In our library the year 2022 has been both return to normal and a change to implement projects which we have been eagerly waiting. After two years of restrictions, we finally got the chance to do our Erasmus+ mobilities to Edinburgh Libraries. We have been NAPLE Sister Libraries since 2019 and it was extremely fruitful to prepare and carry out this project with them. We also got a funding from Regional State Administrative Agency for a project aiming to increase the library’s role in supporting civil society debate and democracy. On top of that we offered diverse selection of events to our customers.

The Erasmus+ mobilities were done in May. Our aim was to increase the skills of our staff in event production, inclusion, digital services, mobile library services, children’s library services, and library administration. There were four mobilities done in pairs and each group spent one week in Edinburgh. There was a lot to see and learn and out hosts had really put out a thoroughly planned program for the mobilities. We do many similar things but in a quite different way. For example, we got new insights in thinking library activities through service design principles and how to integrate various digital platforms more closely to the basic library services. These experiences are already being used to develop our own operations and hopefully we can continue to work with the Edinburgh Libraries in the future.

Our democracy project is called Library as a Citizen Channel (“Kirjastosta Kansalaiskanava”). It started in September 2022 and will be running to the end of April 2023. Finnish Library Act obliges public libraries to promote active citizenship, democracy and freedom of speech. Since this is a challenging and somewhat new area of responsibilities the Regional State Administrative Agencies decided to hand out an additional funding for projects advancing these goals. The grant was divided between applicant in the whole country and we were pleasantly surprised to receive a funding for a quite large project.

To put in briefly the project wants to turn the library space into an active forum of public debate and other activities connected to promoting democracy. We invite everyone to have these conversations but in practice our target groups include local associations, civic activists, city officials and even local political parties. So far, we have implemented lectures by nationally known specialists, question-and-answer sessions with city officials and a chance for local associations to present their activities. The plans for the spring include, among other things, an event to increase voter turnout in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

One of the most positive consequences of the COVID was that we learned to produce our events in a way that they can also be followed on the library’s Facebook page. Now that the events are rolling in full speed and people can come to see them on location, we continue to offer this possibility. This means that we have gained new audiences outside the local area. In most cases the live events can also be watched afterwards as a recording.

Our staff is working hard that the positive outcomes of this year’s activities will carry on to the next year. Traditionally we plan well ahead and already have interesting things scheduled for the spring. The international cooperation has become an important part of our activities, so it is nice to see that we may take some major steps in this area too.

Links to the live event recordings:

Author Minna Kettunen:

Mayor Jarmo Ronkainen:

Kirjakantti Literary event:

The text and photos are by me: Tuomo Lindfors, librarian Iisalmi City Library