Tag Archives: Library Act

Dutch libraries busily in motion






Guest Blogger: Jos Debeij, head of staff department library system, Koninklijke Bibliotheek (Royal Library), National Library of the Netherlands.

In the month of November, a dozen library bloggers outline an image of what is taking place in the system of the Dutch public libraries. In the Netherlands as well, the past years have seen considerable cutbacks in budgets of public libraries as a result of the economic recession, the formation size has been reduced substantially and quite a few larger independent branches in neighbourhoods and towns have been closed or converted to smaller service points in schools and townhouses. It sounds contradictory, but at the same time many new library buildings are being built. There too, a large change is visible. The issues are simultaneously to economize, consolidate and renew, but to do so with less money and fewer professionals.

Another trend is the library more and more focussing on social issues and personal development. The library, rather than a ‘repository of books’, is becoming a place for meeting and working. The amount of lends has decreased significantly over the past twenty years. New activities are being taken up. Following the tradition of reading advancement, all Dutch public libraries put a lot of effort in language development and digital skills. The approach is twofold: 1. Preventive, in cooperation with intervention programmes from the National Reading Association, such as Bookstart, the Library in school and the ReadAloudExpress , to reach children from a young age and bring their language development to a higher level, and 2. Curative, with the library as a language house where anyone who has functionally insufficient language skills or digital skills is welcome to attend language cafes, workshops and schooling programmes or other support. In this, the libraries cooperate with numerous local education and social partners and with large groups of citizens, such as voluntary trainers and ‘buddies’. With the Dutch Tax Authority agreements have been made to support all libraries with the electronic filing of the digital revenue form or the digital request for grants. The renewed vision on media wisdom (link to English version) elaborates on 21st century capacities: the role of the library as signpost and workplace is being expanded: the library as knowledge workplace and as makerspace.

With the new Library Act (WSOB)  the National Library of the Netherlands has gained a new function and adjusted its policy accordingly,  and the position of the provincial support has been consolidated with focus on the innovation at local libraries. At the National Library, we continue building the national digital public library. With digital collections and services that are available to every person in the Netherlands and are part of the digital infrastructure for all members of the local libraries. The local public library and the national digital library complement each other and are connected. In searching for the public library of the future the Dutch libraries are working closely together. With a collective innovation agenda, with an exploration of the VOB called Route 2020 (see blog Henriëtte de Kok), with the knowledge sharing platform Biebtobieb (see blog Levien den Boer), with the marketing campaign The Library Enriches You (see blog Coen van Hoogdalem) and with a collective quality framework for audits and certification (see blog Willem Camphuis).

The world is changing, and so are public libraries. In the Netherlands as well, public libraries are busily working on their future. To continue bringing people and information together. In this way, libraries continue to contribute to the personal development of the Dutch people and a smarter and more creative Netherlands.




New Library Act and New Strategy for Finnish Public Libraries







License to cure – the new Finnish Library Act gives a mandate for better citizenship

Library services are the most used cultural services in Finland, 50 % of all citizens use the library at least once a month and 20 % use it weekly. A national user inquiry from 2013 showed that experiences of the users according the benefits of the library are remarkable. Nine out of  ten respondents told that libraries have made their life better. Finnish people are also heavy library users, last year my library, Tampere City Library, had 22.5 lends/inhabitant. Lending is not decreasing, for example children´s loans went up 6 % last year!


Finland is one of the few countries in the world that has own Library Act, the law that defines tasks and official guidelines to public library`s work. The first Finnish Library Act was published 1928 and it has been renewed several times during decades. The Act must live and develop with the society and it has to reflect surrounding environment and changes in the society. Digitization, economic crises and the changes in the municipalities requires authorities to update the Library Act in Finland.

I had an opportunity to be in the group which prepared the proposal for the new Library Act. The group consisted of the specialists of different institutions like Ministry of Culture and Education, library sectors, library associations and universities. We started our job in Spring 2015 and the work was finished in May 2016. The proposal had been admitted to the Ministry of Culture and Education and will be decided in the Finnish Parliament next autumn. Before that it has a wide statement round in Finnish authorities, libraries etc.


Equality and democracy – basis for the act

The new act enhances in the new way libraries’ tasks in the society. The act´ s goal is to promote among other things citizen´s equal possibilities to civilization and culture, possibilities to lifelong learning, active citizenship and democracy. To implement these goals the baselines are commonality, diversity and multiculturalism.



The former Library Act defined very strictly qualifications for library staff, in the new one we don´t have such exact requirements anymore, just the mention that the person who is in charge of library services in the city or municipality must have higher academic degree and a good experience and knowledge in the library field. There is also mentioning that in the library must have enough staff to take care of the library.

Library services are free of charge in Finland and that matter is crucial and has a long tradition. Libraries and their services must be open and free to everyone despite of destitution or poverty. This paragraph is also in the new law and not just for free lending – also reserving material must be free of charge.

The Library Act is very important to libraries and librarians in Finland, because it gives public libraries rights and at the same time possibilities to act and do their important work in the society and for the society. Of course it is also important for guarantee funding to public libraries. With the act we have a license to make better citizens.


Finnish Public Library Strategy 2016-2020

Another remarkable document for Finnish public libraries was published this year: Library for Citizens – The Way Forward for Public Libraries 2016–2020. There are many similar basic elements in this paper as in the new Library Act, only this is more like a tool for every librarian to cope in everyday work.