Photo: John Schnobrich on Unsplash

Library users are pleased with Uniarts Finna

A Finna survey was conducted by the National Library of Finland in January–February. Eighty-six (86) Uniarts Finna users answered the survey, and we received a lot of useful and encouraging feedback, and also this opportunity to address some of the comments, critique, and questions regarding Finna.

All in all, Uniarts Finna users were satisfied with the service, but as one respondent wrote, “there’s always room for improvement”.

Image 1: ”Tell your opinion about Finna”


Grade: 8,2

"Finna really is a useful service. My work is much more fluent and efficient because of it."

Uniarts Finna received an average score of 8,2 (on a scale from 1 to 10) which we can be happy about in the library. Especially open answers gave us insight to what the users are pleased with, and what kind of developments should be prioritized.

"There’s always something to develop – the user interface gets better all the time. I’d wish an improvement to the discoverability of arts and music resources. Especially music materials are difficult to search."

Finna is being developed continuously both in the National Library of Finland and in the Uniarts library. Some improvements to searching are on the way, as we are going to edit the search instructions in Finna to better serve the needs of Uniarts users; e.g. there will be specific instructions on how to search for music resources.

"This is always my default search engine and have barely ever had to go anywhere else for information."

This is what Uniarts Finna is designed for: the first and in most cases the sufficient gateway to new information. Not one single database or search portal includes all the scientific literature, and e.g. in literature reviews it is advisable to use several databases.

"There are certain glitches when trying to renew a loan, which is annoying, but other than that it's fairly easy to use."

For this reason, feedback is really important: we may not necessarily notice all the bugs and ambiguities, so direct feedback is the best way to get something fixed.

So there were critical comments too (luckily! – how else are we going to improve anything?): “[The user interface is] dull -- confusing”. Not to give away too much at this point, but there will be some major changes to this in the near future. Stay tuned!

"I’m very happy about using Finna. It’s much more versatile than the old search system, user-friendly and unobtrusive."

This is a delight to hear: the old interface of Arsca database, to be shut down in August, has been in use in its current form for six years, and a transition to a new system is not always easy. The question regarding the usage of Finna, however, confirmed what we already knew: the old interface of Arsca is still widely used. One third of respondents uses Finna at least once a week or daily, one third a few times a month, and the rest use Finna less often than that.

Image 2: ”How often do you use Finna?” 


Discoverability and search functions

81% of respondents had found what they were looking for via Finna, and 7% had not. The phrasing of the question was such, however, that it was unclear whether something in the collections wasn’t found, or if the resource just was not in our collections.

What was also interesting to learn, was that two thirds of respondents found something else that was of interest to them.

"Sometimes it’s difficutl to find resources if you don’t know the exact search term. Finding materials with similar keywords could help."

Finna does take e.g. different spellings into account better than the old user interface of Arsca, so we believe improvement has been made.

"I use Finna all the time in my studies, but I wouldn’t call it easy to use, it takes practice to understand it (e.g. narrowing the search)."

This is a very important point: the functionalities in Finna are similar to most modern databases. After you’ve learned to use Finna’s diverse search functions and understand how they work, you’ll be able to use other databases easily.


E-resources and licenses

Uniarts Finna is not yet used to search electronic materials as much as finding printed resources. This is in part because of the profile of Uniarts and characteristics of arts subjects: in artistic research and the humanities the significance of printed books is still considerable compared to e.g. the natural sciences. The library’s sheet music collection is widely known, and quite possibly the users “know” to search for them in printed format. On the other hand, the availability of articles and journals in electronic format is quite well known, and users search for them in Finna. Images, AV materials, and theses are also searched for especially in electronic format.

"Doesn’t cover all publication channels, so even if a certain book is available as an e-book, the library service doesn’t cover all channels."

This is quite true: via Finna you can find the materials acquired (bought or licensed) by the library, but also a lot of references (= no access to the full-text). We have tried to find a balance between providing the materials we actually have access to and mere references. References without the full-text can be very useful, but Uniarts Finna is not meant to, nor can it, compete with commercial all-purpose databases such as Scopus or Google Scholar (which, by the way do, not cover everything either).

"Ideally there would be only one system in which all services [and resources] would be available to all universities and their affiliates equally and comprehensively. Now some databases are not available in Uniarts Finna and I have to make use of other services elsewhere."

This is because publishers and vendors sell their databases and services only to individual organizations, and there are no national licenses. The FinELib consortium has tried to answer this issue by handling license negotiations and agreements for the collective good, but the journal packages or databases are still acquired by organizations individually. It is also worth noting, that not one single organization has access to all the scientific materials in the world – even Harvard University had to cancel some of their subscriptions because they were too expensive. On one hand, you can search (almost) all Finnish library collections with a single search in the national Finna service, even though most e-resources of the libraries are not available there.

"I’m not a university student so I don’t have access to all internet resources, which seems funny."

Most of the scientific literature is (still) behind paywalls. Finland stands out from most other countries in that higher education institution libraries are open to everyone, and almost all e-resources are available to external users on library computers.

"Some e-books have restrictions on how long you can read them. -- More digital licenses for books would always be helpful."

This is also due to the restrictions imposed by the publishers and vendors (see e.g. “artificial scarcity”). We do, however, take the “loan periods” and the sufficiency of digital copies (i.e. the number of licenses per book) into account when we make the decisions on buying e-books.


Thank you to all respondents! The winner of the national raffle comes from the Humak university of applied sciences. Don’t forget to give us feedback and make an impact on the future development of Uniarts Finna.

The National Library of Finland bears the main responsibility for developing and maintaining Finna, but the actual development work is carried out together with Finna partners.