The Hämeenlinna City Library is a mid-sized provincial library that has boldly upgraded its course of actions since the 1990s. For a long time now, we have been among the top libraries in Finland to develop our online services, and we have been a pilot in the development of library services.
The traditional core mission of the library, collection management, has remained unchanged and untouched for a long time. However, the foundations of the established model of collection management and material selection have slowly crumbled from the impact of both internal and external factors.
Municipal merger behind the change
The traditional model was no longer feasible in our library’s new operational environment. The 2009 municipal merger, which joined five small, nearby municipalities to the City of Hämeenlinna, was the driving force behind the changes. Administratively, Hämeenlinna shifted to the purchaser-producer model, which meant that the library had to reform its services and adapt its collection management to the upcoming changes.
Many challenging questions arose in the process of change: How do we measure and monitor the quality of our collections? How can we manage the demanding selection process with less human resources? How do we develop the collections fairly? How can we acquire a highquality collection with less funding? How can we promote efficient circulation of the collections? How do we create a unified and fair collection policy?
According to the new administration model, library services had to be productised. The political decision-makers required economy, efficiency and effectiveness from libraries. The productisation process lasted nearly one and a half years. During that time, we learned to see the collection as a whole, the quality and aims of which could be measured in numbers.
As a provincial library, we were also expected to control the quality of our collection work. Revised every year, the service agreement guides and outlines our library’s service production which is divided into online services, branch library services, patron and training services and collection services.
The success of our collection management is measured annually using various indicators, the most important of which are annual loans, the acquisition of novelty material, discarded material and the velocity of circulation.
From decentralized to centralized selection
Since one of our goals was to manage the library’s collection as a unified whole and not as separate collections belonging to the Main Library and branch libraries, we decided to centralize the selection of material.
Four information specialists from the Main Library were assigned to the task of selecting material, whereas before the municipal merger 11 employees were involved in the selection process. At the same time, we took a bold step and outsourced the selection of novelty literature in branch libraries to our material provider in 2013.
Without a thorough statistical analysis of the branch libraries’ collections, use of appropriations and patronship, outsourcing would not have been possible. The analysis phase and the piloting phase of the outsourcing process lasted nearly a year. A personal selection profile was tailored for every local library according to the size of the collection, annual loans and regional location.
The diversity of the collection is determined by the needs of the nearby educational institutions. Since the loaning of non-fiction literature has decreased in the branch libraries and the non-fiction collections are quickly outdated, the proportion of non-fiction literature in the branch libraries is controlled.
We also define the minimum amount of material for children and youth in each branch library. The proportion of material for children and youth varies from one third to more than half depending on the patron community and the library’s service profile. In combi-libraries, i.e. public libraries that function in association with schools, the collections are geared mostly towards children and youth. Investments in literature for children and youth have grown year by year, and it is our most important area of focus.
Towards a new collection management
By profiling the branch libraries, we wanted to ensure the acquisition of the most important and the most sought-after material for each library. Free reservations and well-functioning regional transportation ensure quick deliveries and availability in the area.
Although certain material may no longer belong to the collection in a branch library, the transfer collections sent from the Main Library ensure the collections in the branch libraries are diverse. Free reservations also guarantee equal treatment of the patrons irrespective of the size or types of collections in the branch libraries.
The change in the way material is selected has made it possible for branch libraries to direct resources towards offering various events and marketing services as opposed to directing resources towards the traditional material selection process.
We have also been able to turn the focus of collection management in branch libraries from selection to discarding. The new selection model has allowed us to get closer to the world of business and publishing. Hopefully, the library will be able to influence the availability of novelty material more actively.
Luckily we predicted the changes in time, because new challenges now await us. Since we have less staff, we have begun to offer partial self-service opening hours in the Main Library and two of the branch libraries. Most of the time, we have staffed opening hours, but patrons can also use the library independently outside the actual opening hours.
In addition, an e-library service, which is open 24/7, has emerged through the increased acquisitions of electronic material. The service ensures patrons receive service despite the opening hours.
A collection management experiment
Since four of our branch libraries are moving into smaller premises within the next two years, we will have to make reforms on their collections once again with the objective of creating a new collec-tion concept.
To ensure we have time to adapt the collections to the smaller premises, we have begun an experiment involving remote collection management.
Using the statistics pertaining to library usage, the Main Library is able to discard material remotely from the branch libraries’ collections. Hopefully, in the future, further automation of collection management will be possible with the use of more developed library management systems.