Promoting reading among children and young people is one of the key tasks of public libraries. In Finland, the role of public libraries in promoting reading among children and young people is further emphasised as school libraries are not common – instead, most schools use the local public library for pupils’ and teachers’ library needs. On top of providing support for the school curriculum and programmes, libraries have their own programmes to promote children’s and young people’s media literacy and information retrieval skills, as well as to promote reading and literacy.
At national level, the special role of public libraries in promoting reading among the younger groups of the population has recently been better recognised. Seinäjoki Public Library began its work from 1 January 2020 as a national coordinator of promoting reading and literacy among children and young people in Finland.
National coordination for the development of the Finnish library field
Boosting progress in the Finnish library field is organised through libraries assigned a specific development task. Altogether, nine libraries throughout the country are serving as regional development libraries by furthering librarians’ professional development and cooperation in their respective areas. In addition to this, the national development services coordinate and support regional work. The national and regional development tasks are provided for in the Finnish Public Libraries Act and the special tasks are regulated by decrees of the Ministry of Culture and Education. All national and regional development tasks are funded by the Ministry of Culture and Education.
The special task of Seinäjoki Public Library as a national developer and coordinator of reading promotion work for children and young people, Lubu for short, is a novel assignment. Seinäjoki has a long tradition in creative reading promotion work for the target group in question, but the assignment at national level is the first of its kind in Finland. The team running the service has three members, and they provide services both in Finnish and Swedish.
We asked development manager Mervi Heikkilä, who is leading the team in Seinäjoki, a few questions about the work.
Why create a national development service for library work for children and young people?
There are many reasons the special task was initiated. One reason for establishing Lubu is the recent alarming news regarding the falling literacy rate among children and young people in Finland. At the same time, the resources for reading promotion work have diminished in some libraries. The National Literacy Forum was set up in 2017 to tackle the problem, and the establishment of the new development service for promoting reading among children and young people was one result of the Forum’s work. Lubu is fully funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture.
For whom are the services being developed and what are the goals of the operations?
The primary target group for Lubu services are Finnish public library employees who work with children and young people. The services of course benefit other stakeholders and partners, too, such as school and early education professionals.
The aim of the services is to improve and increase cooperation between Finnish public libraries, and to encourage libraries to share best practices in reading promotion. Another aim is to create national models and recommendations for reading promotion work for children and young people and build up the professional skills and know-how of library workers who are involved in reading promotion work for children and young people. The Lubu team also closely monitors developments in the international library and reading promotion community and brings fresh ideas to the Finnish scene.
You have just opened a new Lubu website. What does it offer and what are your future plans?
The website was published on 8 May and it offers information about the service, its work and current news from the sector. Importantly, the website also offers a sizeable toolbox for libraries’ reading promotion work, set up mainly as links that lead to relevant resources for libraries’ practical work.
Later in the year, Lubu will organise a national seminar featuring international guests on children and young peoples’ library work. Currently, the Covid-19 situation is casting a shadow on big gatherings this year, but the Lubu team hope, like all of us, that bigger seminars and meetings will be possible by the end of the year.