Towards a new library system


Finnish libraries are using different integrated library systems. Special and public libraries are using several different systems. Higher education libraries funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture are using the same ILS in three different installations on the same hardware. (At the beginning of the 21st century most of the libraries of the universities of applied sciences implement the same joint library system that university libraries have implemented in the previous millennium.)  Many of these library systems are reaching the end of their useful lives. During the spring and summer of 2011, all the Finnish library sectors together with the National Library of Finland formed a joint committee in order to assess the feasibility of a new comprehensive library system, possibly an open source solution that would suit the needs of all the different types of libraries. Planning for the acquisition of a new library system has been started; the concept is to try to establish a joint system with common databases for all the libraries in all sectors willing to collaborate in this effort.

The aims of the new library automation system (UKJ) and enterprise architecture method

The aim of the process is to assess the feasibility of a comprehensive library system for all types of libraries in Finland. The libraries from the different library sectors have different traditions, domains of expertise, and social language. This will be the first case in Finland when representatives from different library sectors together formulate the core aims of the library system.

The project plan will specify the following:

  • The necessary joint guidelines and culture (e.g. principles for lending and cataloguing)
  • Products and functions based on library systems
  • The opportunities and needs of joint databases (bibliographic, collections, customer and similar databases)
  • Joint and tailored sections
  • Standards and interfaces
  • A risk analysis
  • A financing solution and a cost-benefit analysis
  • An administrative model and legal issues
  • A timetable (for the first implementation projects for the new system in 2014)

New Finnish legislation passed in 2011 calls for the interoperability of information systems that are funded by the government. To comply with this legislation, the committee decided to use enterprise architecture as a method describing the functionalities of the new library system. The enterprise architecture itself is a method for describing the operational processes of an organisation, information used, systems and produced services as one functional whole. The decision to use enterprise architecture leads to a challenging learning process for almost all participants.
There are two parallel comprehensive projects that have an influence on planning of the new library system. In Finland, we have the National Digital Library project ( The project is set up and financed by the Ministry of Education and Culture. The public interfaces (i.e. OPAC with more functionality) of the current and forthcoming library systems are planned to become the interface implemented in this national project. There are projects to expand the Linda database (the union catalogue of Finnish University Libraries The aim is to create a national metadata repository for all libraries. This will have an impact more or less on the libraries’ resources description processes.

Collaboration and tools used in the planning

The joint committee decided to keep the assessment process as open as possible from the project point of view, enabling all librarians to join, while sticking to the goal and timetable.
Several working groups were formed from all types of libraries to do the actual hard work. The working methods include Wiki collaboration, email lists, web meetings, face-to-face meetings and workshops.

The focus areas of the working groups are traditional ones, such as resources description, circulation, inter-library loans, access to electronic resources, procurement and life cycle surveys of all types of material (i.e. printed, electronic, monographs and serials), but also cooperation with other systems and resources (i.e. financial, staff and student administration systems).


In August 2012, the first phase of process management by the joint committee is still under way. A project plan on how to move forward will be in place by the end of the year. Time will tell how many libraries and library sectors will continue to participate in the second phase, during which the primary decisions will be made.
The result of the first phase is not only the project plan. There will be many librarians who will have a first-hand experience of co-configuration working and learning process. Time will tell how many libraries and library sectors will continue to the second phase.


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