In the last 6 months, the National Library of Estonia (NLE) has celebrated two novel lending projects. On 27 September 2022 we launched Books on the Move which set out to modernise the lending service. The project was driven by the wish to encourage better use of the physical book collections, and to make this body of knowledge relevant and conveniently accessible to contemporary users. The idea behind the project was as simple as it was ambitious: to make the physical book collections of Estonian libraries universally available and discoverable in a one-stop search, so as to enable quick delivery of the desired book to the user.
As a result of the project, the NLE created a digital platform easily used both in computers and in mobile devices. After having found the required book in the online catalogue, the user simply clicks “order”, without having to consider the location of the book, and pays for the delivery. An algorithm picks the most fitting, most expedient copy across all participating library holdings. With the help of our logistics partner, the book is then delivered to the user, either to a parcel locker or directly to an address indicated. Remote loans are no longer interlibrary transactions — the physical book has become mobile in Estonia, and the broader library network serves as the home library for each user.
All parties to the new lending service (libraries, users, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Education and Research, local municipalities) were engaged in the project through various working groups or advisory bodies. The service is available at www.mirko.ee. Within four months, more than 1200 books were delivered to the users. There are users from almost every municipality in Estonia, currently 30 libraries have joined as service providers.
Books on the Move was funded by Enterprise Estonia and their Innovation Procurement Program in the amount of EUR 333,332.50
On 14 February 2023 the NLE launched another service on the same platform – the lending of e-publications. This nationwide service offers e-books, e-newspapers, e-magazines, and also audiobooks. The service can be used free of charge by all people with an Estonian personal identification code, no matter where the user is located. In addition to being available from a web browser and a smart device, a separate mobile application is available both for iOS and Android, allowing e-publications to be used even without the internet connection. The service also takes into account the needs of schools to support learning, and the needs of people with disabilities, for example the blind and visually impaired can use the speech synthesiser and have the e-books read to them. Up to five publications can be borrowed at a time, the loan period is 21 days – after that the publication is automatically removed from the user’s account. The service offers access to most of the e-books issued in Estonia. The number of e-books currently available exceeds 3000 and more than a half of them represent fiction. The selection of audiobooks consists of approximately 300 titles. The number of audiobooks published in Estonia is still rather small but they are in great demand.
The e-publications can be rated and reviewed, users can also place hold on publications which are not available at the moment.
The service instantly became popular, the first week after launch brought over 4,400 users.
The project was financed in cooperation with the European Regional Development Fund and the Ministry of Culture. The total cost of the project was EUR 447,928