The Digimedia service concept project aims for seamless and equal access to the e-materials of public libraries

Depending on their municipality of residence, Finns are currently not equal in terms of their access to the digital media, such as e-books, digital audio books and digital magazines, provided by public libraries. This significant national question for public libraries will now be tackled by a service concept project focusing on digital media. The project, which is funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture and led by Helsinki City Library, strives to determine starting points for a digital service concept and conduct user-oriented trials. The project will last until May 2021.

The Digimedia service concept project focuses on analysis and trials that will serve as a stepping stone towards a broader goal: the ability of all public library customers to seamlessly access a national digital collection which also serves regional and group-specific special needs.

At the moment, the situation varies greatly between library customers residing in different municipalities – for a range of reasons. There are substantial disparities between the e-collections of different municipalities and joint libraries. According to the applicable legislation, the acquisition of library collections and service platform is the responsibility of the municipality. Then again, joint library arrangements covering multiple municipalities are voluntary collectives.
A variety of platform services are being used, resulting in a complicated and ambiguous user experience for customers and staff members alike. Library customers and employees have to identify the service that contains the content they need using various applications and technologies. This deteriorates the usability and equal accessibility of digital library services. In addition to this, there is wide variation with regard to licensing and copyright compensations. The project aims to find joint models to facilitate the availability of materials, taking the interest of all parties concerned into account. 
The analysis involves parallel areas that cover determining the requisite technological architecture and customer management scheme, copyrights, collection policies, data management, and finding solutions for production, organisation and funding. Various service platforms will also be tested for their suitability for the service concept. Expected end results include recommendations to support competitive bidding for and technical development of the service platform, as well as further plan especially in terms of cooperation. 

The user perspective is key with regard to the project goals and their implementation. The users’ view on usability and available content will be determined in multiple municipalities and through surveys. The service concept is intended to be incorporated into the Finnaservice environment.  
The project involves a wide range of partners and interest groups, such as Finnish municipalities, The National Library of Finland, the Finnaecosystem, Celia, national development services for public libraries, providers of the analysis and consulting services, and other operators related to the licensing and data management arrangements. 

“The Digimedia project is a considerable step towards the more equal and diverse availability of cultural content in public libraries throughout Finland,” says Head of Library Network Services Virva Nousiainen-Hiiri of Helsinki City Library. 

Photo: Maarit Hohteri