It’s hard to believe it’s been 2 months since I was in Finland and I still haven’t written anything about all the wonderful library folks who generously took the time to meet with me. I could blame it on having lost my notes, but all the more reason to have written when my memories were fresher. So before any more time passes, let me get started!
Thanks to a few tweets from Jan Holmquist, a library colleague in Denmark, I arranged to have lunch with Jukka Pennanen of the National Libray of Finland. And what luck that he had a meeting with Paivi Almgren that morning and she was able to join us for lunch too. Paivi is a Senior Advisor for Library Services in the Southwest Finland region.
After many tweets saying things like ‘meet us on the corner of…’ , ‘I’m wearing black’, ‘look for the bald guy with a beard’ and so on, we met and found our way to a downtown cafeteria for a tasty and quintessentially Finnish lunch buffet and of course, lots of library chattering.
Jukka is one of the masterminds behind the wonderful Cycling for Libraries event that begins later this week. He and Mace Ojala, the other organizer of the event, had just returned from a trip along this year’s route, checking out locations and roads. Though Mace and I tried to connect as well, our paths unfortunately didn’t cross.
Cycling for Libraries, a international library unconference on wheels, kicks off in Vilnius Lithuania on July 28, then heads through Latvia and arrives in Tallin, Estonia on August 7. Just in time to catch a boat to Helsinki, where the IFLA World Congress will be getting underway. Wish I could participate, but I’ll be following along via the twitter hashtag #cyc4lib. Some of the other folks I met along the way are also participating. I’ll be eagerly watching for photos and listening for tweets about their trip and the discussions along the way.
Jukka is also involved in an interesting ebook project that will release the works of a long forgotten Finnish author. When we spoke, the details about this project weren’t public, but after hearing about this author’s writing, I was eager to read his works. Unfortunately for me, they’re only available in Finnish.
Paivi talked about how library services are administered on the national & regional level. This reminded me very much of how our US state library agencies distribute funds and provide services to libraries and systems. I got the sense that Finns are much stronger supporters of libraries, though they face many of the same sorts of budgets issues we do here in the US. Perhaps the greater support is due to the nationwide support of education in general?
Finns are big users of their libraries and value the services provided.
About 80% of Finns are regular library users. On average, a Finn visits a library 10 times a year and takes out 18 books, discs or magazines. The library websites register over 57 million visits a year. In the 2010 national library customer survey, over 70% of the 13,000 respondents said libraries had improved their quality of life somewhat or considerably. (source: http://www.minedu.fi/OPM/Kirjastot/?lang=en)
Paivi, along with Paivi Jokitola, is also the co-author of Kirjasto 2011 (Library 2011) focusing on new services and ideas from libraries around the world and Kirjasto 2012 (Library 2012) covering customer focused services. Again, I’m regretting that I don’t read Finnish. Both sound like very useful resources. Coincidentally, the next day I ended up in a bookshop with a librarian who was in search of the 2012 book.
In another small world coincidence, Paivi Jokitola was the person who connected me with several other library folks that I’ll write about next. I suspect she knows every librarian in Finland if not all of Scandinavia!
For more information about libraries in Finland, libraries.fi is the place to start.
I want to thank both Jukka and Paivi for taking the time to meet with me, especially as it was very last minute and they were both probably wondering why in the world they were meeting with someone they’d never heard of and for the very vague reason of wanting to get to know more about libraries in Finland. Kiitos!