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Cooperation in developing library statistics becomes a tool for showing the impact of library.

Markku Laitinen
Planning officer
The National Library of Finland

Markku Laitinen
n Finland, the statistics describing the operation of libraries have been collected for more than one hundred years, and they hold an established position as an important source of information.

The annual statistics of the libraries are systematically collected in the joint-statistics of the libraries. There are two databases: the database for public libraries is the responsibility of the Culture and Media Division of the Ministry of Education, collecting public library statistics in the database since 1999, and the database for academic libraries is collated by the National Library of Finland, collecting academic library statistics since 2002.

These databases are open to all interested parties through the Internet. They can be browsed freely without the need for a password and are available in the two official languages of Finland (Finnish and Swedish) plus English. The older statistics have been published in printed form.

The libraries must be able to offer fresh and reliable information in a useful form for the needs of studies, teaching and research, and education of the citizens. They also have to show the advantage and the value of their operation when the economy resources are weakening and therefore must be able to systematically show the quality and impact of their operations.

To promote this goal, The National Group for Assessing the Impact of Library Activities was established in Finland in 2005. The National Library coordinates the operation of the group. There are representatives from all the library sectors (public and scientific libraries) in the group. One of the goals of the group is to draw up a common set of indicators that could be used in all the library sectors. This set of indicators should be suitable for use in the libraries, in their parent organisations and by the financiers and other stakeholders.

To support the task, the group established a web page collecting the focal indicators of library activities. This idea also promotes the quality recommendations set for the public libraries by the Ministry of Education and Culture. On this Internet page combined data from many sources are collected to show the impact of libraries in society. Four different sources were used: Finnish Public Libraries Statistics, Research Library Statistics Database, National Customer Survey for Libraries made in 2010 and Statistics Finland.

Several key figures are automatically counted by the computer on the basis of the information given by the libraries. New indicators will be developed in addition to the present ones or to replace some of them, and the functional statistics tool as the producer of the reliable facts (e.g. investment in library materials, staff, and facilities) is necessary.

Also, the statistics skills of library professionals will be developed by a comprehensive training program of statistics for Finnish libraries. The training program was made in cooperation with the National Library of Finland and the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment of Finland (ELY-Centre). Altogether 11 training meetings were arranged in different cities of the country during the winter 2012. The training session of one day contained lectures and guided teamwork exercises.

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