People would like libraries’ electronic services to be extensive and easy to use, a survey carried out by Kantar TNS shows. If the recommendations of the digital media project regarding a one-stop e-library controlled by a single body and new digital library user profiles are realised, libraries have good chances of maintaining their status in the future.
At the moment, the availability of libraries’ electronic materials varies by municipality, and using them is difficult for both customers and staff. This is why the service concept project for digital media in public libraries, funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture, aims to have a one-stop e-library that gives everyone equal access to e-materials.
In the project, the first stage of which is now finished, the focus is on equality and the wishes of library users, in particular. According to the survey by Kantar TNS*, users rate the sufficient coverage of library e-services as the most important quality: 44% of respondents thought this was the most important quality for e-book services, 33% considered it the most important quality for e-magazine services, and 39% saw it as the most important quality for film services. Ease of use was also seen as one of the most important qualities (40% for e-books, 35% for e-magazines and 30% for films).
Another key idea behind the project is that libraries need to stay relevant even in the digital age. In addition to people in Finland loving their libraries, libraries also play a significant role in reducing gaps in digital knowledge and keeping municipalities vibrant and alive. However, it seems that libraries’ current offering of e-services has not kept up with the times: as many as 56% of the respondents are not at all or not very interested in using libraries’ online services.
Digital library user profiles would allow access to a broader selection
At this stage of the digital media project, the project team has sought answers for the digital media ecosystem needed, the service platform and copyright and licensing models. The work has consisted of experts’ studies, technical experiments and workshops, interviews and discussions carried out with various partners.
The project team recommends seeking a single operator that would coordinate the e-service entity in cooperation with all other parties. This operator would negotiate on materials, be responsible for the smooth operation of the e-library, coordinate the technical platform and develop libraries’ digital policies – and, finally, offer the services to library users on a single shared platform. Joining in would be voluntary for municipalities.
To free the new platform from the varying library systems of municipal libraries, digital library user profiles would be needed, in addition to the conventional physical library cards. Any library user could create the profile either online using an e-mail address and strong authentication or at their local library.
“Adopting an e-service platform shared by everyone and digital user profiles would bring libraries into the modern times and offer a more extensive selection of e-services to users – regardless of their place of residence. Using the services would also be much easier than now,” says consultant Mikko Vihonen, who designed the project’s technology architecture.
Until now, the project’s most important task has been charting needs and promoting active dialogue between stakeholders.
“Publishers, the Finnish Publishers Association and authors’ organisations have actively participated in both the interviews and the shared workshops of the project. This has provided valuable information and opinions to support the project, and has also managed to spread word about it widely in the field,” says consultant in the book and publishing industry and business Kristiina Markkula who has been involved in the project.
Continuing and expanding the established cooperation will be worth it, since the matters handled are broad and the changes are significant. When the funding for the next stage is confirmed, the work will be taken into practice by piloting the practical implementation, for example. If the final e-library is created, it will be shared by municipalities and funded similarly to the current model.
More information about the project (in Finnish): kirjastot.fi/digimediahanke. Results of the study regarding the project are available (in Finnish) at kirjastot.fi/digimediahanke/tulokset.
For more information about the project, please contact:
Head of Library Network Services
Helsinki City Library
tel. +358 (0)50 402 5813
The media may contact:
tel. +358 (0)44 796 0012
*The materials for the survey carried out by Kantar TNS were collected in the respondent panel Gallup Forum between 22 January and 4 February 2021. For the survey, 1,075 national interviews were collected, and 570 descriptive interviews were collected in the Helsinki region. These were combined and weighted to represent Finland’s population aged 15–74, excluding the residents of Åland. The statistical margin of error is +2.4 percentage points.