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Tiina Heino, Katri Larmo


Terkko Medical Campus Library, Helsinki University Library, Finland



Modern libraries often face a positive problem: our colleagues abroad want to visit us, get ideas, benchmark our ways to work etc. How can we host visitors (takes time and work capacity) in a way which benefits also us? Since 2013, we have arranged an international staff exchange week at the Helsinki University Library. It is a week, when professionals get together to learn from peers, benchmark each other’s services, get new ideas and network. We can introduce our own services and make them better, from the feedback from our colleagues. This is one way to get our international community stronger!


At the Helsinki University Library, part of the staff (based on interest) plan the contents of the week together as a team. We discuss the contents deeply together. Every year we find new topics or new aspects. We announce for the exchange week in the beginning of the year and market it in our international channels. We get lot of applications. In the selection, we emphasize strongly the personal motivation of the applicant. This is crucial: no motivation – no learning! In their applications, each applicant expresses interest areas and a wish to contribute. During the week, each session is led by a local host. This host contacts the participants who want to contribute in the theme in question. This way the program contents get their finishing touches.

Results and Discussion

Organizing this week enhances the professional development: it improves our organizing & facilitating skills, language & networking skills, presentation skills, etc. Not to forget peer learning from participants but also from our own local colleagues! It is not only during the sessions the learning happens – social and cultural learning goes on during the whole week! After each ISEW we ask feedback from our participants. With the hosting staff, we go through what went well and what should be improved. Every year we change something, based on a feedback we have got or given. The concept is refined during the years. Therefore, we have a good model how to make the practical arrangements. We save time, as we can repeat and refine the same basic structure every year. The content changes, not the model. It is also important that the exchange week is really a thing our whole library is committed to: it is rewarding for both the guests and the hosts – you can feel it in the atmosphere!


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