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 responsible for the national library policy in Finland. The key objective of library policy is to promote the population's cultural rights and access to information and culture. The Ministry prepares the national library policy outlines. Furthermore, the Ministry drafts legislation concerning libraries and prepares the annual budget proposal for its administrative branch. The Parliament makes decisions on these matters.
Ministry of Education and Culture grants discretionary government transfers for example to support the production of national online services and other library projects of national significance. Discretionary government transfers are also used to finance the development of regional library operations and to support the libraries with a national special mission. The Multilingual Library, the Saami Library, the Russian Library, and the Sign Language Library are examples of such libraries.
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.
National and regional development responsibilities
Helsinki City Library is assigned with the national development responsibility. It also serves as a multilingual library. To help public libraries develop their activities in a balanced and equitable way, Helsinki city library shall provide shared services to all public libraries and promote cooperation between the public libraries. To provide shared services, the development responsibility shall be executed in cooperation with public libraries and other libraries.
Nine public libraries are assigned with regional development responsibility. The aim of a public library with a regional development responsibility is to create favorable conditions for the public libraries located within its area of operation to improve their activities. The purpose of the regional development responsibility is to support the development of the public libraries and the professional competence of library staff as well as to promote mutual cooperation between the public libraries within the area of operation.
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.