Introduction to the Digitisation Policy of the National Library of Finland

In May, 2010 the National Library of Finland had its Digitisation Policy accepted. The National Library supports the use and reuse of content and metadata as freely as possible and recognizes needs of re-users and re-purposers of digital content as integral’ ‘customers’ of the library. The objective of the National Library is thus to maximise the exploitation, use and reuse of digital items, collections, metadata and new information resources created through digitisation and freeing these into virtual environments, The vision of National Library for digitisation is to ensure: comprehensive digital collections and critical mass of digitised content, authentic and trustworthy digital surrogates of original source material, sustainable digitisation and life cycle management of digitised content, enable maximum use and reuse of digitised content, free digitised content for online distribution.

The National Library identifies new information resources created through digitisation enabling innovation and development, such as in the areas of: levels of structural mark-up and new entities/collections created, community enrichment, crowd sourcing and distributed workflows, comprehensive text corpus, automated text extraction methods and ontology developments, metadata enrichment and sustainable long term preservation of digitised material. Noteworthy is for a National Library to retain these new resources within the domain of new knowledge economy as freely and equitably available as possible.


The National Library of Finland has undertaken a comprehensive approach to develop a policy framework consisting four policies to guide its direction and direction. These are available online at the National Library web site and are:

  • The Preservation Policy of the National Library completed 2009
  • The Collection Development Policy of the National Library completed 2009
  • The Digitisation Policy of the National Library completed 2010
  • The Cataloguing Policy of the National Library to be completed 2011

The focus of the current article is to introduce the Digitisation Policy, 2010. The document was worked through in spring, 2010 by the Digitisation Policy Working Group chaired by Senior Analyst Tiina Ison. The policy was presented and accepted by the National Library Board May, 2010 and is available on library web site in Finnish and English.


  • Comprehensive digital collections and critical mass of digitised content
  • Authentic and trustworthy digital surrogates of original source material
  • Sustainable digitisation and life cycle management of digitised content
  • Maximum use and reuse of digitised content
  • Freeing digitised content for online distribution

Comprehensive digital collections and critical mass of digitised content

The National Library of Finland is the custodian of unique, substantial cultural heritage collections of original source materials. Through digitisation the content is made accessible online to researchers, students and citizens who operate ever more in virtual environments and communities. The selection criteria for digitisation is defined in four major categories; comprehensiveness, content, demand and preservation. Comprehensive digital collections and critical mass of content is achieved through long terms strategic digitisation of defined collections such as newspapers in their entirety, while for example thematic criteria are applied to others.

Authentic and trustworthy digital surrogates of original source material

The National Library of Finland aim is to uphold its reputation as a trustworthy cultural institution and custodian of physical items and extend this notion to the digital environment. Throughout its digitisation production processes, access provision and preservation practices, the National Library ensures that digital surrogates created of source materials are authentic, uniquely identified and linked to their sources and/or aggregates. Attention is paid towards developing good practices for physical and digital provenance. Through quality production process, the National Library ensures its positioning as a reliable content disseminator and preserver also in virtual environments.

Sustainable digitisation and life cycle management of digital assets

The National Library of Finland aims for sustainable digitisation and life cycle management of its digital assets. This is conducted through ensuring that digitisation production has defined archival quality requirements for image quality and metadata capture with specifications made at the beginning of the life cycle for digitisation. Each material type will have its defined METS profile incorporating bibliographic, administrative, structural and long-term preservation metadata to be included during production phase to digital packages created thus ensuring archival quality standards are achieved. Interoperable metadata standards are used and METS profiles defined. The requirements of National infrastructure development for long-term preservation are thus taken into account already in the digitisation production phase. Until completion of the National Long Term Preservation solution, the National Library’s Preservation Policy 2009 guides digital preservation.

Maximum use and reuse of digitised content

The National Library of Finland abides by copyright laws, other laws and regulations set in place. For copyright free material, content and metadata is made as free as possible for use and reuse irrespective of digitisation funding, the notion of retaining public domain source material in the public domain is upheld. For content under copyright restricted access is implemented and license agreements such as collective licenses pursued with the National Library taking an active role to influence legislation changes to improve access to content and licensing schemes in support of i.e. licensing crossing national boundaries.

Freeing digitised content for online distribution

Through its in-house digitisation production, the National Library does not only produce digitised pages to the web but also value added content and products to users in virtual environments. From its digitisation production, the National Library aims to disseminate digitised content as widely and freely as possible, within copyright restrictions.


The National Library Strategy (2006-2015) identifies the National Library’s customers as; information users, libraries, the publishing industry and cultural audience. For the purposes of the Digitisation Policy 2010, the Digitisation Policy Working Group found it meaningful to clearly identify a new dimension of - users in virtual environments - thus segmenting library customers as:

Producers of original content include publishers, authors, rights holders and rights-holder organisations.

Users of digitised content includes private clients and client organisations retrieving, accessing and using digital content as well as organisations which aggregate metadata or make accessible digitised content (such as the National Digital Library, Europeana or the World Digital Library).

Re-users/Re-purposers of digitised content includes researchers , students and citizens as individuals or as part of online communities of practice, re-using, re-purposing and exploiting content as defined by their individual or community needs and contexts of use.

Reuse of digitised material is encouraged by the National Library. The aim is to maximise the exploitation and reuse of scientific and cultural content. Items and collections, metadata and other new resources created in the digitization production are to be freed for innovative new uses and purposes. This can be in forms of:

Level of Structural Mark-up – content with structural mark-up levels defined to desired granularity levels (at article level, chapter level, image level) thus creating new information resources and made accessible as independent entities online.

Community enrichment of content - digitised content that can be enriched online by community contributions such as OCR correction, structural mark-up or annotation via crowd sourcing aiding more distributed workflows.

Comprehensive digitised collections for research use – enabling through sustained digitisation comprehensive corpus of text and content are created as digital resources. This in turn acts as conduit for new linguistic research and aids ontology developments i.e. through automated methods for text extraction, enlargement of multilingual glossaries, ontologies and authority databases.

Metadata of digitised material – the National Library also supports the reuse of metadata as freely as possible. New metadata created during digitisation production can be used to enrich library catalogues and can be used, reused in various environments maximising search and discovery. The assignment of persistent identifiers during the digitising process enhances the reliability and authenticity of items and is beneficial for long-term preservation, use, and reuse of content. The National Library generates and maintains the generated persistent identifiers and URL’s.

Long-term preservation of digitised material - long-term preservation and archival quality packages that can be reused over time.


While maintaining the principle of free access and freeing content, the provision of access is dependent on copyright and access provisions, these is defined by the National Library as:

Content in the public domain – Free Access - Digitised material in the public domain which is not subject to any other statutory restrictions on display or use can be freely made accessible regardless of the funding source of the digitisation. Such material can be made available through a variety of l dissemination channels. The reuse of content in the public domain is defined in a license allowing free use, such as a Creative Commons style license. The National Library shall prepare separate instructions on the terms of use and the license types.

Content protected by copyright – Restricted Access - Copyright protected content, submitted to the National Library via Legal deposit can be made available to the public in a restricted area, in the facilities of the National Library or other organisations defined in the Act on Collecting and Preserving Cultural Material.

Content protected by copyright - Collective Licensing - The National Library can agree on the access and use conditions of copyright protected content either through a separate agreement with an individual rights holder or with an organisations representing rights holders. Should the conditions of Section 26 of the Copyright Act be met, an extended collective license agreement with an organisation representing rights holders may take effect, extending the agreement to rights holders who also can not be reached.

Content protected by copyright - Research Use and Cross-Border Licensing - The National Library supports agreement-based uses of digitised collections for research use. The National Library supports measures towards cross-border licensing agreements .allowing citizens and researchers access to cohesive digitised collections across national boundaries.


The National Library promotes knowledge and skills sharing in digitisation and metadata together with the Finnish university and library sectors as well as memory institutions and is an integral part within the larger infrastructure development for a National Digital Library and National Long-Term preservation solution. The National Library policy framework will be complemented and completed with the Cataloguing Policy of the National Library due in 2011 which is likely to include positions statements on matters such as Linked Open Data. The National Library Digitisation Policy, completed 2010 is now available online on the library web site.

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Tiina Ison
Senior Anayst and chair of digitisation policy working group