The National Development Services (NDS/VAKE) of public libraries in Finland

What and for whom?

  • National Development Services or NDS/VAKE (short for valtakunnalliset kehittämispalvelut in Finnish) produce and develop online materials, platform and interface services, communications and other services for the use of public libraries throughout Finland.
  • In addition to this, NDS promote and support cooperation between libraries and advances international communications.
  • The Public Libraries Act (2016) defines NDS as follows: “To help public libraries develop their activities in a balanced and equitable way, the public library assigned with the national development responsibility shall provide shared services to all public libraries and promote cooperation between the public libraries.” (section 7 of 1492/2016).
  • Helsinki City Library has been assigned the National Development Services responsibility, and its activities are funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Everything is based on cooperation: Hundreds of professionals participate in producing NDS services – and also benefit themselves.

Having a home: NDS offer a platform for services.

Everyone benefits: Library customers can reap the benefits of all the hard work by enjoying the content embedded in their own library’s website.

Growth through dialogue: Development work carried out in cooperation with many operators produces better online services and smoother practices for everyday life.

Cooperation and shared services

Services and databases are produced and developed together with other libraries and central interest groups while also paying attention to the development of digitalisation in municipalities. These services and databases are also intended to be compatible with other online services. This way, individual libraries do not have to do everything on their own.

Cooperation with wide-spread societal benefits

  • Close cooperation between national operators is key. Realising the Finna vision is also a vital element of NDS activities.
  • is a service environment of the National Library of Finland, promoting greater access to resources in museums, archives and libraries for the wider public. Finna is also a popular online library platform.

All library users benefit from NDS’ work

At the foundation of NDS’ work are the statutory tasks and objectives and the Finna vision.

Cooperation, communications, services to library users and professionals, environments, interfaces, and service catalogues are all part of NDS’ operations.

All library users benefit from NDS’ work through, for example, service environment, web libraries, search engines, and virtual learning platforms, or through other services like municipalities’ websites, Varaamo, Taskukirjasto, the Finnish Service Catalogue, and many other services.

Public library professionals are major service users

NDS offer professional library services, such as:

  • information
  • tools
  • communications services
  • communication channels
  • impact assessment services
  • monitoring of the development of the sector
  • support for continuing training
  • promotion of cooperation and networking between libraries
  • influence in working groups within the sector
  • networking outside the sector.

Network of interest groups

Working with interest groups is vital to NDS, and it benefits all libraries. NDS also serve as a link between the publishing industry and the archive and museum sector.

NDS and the interest groups are linked together by services, technology, communication, cooperation, and support.

Among the key interest groups are: all public libraries, The National Library of Finland, Council for Public Libraries, Finnish Library Associations, The network of knowledge-based management, training organisations and learning environments in the library sector, libraries with regional development responsibility, national working groups, media education, libraries with specialised tasks, other libraries, providers of professional development, Consortium of Public Libraries, Finna consortium, National projects (digital support, meta information, digital media), publishing sector, municipalities, Regional State Administrative Agencies, other library organisations, and international communications.

National playing field

NDS cooperation functions on many levels.

The Ministry of Education and Culture: The Ministry funds and regulates VAKE/NDS’s work.

Regional State Administrative Agencies: They monitor and promote library operations and assess the accessibility and quality of library services. (; section 4 of 896/2009)

Libraries with a regional development responsibility: The aim of a public library with a regional development responsibility is to create favourable 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. (section 8 of 1492/2016)

Special responsibilities: Special responsibilities for maintaining Sámi, Russian and multilingual libraries and the national special responsibility for library services promoting reading and literacy among children and young people.

The National Library: The mission of the National Library is to develop and offer national services for university libraries, public libraries, universities of applied sciences libraries and specialist libraries and to promote national and international cooperation in the library sector. (section 70 of 558/2009)

Highlights from NDS services

Probably the most prominent part of NDS are the online content and services, which are created together with a grand network of professionals. Different content areas can be presented and shared with the help of embedded features, feeds and interfaces in libraries’ online services and on social media. is an extensive collection of Swedish-language library resources and current affairs notifications. The services include easy access to national professional resources in Swedish, such as subscribing to library news and, training notifications in a dedicated calendar (Fortbildningskalender).

The service contains material digitised by public libraries, including parts of of regional collections and rare materials. The service complements the national digitalisation project and is mostly accessed through

Visit to find the e-books, audio books and e-magazines held by all public libraries with one search. It also includes music and film services, and you can look for themed material to read and listen to. Also available in Swedish and English. is the search engine for the Finnish Broadcasting Company sound database, and allows users to explore composers, songs and themes. Also available in Swedish and English. is an extensive literature service. Highlights include a database of Finnish literature, current articles, book recommendations including older works and blog lists. Also available in Swedish.

Visit Library Directory/Kirkanta for basic information on all public libraries, such as opening hours and location, which are also updated on local library websites throughout the country. The directory spans a wide range of educational institutions and specialist libraries. Also available in Swedish and English. is the joint online TV channel of libraries and provides users with the likes of videos, radio shows and podcasts on literature, libraries and library services. Kirjastokaista also serves as an educational channel for library professionals, students and teachers, for example. Also available in Swedish and English. serves as a national communications and educational information channel for library professionals. Visitors can subscribe to news bulletins and notifications and see what is going on in a dedicated training calendar (Kirjastoalan koulutuskalenteri). The site also contains compiled statistical information on Finnish libraries and projects.

Ask a Librarian is a joint online information service provided by Finnish libraries, where questions submitted by customers are responded to by drawing on the expertise of library staff, who can also suggest potential source material and provide research guidance. Questions are answered within three days. Also available in Swedish and English. provides a good overview of the building blocks of current Finnish public library for international audiences. The main theme areas, enlivened by fresh case studies, are Functional society, Digitality and Reading promotion. is a directory of online research resources curated by professionals. Users can browse by topic or make use of its powerful search engine. Also available in Swedish and English. offers a comprehensive set of topical articles, tips and information. The ‘Musiikin tiedonhaku’ (music research) section includes databases and websites of libraries, archives and other music operators, both Finnish and international. The website also offers the ‘Kysy musiikista’ (Ask about music) service.

Sivupiiri ( showcases a fantastic range of Finnish and translated children’s and young adult literature with the help of daily tips and recommendations, as well as compiling news on the goings-on, events and prizes in the world of children’s and young adult literature. Also available in Swedish. is a collection of comprehensive annual statistics on all public libraries in Finland, offering users a handy visualisation tool to aid their research. Also available in Swedish and English. has found its audience

  • The first version of, ‘SYKE, Suomen Yleisten Kirjastojen Etusivu’ – the frontpage of Finnish public libraries, was established in 1995. Since then, the portal has multiplied the number of services it offers.
  • Social media has been used actively by many services on the website for a long time. The site is associated with more than 20 social media accounts in three languages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vimeo, SoundCloud and YouTube.

Attracting more users

The number of sessions of all services in 2002–2019 has increased from approximately 1.2 million sessions to 6,2 million sessions.

The extent of the services has varied over the years. Previous statistics (1997–2001) are not compatible. Source: Google Analytics. WTM statistics were used to some extent up until 2010.

NDS online service levels

The user experience can be divided into two main levels: user interfaces, and content/data export to other services, especially to Finna service environments.

At the basis of the interfaces are ICT infrastructure and devops, which includes platforms, data resources, interfaces and server environment. The user interface work also includes content creation, user support, training, communications, marketing, promotion of cooperation and networks, usability, accessibility, data protection, optimisation.

A library service for everyone

Ask a Librarian is a shared library service, which illustrates the many roles of NDS.

The foundation of Ask a librarian service is NDS, which takes care of e.g. the technical maintenance and development, user interfaces and accessibility, support for responders, response coordination and editorial work, training and instructions for responders, and communications and marketing.

Promoting cooperation between libraries is perhaps one of the most important outcome of the service. At the moment there are 233 responders representing 18 special libraries and 70 public libraries.

Research shows that the level of user satisfaction is very high. Throughout Ask a Librarians history, 71 500 questions has been answered. In 2019 6612 questions were answered and the service had 2 025 687 sessions.

Some highlights – user survey 2019 user survey was conducted in 19 November–9 December 2019.

How useful do you consider the website?

  • Very useful 52%
  • Useful 35%
  • Usable, but not necessary 11%
  • Unnecessary 1%
  • Cannot specify 1%

69% of active users considers the website good or very good. Active user = library professional that visits the website at least weekly.

What were respondents looking for on the site?

  • Professional services (e.g. jobs, materials): 59%.
  • News: 53%.
  • Information or material related to literature: 49%.
  • Information on libraries (e.g. statistics, project information, information on Council of Public Libraries or regional development responsibility activities): 46%.
  • Video content on training in the library sector or literature themes: 34%.
  • Research services (e.g., Ask a Librarian): 40%.
  • Library services (contact and service information, loan renewals, etc.): 31%.
  • Library books or other material: 30%.
  • Content related to music libraries: 11%.
  • Research instructions: 10%.
  • Other: 6%.
  • Cannot specify: 2%.

Did you know?

In 2019, the spending on public library activities in 2019 was € 60 per resident, and there were 853 public libraries in Finland.

In 2015-2019, the self-service hours in libraries grew by 500%, loans by children in all libraries grew by 10%, and e-magazine views grew by 390%.

In 2019, 2 million customers borrowed material from the library. A total of 53.7 million visits were made to the library, and there were 40,000 events at libraries.

NDS 2020

The NDS network offers a great range of means for supporting and developing Finland’s libraries and their services.

Contact information:
Tel. + 358 9 310 85280