I want to know concise history of finnish public libraries.
The first public library in Finland was opened in 1794. Members of the Vaasa (town in Western Finland) regional court of appeal established the reading society and reading library for their own amusement, but they also lent books for money to other people in town. Since the library was open for everyone, it is fair to say that it marked the beginnings of public library work in Finland. The first so-called parish or municipal libraries were established in the 1830s and 40s. These can be seen as the genuine predecessors of the modern Finnish public library. The term ´public’ was borrowed from the United States in the beginning of the twentieth century.
Finland’s geopolitical position between Sweden and Russia has influenced whole society, its history and culture and library institution makes no exception. Traditionally Finland has been a bilingual country (Finnish c. 94% and Finnish-Swedish c. 6%). Historically Finland was first a Swedish province for about seven hundred years and then an autonomous grand duchy of the Tsarist Russia from 1809 to the declaration of independence in 1917. Newspapers as well as school and public libraries were established during the 19th century as a result of the aspirations for independence and the desire to form and promote national identity and the need to raise the general level of education. One of the fundamental and basic ideas of the library ideology in Finland is that all men are to be treated as equals.
The objectives and aims of the public libraries have not changed over the past 150 years, namely to provide free access to information and literary experience to everyone. These basic objectives and ideas have been influenced by many factors such as the need to raise general level of education, demands for equality etc. Since 1928, the use and lending of library collections, in whatever form, have been free of charge under law.
Today Finnish library system is an interactive, organised network based on extensive use of information and communications technology and information networks. Municipal / public, research, specialist libraries as well as libraries in various educational institutions are a part of the national and international information service networks. It is worth mentioning at this point that public and research libraries work in close co-operation and that both public and research libraries are open to everyone free of charge.
In the national information society strategies library is seen as a democratic and supportive channel into the world of information networks. Library is also seen as an indispensable institution in terms of citizens’ diverse needs since it provides free access to knowledge for everyone and opportunities for active participation in all manner of civic matters.
In the recent years the Finnish Government has invested heavily in promoting library networking and equipping small municipal libraries and schools with hardware. Compared with many other countries Finnish libraries are well equipped technically.
The new library act which has been in effect from the 1st January 1999 stipulates that municipal public libraries are responsible for providing library and information services as well as promoting these services both regionally and nationally. Library activities also aim at promoting and enhancing virtual and interactive network services and their educational and cultural content.
Today the Finnish public library reflects the expanding number of foreigners living in Finland by providing multilingual materials to its customers. Also, virtual library services are very much part of the public library activities today.
For more information, you can check the following web portal, which contains plenty of information concerning the Finnish library activities: