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Reform of the Library Act: promotion of active citizenship, democracy and freedom of expression new tasks for libraries

Ministry of Education and Culture
Publication date 10.11.2016 14.15 | Published in English on 24.11.2016 at 8.40
Press release

The Government submitted a proposal for a new Library Act to the Parliament on 10 November. The proposed Act mentions the promotion of active citizenship, democracy and freedom of expression as new tasks to be assigned to libraries.

The linguistic and cultural rights safeguarded by the Constitution form the foundation for the Library Act. Public library services would continue to be free of charge. Reserving library materials is also proposed to become free of charge.

Library services are among the most frequently used municipal services, and the users come from all age groups. There are 765 public libraries and 140 mobile libraries in Finland. According to the proposed new Library Act, public library services, which are basic and local services, would also in future be free of charge. The local authorities would continue to be responsible for the organisation of the operations of libraries.

"The new Act guarantees that we will have an extensive network of public libraries offering services free of charge also in future. The provision of these services is at the responsibility of the local authorities in each Finnish municipality. Libraries are not only open educational living rooms but also versatile learning and working environments and local cultural centres. They provide premises also for recreational and civic activities," says Minister of Education and Culture Sanni Grahn-Laasonen.

"The proposed Act places greater emphasis on the societal role of libraries than before. In future, libraries would also contribute to the promotion of active citizenship, democracy and freedom of expression. It is important that libraries will cooperate with other municipal actors and with organisations, associations and other local communities. This way, libraries could enhance the vitality of a municipality and the surrounding region," says Grahn-Laasonen.

The proposed Act specifies the provision on the free library services. The use of a public library's own collections within the library, borrowing from the collections and making reservations as well as guidance and advice would be free of charge. Interlibrary loans issued by libraries with national or regional development responsibilities to other public libraries would also be free of charge. The local authorities could charge fees for other services, such as overdue loans or uncollected reservations.

Provisions on library users' responsibilities, loss of borrowing rights and loss of user rights would be added to the Library Act. The provision on the library rules would be reformed. The qualification requirements for library staff would be revised so that staff members in expert positions would, as a rule, be required to have a suitable academic degree.

According to the proposed Act, a public library could be assigned, in addition to its basic duties, a national development responsibility, a regional development responsibility or a special task. A library with a national development responsibility would provide equal support to all public libraries in their endeavours to improve their operations. Libraries with a regional development responsibility would aim at strengthening the operations of the public libraries situated in their region. A special task could be assigned to a library in order to complement the duties laid down in the Act.

The central government funding for public libraries is included in the central government transfers to local governments for basic public services. In 2016, the central government transfer percentage for the local basic services is 25.47, which means that 25.47 per cent of the funding comes from the central government.

In its budget proposal, the Government proposes that the remuneration for lending be raised to the same level as in the other Nordic countries. The total amount reserved for the remunerations would be increased to EUR 15.6 million from the current EUR 9.3 million. Remuneration for lending is paid to authors whose works are lent by the public libraries. In practice, the right to receive remuneration applies to authors of printed works and recorded musical works.

- Merja Leinonen, Counsellor of Government, Legal Affairs, tel. 0295 3 30191
- Heikki Kuutti Uusitalo, Special Adviser, tel. 050 302 8246