Session E: Libraries in the Digital Age
Arja-Riitta Haarala: The Role of Libraries in Information Management in Finnish University Setting

2. Libraries as key players at the local level

Libraries have for some time been in a turbulent state. The information milieu is changing as a result of new technology: information media are in a state of rapid change; the need for increased computing power continues to increase; the use of information is changing; and our masters demand more effectiveness and better results. Old ways of doing things are now less effective. Even the concept of service quality has evolved. Users request new types of services, new ways of producing them, and new methods of delivery. Libraries in Finland have been active in introducing new information services and have a strong tradition of piloting computer-based services. In early 70´s online database searching were introduced among the first ones in Europe. The first experimental packet-switched Nordic telecommunication network SCANNET was implemented in Nordic technical libraries in 70´s, and it included first Nordic electronic journal Extemplo. Libraries were also among first ones in universities to accommodate microcomputers for public use in early 80´s.

According to the outlines mentioned earlier universities have been developed strategies at the local level. Most common are information technology strategies in which libraries are only shortly mentioned, and with a strong emphasis on information technologies. Libraries tend to develop their own strategies. The Helsinki University Libraries Assessment Panel writes in their report "The University already has a Strategy for Information Management. The Panel believes that this may need to be updated and revised in the light of its recommendations as they affect the goals, objectives, budgets and staff of the Libraries, in compliance with the University of Helsinki policy research and education." Furthermore they make a recommendation that the University should appoint a Director of Academic Information and Learning Resources.

There are also information strategies where all key players at the local level are taken into account. Recent strategy by the University of Kuopio is a comprehensive one integrating Computing Centre, Kuopio University Printing Office, Learning centre, Library and Photographic Laboratory under the same umbrella as a profit centre. Similar type of strategies are developed in the University of Lapland and Lappeenranta University of Technology. Libraries have also actively entered in publishing business. Quite often they are responsible for university publishing operations, especially so nowadays due to digital publishing.

Co-operation has considered as important by libraries. Therefore regular national annual meetings have been organised with directors of IT and computing centres together with directors of university libraries for some time. Furthermore at the local level IT steering committees or advisory committees for information management have been introduced at universities.

It is necessary to consider the evolutionary stage of present library, computer and information services as well as other players in the field. Are they yet at a sufficiently mature stage for new systems to be designed with confidence, or is there still a great deal of dynamism, so that different design criteria must be incorporated to deal with the continuing evolution? Consequently, most organisations have started to look at new ways of working. Co-operation and collaboration have been found productive and useful, with organisations entering into new type of alliances. Libraries and computing centres have developed closer relationships in the UK and USA, although less so in other countries. The first alliance of this type in Finland is at Tampere University of Technology, where the Computing Centre as a independent institute was terminated.

2.1 Nation wide projects in university libraries

Co-operation has always been a strong feature in Finnish university libraries, and not less today. A major work has been carried out in selecting and at the moment implementing a new library system Voyager. This is a second system consecutively in university libraries, and co-operation has proven its advantages and benefits.

Another success story is FinELib, Finnish Electronic Library that acquires electronic material for university libraries. The Finnish universities form the core of the FinElib consortium, and it started already in 1997. It is financed by the Ministry of Education (18 mill. Finnish marks) and the rest comes from the licence fees of university libraries. Finnish Electronic Library works in close co-operation with other national development programmes. Common concerns include electronic publishing, long-term storage of electronic material, copyright and other topical issues. International projects in the field of electronic libraries are being followed closely.

Virtual university collaboration and the development of digital learning environments is the next extensive area to be considered. The work has already begun under the project of Finnish Virtual University.



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