A gathering of finnish, new library professionals at IFLA 2010


A group of finnish new library professionals at IFLA 2010

A group of finnish new professionals held a non-formal, round-table type of a gathering in Göteborg during IFLA 2010. About 25 people were present, a surprisingly large number of activists. The gathering took place in a park close to the IFLA 2010 venue.

The initiative came from Marjo Perälä, who got quite a bit of feedback on her blog Nutturat auki (“Let your hair run loose” or “Unknot your hair”), when in June 2010 she proposed in a blogpost Nuorten kirjastopäivät 2011? that young professionals should have their own professional conference. That suggestion really seemed to strike a chord, and so it was decided that IFLA 2010 is a good opportunity to meet face to face.

At the gathering after everyone introduced themselves, Veera Ristikartano summarised background information about the unformal Nuorkirjastolaiset (finnish for “Young librarians”) -group. Basically, it started as a network of a few LIS-graduates from Tampere University, who have landed in academic libraries in Finland and who have been making quite similar observations about problems of their new employers.

People from several library sectors (public, university and polytechnic, National Library) were present, and we identified several common issues that all our institutions share.

  • The position of libraries in a digital world. Should we stick to the traditions, or move forward? Are we able/willing to really take the initiative?
  • What do diginatives expect from libraries?
  • Is the library education really relevant in everyday work?
  • Recruiting has not developed, new people are still hired on out-of-date requirements
  • Definition of both “a library” and “librarianship” is unclear at the moment
  • Library management tends to be authoritarian and commanding, and doesn’t give room to ideas and initiatives
  • Libraries must open to one another. The unnecessary competition and jealousy among libraries must be stopped
  • The so-called Nuorkirjastolaiset (Young librarians) -network must not become a yet another forum for complaining and whining

In our meeting, management of libraries got quite a bit of a bashing! Recruiting – a critical function of management – was critiqued and also the bosses failure to lead libraries to any direction. Many see their own libraries as passivist and conformist, and hostile to changes. Many expressed disappointment in resource allocation in libraries, and that all research and development (R&D) has been isolated and encapsulated into projects ran by non-permanent staff.

The Finnish Library Association has been supportive of this movement from the start. In Göteborg we decided to have a meeting during Turku book fair, September the 30th. We discussed how to get our bosses and managers there too, to open a wide discourse with them about the issues listed above.

This blogpost is a summary and translation of a few posts in finnish, most importantly Marjo’s notes in her post Verkostoitumalla(ko) kirjastomaailmaa parantamaan and also on on Minna M’s conference report IFLA for Dummies – Open Accessia, jännitteitä ja nuorkirjastolaista angstia. My big Thanks to all active and brave colleagues who came to the meeting, young and old alike.

Do you know of other, similar movements elsewhere in recent times? I know something has been going on in Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Latvia. Please do write a comment below, let’s hear from you!

3 thoughts on “A gathering of finnish, new library professionals at IFLA 2010

  1. Of course only a certain, very fortunate minority of people had the opportunity to attend IFLA in Göteborg. There are hundreds of young professionals out there, who don’t have much chance to travel to meetings even within Finland, let alone abroad:\

  2. very interesting gathering. I’m glad you could make the time for such an important meeting during IFLA.

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