Stories of the Finnish Arctic Expertise
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Polar libraries thrive on cooperation

Polar library experts gather in Rovaniemi this week. Cooperation is the key to effective information management.

Polar Libraries Colloquy is an international forum for librarians and other professionals concerned with the collection and dissemination of information dealing with the Arctic and Antarctic regions. The Colloquy meets every other year. The host of the 27th Polar Libraries Colloquy is Lapland University Consortium Library.

Library Director Susanna Parikka and Information Specialist Liisa Hallikainen are members of the organizing committee. They took a well-deserved break in the Colloquy preparations to attend the opening of the new premises of the Arctic Centre Library at Arktikum.

Polar research institutes face financial challenges. Many smaller research institutes have recently merged into larger ones. This naturally affects also their libraries and archives.

The library experts find that facilitating access to information is now more relevant than ever. If you try to find something on the billions of websites and assess what is worthwhile, you will soon realise that the attempt is hopeless.

“It is a misconception that when everything is online, it would all be accessible to anyone. All scientific information is not free online”, Liisa Hallikainen points out.

“Things used to be simpler. Once you got a book in your hands, it was available in the library. Now we have to manage electronic material, organise licenses and technical solutions. It requires a giant effort and tremendous cooperation. It would not be possible without library professionals.”

"Our work is something that people do not often pay attention to, but would not manage without", Susanna Parikka continues.

“Most of Polar information is in journals of different scientific disciplines. Here at the University of Lapland our profile is Arctic, but what is relevant to the Arctic may also be relevant elsewhere”, Liisa Hallikainen explains.

“On the other hand, our libraries collect information that specifically deals with the Arctic or northern regions, indigenous peoples. Arctic researchers need the help of librarians to get access to information.”

Polar libraries and archives are important partners in international information management networks. In the Colloquy, the participants from Europe, Canada and the US can maintain their own network. Susanna Parikka is looking forward to new cooperation opportunities.

“The theme of our Colloquy is Developing Polar Networks. With colleagues, we can discuss cooperation in practice.”

One concrete example of co-operation is search services. The experts in the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø are now developing forward technology for screening relevant search terms in various information sources.

“In our network, we are aiming at helping our members, creating new useful contacts for their projects”, Liisa Hallikainen explains.

“Alone, we all are small players. When we help each other, we can serve our customers better. In the library sector, there is a very old tradition of good collaboration both nationally and internationally. Luckily we do not need to compete for funding; there is a strong willingness to cooperate.”

“Over the years, the professionals of the Polar Libraries Colloquy have come up with many helpful ideas. I believe that this fruitful cooperation will continue and find new forms”, Susanna Parikka concludes.

Above: Library  Director Susanna Parikka and Information Specialist Liisa Hallikainen welcome international Polar librarians to Rovaniemi.
Below: The renovated premises of the Arctic Centre Library at Arktikum provide a cozy place for anyone seeking Arctic information. Photos (c) Kaisa Sirén.

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  • Finland is a country of libraries. If you are thirsty for Arctic knowledge, check out these havens for readers.
  • The Sami Library in Sajos, Inari.
  • Helsinki Central Library Oodi, under construction.
  • A Library on Wheels in Lapland.
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