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Library reservations increasing – borrowing from the shelves to be encouraged


Clients increasingly use digital library services and acquire the material they desire through the reservation system. At the same time, a significant part of the collection is waiting for readers on the shelves. The Helsinki City Library has launched a ‘Recommendation of materials in the library space’ (Aineiston suosittelu kirjastotilassa) project to promote reading, improve the service experience and encourage clients to borrow from the shelves through co-creation.

The prolonged coronavirus pandemic caused a drop in library visits due to the restrictions on the use of the premises and access to the material. Although the restrictions have already been lifted, the situation has not been restored in all libraries. In particular, the number of reservations has increased significantly compared to the pre-pandemic period, and reservations mostly apply to a limited offering of the latest material.

“Customers often have to wait long for the material they have reserved, and at the same time, approximately 70% of the City Library’s collection is left standing on the shelves. It is a loss for both readers and literature if only the latest bestsellers are loaned actively, and people’s reading repertoire becomes more limited, says Anna-Maria Soininvaara, Director of Central Library Oodi.

The staff finds suitable reading for everyone

Many clients value the reservation service, so its smooth operation will also be ensured in the future. However, the emphasis on reservations will inevitably affect the logistics of the library and increase the costs. The library has also raised concerns about books’ life cycle.

“Books’ life cycle is currently rather short. The library brings literature to the clients in all its depth and diversity, extending the books’ life beyond the short initial demand spike,” says Jenni Laaksonen, Project Designer Coordinator.

The library’s statutory core mission is to promote reading and literature. When the clients enter the library space, the staff can expand their service experience. Library professionals are happy to help with book selection and recommend not only topical new books but also other appropriate material from the extensive selection available on the shelves. It offers clients more curated options and added value.

Clients and library staff involved in the development work

Launched In September as part of the ‘Recommendation of materials in the library space’ project, a service design project with the Kuudes Helsinki design agency aims to find new solutions to improve the material’s accessibility, recommendation services and client experience in the library space. Results from the service design project are expected in January 2023.

Besides service design, one aim is to promote a co-creation project which includes current and potential clients and library staff. An important inclusion method is common library walks organised in six libraries over the next few weeks for different target groups.

“The purpose of the library walks is to gather the clients’ views on how the library facilities could be developed from the point of view of material recommendations and finding appropriate material. The events allow the clients to consider solutions together with the staff physically in the library. The needs and wishes will be documented and used as a basis for further development next year,” says Jenni Laaksonen.

Positive experiences have already been gained, for example, at the Central Library Oodi, where a reservation shelf was converted into a fiction books presentation shelf from which clients can easily choose books to borrow when passing by. The use of artificial intelligence for material recommendations, namely the Obotti recommendation robot, will be tested during the project in Oodi’s Book Heaven, and book recommendations will be displayed more prominently on the shelves. Similar concrete measures can also be implemented at other Helsinki City branch libraries.

Take part in a library walk!

Library walks are an inclusion method whereby clients and staff collaboratively develop the physical library space through discussion. Each target group-specific walk can include about 20 clients. No advance registration is required to participate. Welcome to improve the City Library!

Library walks

  • Mon 21.11.2pm Laajasalo Library (target group: adults)
  • Tue 22.11 10am Pitäjänmäki Library (target group: senior citizens)
  • Thu 24.11. 5pm Itäkeskus Library (target group: foreign-language-speaking adults)
  • Sat 26.11. 2pm Töölö Library (target group: adults)
  • Thu Oulunkylä Library (target group: senior citizens)
  • Thu 1.12. 5pm Itäkeskus Library (target group: Finnish-speaking adults)
  • Mon 16.1. 5pm Central Library Oodi (target group: Swedish-speaking adults)
  • Wed 18.1. 5pm Central Library Oodi (target group: young citizens)
  • Thu 19.1. 6pm Central Library Oodi (target group: adults)
  • Sat 21.1. 10.30am Central Library Oodi (target group: families with children)
  • Tue 24.1. 11am Pitäjänmäki Library (target groups: senior citizens)

Photo: Jussi Hellsten / City of Helsinki

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