HELSINKI CITY LIBRARY - THE VIRTUAL LIBRARYSpring 1997
Sirkka Elina Svedberg
Deputy Library Director
HELSINKI CITY LIBRARY: ITS THREE FUNCTIONS
- As the Municipal Public Library, Helsinki City Library is open to everyone and all the essential services are free of charge.
- As the National Central Library for public libraries in Finland, the holdings of Helsinki City Library are available to the whole country through inter-library loans. The National Central Library Office is the national centre of inter-library circulation for public libraries. This function is funded by a special state allowance.
- As the Central Multicultural Library, Helsinki City Library maintains library services for linguistic minority groups in the whole country. The Ministry of Education allocates a yearly allowance for this purpose.
- Main Library
- 34 Branch Libraries
- 2 Mobile Libraries
- 19 libraries in hospitals and nursing homes
- book delivery service for housebound people
- Opening hours:
- 92 660 opening hours in 1996
- approximately 500 employees, of whom 163 trained librarians, 6 computer experts and 2 staff training experts
- in 1996, total expenditure was 130 million FIM, of which the revenues and state subsidy cover approximately 55 %
- 1.8 million books in 60 different languages
- 35 000 printed music items
- 125 000 sound recordings (music, radio plays, audio books, language courses etc.)
- 20 000 video cassettes
- 1 190 periodical titles, 5 764 subscribed annual sets of periodicals
- Library use in 1996:
- 9.0 million loans, 17.2 loans per capita
- 6.5 million visits, 12.4 visits per capita
During the years 1991-1996, lending has increased by 51.1% and visits by 78.6%.
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGYThe integrated library system Geac Plus by Geac Computers has been in use in all library units, including the mobile library and 9 hospital libraries, since autumn 1995. At present, the number of workstations is 340 and the number of public terminals is 101.
Internet - a short historyWWW-address of Helsinki City Library: http://www.lib.hel.fi/english/
Internet and www have been available to the public, both adults and children, free of charge, since 1994.
* The Cable Book Library A branch called the Cable Book Library was founded in February 1994. It was the first public library in the world to offer Internet connections to the patrons. There is a pilot project going on, called The Knot at the Cable. The goal of the project is to spread knowledge about what the library has to offer to the public in information technology, and to promote original information production. The Cable Book has helped in training library and information professionals in the use of the Internet on a national level. The Cable Book Library and The Knot at the Cable were awarded the Government's prize for excellent information activities in 1996. The staff of the Cable Book has received also two other prizes in librarianship.
In 1998, the Cable Book Library is moving to the centre of the city, where it together with the City's Centre of Cultural Affairs will start a new meeting place for digital media and culture.
* Internet and Multimedia for Children
In autumn 1994, a mediatheque started in the children's department of Töölö Branch. The mediatheque has three sets of multimedia equipment, one set with access to Internet. There are approximately 100 CD-ROMs available.
At the moment, several branch libraries have both Internet and multimedia equipment for children.
* The Internet and Helsinki City Library
The Cable Book was a pilot, and important as such. It is as important, however, to see that the new technology does not stop in the Cable Book. The new technology is a tool that must be introduced in every library, to every member of the staff.
Every branch in Helsinki City Library has workstations where all citizens can browse the www-pages, read or send e-mail, exploit all the possibilities of the Internet - free and democratic.
Helsinki City Library - the Virtual LibraryHelsinki City Library serves the public both in firm library sites and via the Internet. Making good use of the library's services is not any longer limited to the geographical position or to the opening hours. The use of the virtual services is brisk. In 1996, there were more than 2 million visits to the library's servers.
* Ask the Cybrarian!
The Cybrarian is the library's knowledge database, where a virtual librarian works. The Cybrarian answers to the patrons' questions about the services of the library and how to use them, about the materials the library has and about how to search information. The Cybrarian gathers up all the virtual services of the library under one easy-to-use interface. The Ministry of Education has subsidized the project.
* Plussa Bibliographic DatabaseThe bibliographic databases of Helsinki City Library and three other Metropolitan Area Public Libraries can be browsed via the Web catalogue, Plussa Bibliographic Database. Plussa consists of bibliographic records of half a million titles and four million items. Easy-to-use search instructions and the search form, both in Finnish, Swedish and English, have been designed with an ordinary public library audience in mind. The database can be searched by two complementary search terms at a time: by the author, the title, the subject or by the ISBN. Information of the item availability is real-time. The general service numbers of the library as well as the addresses of the branches and their opening hours are linked to the availability information, so that the items that are not on loan can be reserved by telephone. Reserving via Internet also the items that are on loan is being planned. The Plussa database search was released October 30, 1996. There were approximately 40 000 visits to Plussa during the first two months.
* Inter-library loans
Library patrons of Helsinki City Library can make orders for an inter-library loan also via Internet, by filling in a www-form. Before placing an order the patron is supposed to check that the needed publications do not exist in Plussa nor in the two databases of the academic libraries in Helsinki. When the ordered publications arrive in Helsinki City Library, the patron is notified by e-mail. Instructions and the form are both in Finnish and in Swedish.
The office for the inter-library services provides documents also digitally by Ariel program.
* Periodicals Database
Information on the newspapers and magazines subscribed by Helsinki City Library can be obtained in a separate Periodicals database. Newspapers and magazines can be searched by the title, the subject, the language and by the subscribing branch. There are links to the eventual Internet-versions of magazines.
* Searching on the Internet
On the front page of the library there is a guide to Internet searches, made in co-operation with the House of Knowledge Project and the editorial staff of SYKE/PULS/PULSE. In the search pages there is an introduction to the Internet searches as well as to the most important search engines with instructions and search forms in Finnish. You can also find lists of virtual libraries and subject directories. In the "Reference Library" you can find electronic magazines and encyclopedias. There is a special search engine for the search pages that helps in finding needed links.
* Art directory "Taide/Art/Konst"
On the Internet there is a www-art directory maintained by Rikhardinkatu Branch and the artist society MUU. The directory is in Finnish, Swedish and in English. The Ministry of Education has subsidized the project.
* Fairy Tale Database
Kallio Branch Library has published on the Internet a fairy tale database, where you can track a story even when you don't remember its exact name. A story can be searched by any word that occurs in its title, by its author, by the title of the collection where it has been published, etc. Information on the literary essays written on fairy tales has also been gathered up. Fairy tales in Finnish are covered from the beginning of the 19th century. The Ministry of Education has subsidized also this project.
* Multicultural Library
Multicultural Library helps the libraries all over Finland serve their foreign patrons. On the pages of the Multicultural Library there is useful information on the library and other services for the refugees and immigrants in Finland. Helsinki City Library tells about its services in 15 languages. The project has been motored by the Public Libraries of Helsinki and Oslo, and it is being developed further in co-operation with the Multicultural Libraries of Sweden and Denmark. The aim is to unite the know-how and resources in the Nordic countries in order to serve the foreign populations. The Finnish Ministry of Education has subsidized also this project.
* Multimedia Service Point for the Visually Handicapped
In co-operation with the Library for the Visually Handicapped, Kallio Branch Library has developed the Multimedia Service Point that offers the virtual services of the library as well as the Internet also to the visually handicapped. In the Service Point there is a speech synthetizer, an enlarging program and a Braille display that make it possible for these patrons to use the Internet. The Ministry of Education has subsidized also this project.
* Training the Patrons
The different units of the library organise systematical training to the patrons both in using the library's own public terminals and in information searching. For this, Itäkeskus Branch Library has produced training material package both in Finnish and in Swedish. Lectures about the Internet and practical teaching how to use the Internet belong to the ordinary routines of the branches.
* Publishing on the Internet
Some of the library's publications come out only on the Internet:
- Home pages of Helsinki City Library in Finnish, Swedish and English.
- Home pages of the branches (13 branches in January 1997). Many of these are in several languages.
- NFFF - New Fiction and Facts from Finland. A selective book list for public libraries introduces approximately 100 new Finnish book titles twice a year, in autumn and in spring.
- Reading tips in Finnish and in Swedish of children's and teenagers' books for children and for their parents, teachers, and everybody.
- SYKE/PULS/PULSE. An electronic publication in librarianship, published in co-operation with the House of Knowledge Project. SYKE = PULSE is an interface to the resources in the World Wide Web, specially selected to meet the interests of librarianship. SYKE is meant to be an everyday tool for a librarian as well as a passage to the latest events and trends in librarianship, but it can also be used by the ordinary public library audience for searching information and library materials, just like physical library sites. Use of SYKE is very brisk. The Ministry of Education has subsidized this project.
* Intranet - the Virtual Workspace for the Staff
The internal net of the library makes it possible to spread the information and internal services needed by the staff safely and simultaneously to all branches and offices. With the Intranet, current information can be disseminated, and all kinds of instructions, memos and reports can be filed available to the whole staff. Also internal services can be offered, such as ordering brochures and forms.
* Remote Work
A remote terminal equipped with a modem pole makes it possible for the staff to work at home. There can be altogether 16 simultaneous connections.
* Office Team System
Windows-based Office Team System includes e-mail with individual adresses and mailing lists, document archive, and calender. The City of Helsinki has provided Office Team System for all the staff.
Every member of the staff has his or her own e-mail address in the Office Team System.
OTHER COMPUTER FACILITIES IN THE LIBRARIES* NetCD
Database CD-ROMs are available to library users and staff in six branches at the moment through NetCD-server and telecommunication.
* Computer classroom
Since 1991, Helsinki City Library has had a computer classroom for training the staff. In the present classroom there are work stations for 10 students.
* Word processing for the public
Since 1992 the library has offered the public the possibility to use a word processing program, now in some twenty branches.
PUBLIC LIBRARIES IN FINLANDPublic libraries are the most widely used public service. In Finland there are:
- 5 116 826 inhabitants at the end of 1995
- 455 municipalities
- approximately 1000 public library units (main libraries, branches and mobile libraries)
- 20 loans per inhabitant annually
- 13 library visits per inhabitant annually
- a half of all Finns have a library ticket, but it is estimated that at least 80% of the population are reached by the library services
Libraries and new media. According to a survey compiled by the House of Knowledge Project:
- in early 1997 60% of public libraries were connected to Internet
- half of the municipalities provide Internet access for the public in their libraries. Around 8-9% of these charge a nominal fee for the Internet use, while 90% offer this service free of charge
- in March 1997, 107 public libraries had their own www-pages
- in March 1997, 4 public library opacs were accessible via world wide web, 3 of these are regional union catalogues
- in 1996, 50% of all public libraries had at least one CD-ROM drive and 30% of libraries offered public access to CD-ROMs
National Strategies and Reports on Information Society
- "Towards a Finnish Information Society" 1994, by Ministry of Finance: By the year 2000 all of Finland's schools and public libraries will be connected to information networks. The goal for the library system is to serve as an access point for all citizens and also to promote network literacy and lifelong learning.
- The decision of principle by the Council of State, January 18, 1995: "Public libraries will be supported as open information network nodes, and information network services will be introduced throughout the library system as soon as possible."
The Ministries were then given the task of preparing a set of actions to reach the desires goals set by the Council of State.
- "Education, training and research in the information society" 1995 by the Ministry of Education: "Libraries continue to have an important role in securing the public's right of access to information. Libraries are central in quaranteeing equality, in ensuring the availability of information, and in guiding users in handling equipment and accessing information. All citizens should have the right to use information network services in libraires at an affordable price."
- Action Plan for the development of "Culturally Oriented Information Society", 1996 by the Ministry of Education. 60 proposals for the years 1997-2000.
- A report on the national guidelines on network development in Finland and a separate report on multimedia in 1995, by the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
The public libraries have their own projects for the Information Society, financed by the Government:
- The House of Knowledge Project 1995-1998, financed by the Ministry of Education and administered by the Finnish Library Association. The project promotes use of Internet in libraries and supports the production of cultural contents for Internet. In February 1996, three full time co-ordinators were hired to run the project.
- Finland to the Information Society, a three-year project 1996-1999. Public libraries will have a total annual allowance of 10 million FIM for information society projects. This money is meant primarily for non-material development, hardware purchases are supported only exceptionally. The Ministry grants the allowances on grounds of the libraries' applications.
The rapid and wide introduction and implementation of a new technology has been possible because of the important role that the public libraries have in the Finnish society. The new technology have been promoted also in the open discussions between the Government, organizations of citizens, and, for its part, Helsinki City Library with its Cable Book Branch. The Government has played an important role in stating the principles and in granting money for development and training. The municipalities finance the hardware purchases, but it has been easier to obtain money from the local authorities when the Government has shown the direction.