The infrastructure of Finnish public libraries is among the most extensive and most used in the world. Library services, available in every municipality, are provided by local authorities and are free of charge to users.
The Ministry of Education and Culture is the national administrative authority for library and information services. The Ministry supports libraries by financing many centrally produced services.
The Ministry of Education and Culture outlines library policy and prepares legislation on libraries for Parliament. The Ministry's work in the library field is governed by aims set in the Government Program, in the Finnish Public Library Policy 2015, which defines the direction and objectives of the activities in Finnish public libraries and in the Quality recommendation for public libraries.
At the Ministry, the Division for Cultural Policy of the Department for Cultural, Sport and Youth Policy administers matters relating to public libraries and Celia-Library for the Visually Impaired. The Department for Education and Science Policy handles matters relating to university libraries, the National Library, polytechnic libraries and the Repository Library.
The Ministry of Education and Culture also allots discretionary subsidies to libraries for special tasks (Multilingual Library, Saami Library, Co-Nordic mobile services) and different projects (e.g. development of information network).
Regional development and authorities
The National Library of Finland is responsible for the acquisition, description, preservation and availability of the national published heritage and collections. The Library coordinates and develops joint services for libraries, notably the research libraries. The mission and operations of the National Library have extended to cover also the needs of polytechnic, public and special libraries.
In Finland the guiding principle in public libraries is to offer free access to cultural and information sources for all irrespective of their place of residence and financial standing. The use of library collections at the library and borrowing are free of charge.
Public libraries are run by municipalities who also determine the extent of services and allocate funds to libraries at their discretion. Local authorities receive statutory state aid for operating a library based on a unit price per inhabitant, which is calculated from real library expenditure in all municipalities every four years.
The Central Library
Helsinki City Library acts as the Central Library for public libraries. It also serves as a multilingual library.
University, Polytechnic and other libraries
Research libraries, comprising university, polytechnic and special libraries, serve higher education, learning and research. The nucleus of research libraries is the academic library network composed of university libraries, the National Library of Finland, and the National Repository Library. University libraries offer free access to everyone, not only to university students and staff.
The Ministry of Education and Culture grants funds to universities and polytechnics for the operations of their research libraries. The administration, financing and activities of research and polytechnic libraries are decided by the organization in question.
The activities of other libraries are determined by the organization which they serve.