scientific community, not to mention the public. This supports the library’s long-term strategic goal National treasures for all.
The National Library offers material to be used for research in the humanities in the entire country and serves an active, international researcher community. The library’s up-to-date scholarly collection is formed out of the following areas of focus: history, literary criticism, art history, Russian and Eastern European studies as well as philosophy.
Persistence and continuity are emphasized in the shaping of the National Library collection. The library acquires material that will have long-term research value, not only to fulfill the needs of today’s research.
Using the library’s collections
Since the aim of the library is to offer material for nationwide use, adopting the eonly policy is not possible with the current licensing models. However, the library will endeavour to investigate the possibilities to construct new licensing models in the upcoming years. In any case, printed material will be available as interlibrary loans also in the future.
Digitisation is one of the library’s most important means to improve availability, and it enables us to offer patrons all over Finland material which is available only in vthe National Library and which is more interesting with regard to teaching and research. Even a small digitised collection may be significant if it greatly increases the use and availability.
To this day, the library has digitised 5.4 million pages of Finnish periodicals, 3.2 million pages of newspapers and 129,400 pages of printed ephemera. Part of the material may be used freely online, but copyrighted material must be used on site in legal deposit libraries.
Interesting and exceptional
The aim of the library in the next strategy period is to extend the use of copyrighted, digitised material to other Finnish research libraries. Since the collections at the National Library are heavily European and the origins of the collections are in many respects interesting and even exceptional, there is reason to consider the library’s international impact and the digitisation of foreign collections respectively. Until now, the National Library has digitised mainly domestic material.
In addition to printed and digitised material, data, metadata and raw data are also a part of the library’s collection and it is used as source material for the research more and more. The metadata production and supply is something that other institutions cannot offer. For this reason, guidelines pertaining to research data are a part of the Collection Policy. The National Library of Finland is also drafting its Digital Humanities policy to be implemented alongside the new Collection Policy.