Helsinki City Library will be introducing an AI-based Intelligent Material Management System

Helsinki City Library will be introducing an AI-based Intelligent Material Management System 15 May 2019. With the new system, Helsinki City Library will be adopting a new, shared collection. In the future, books will remain in the library that they were returned to, unless they are needed in other libraries. The system gradually learns which library profile the returned books fit best based on customer loans and returns, and directs the material to the correct location. It takes approximately 1.5–2 years for each library-specific profile to form.

The Intelligent Material Management System increases automation in the processing of returned and reserved books. As the need for logistics work decreases, libraries have the opportunity to focus on their core task, customer service. In addition to this, customers will be influencing the collection at their local library through their activity. The floating collection facilitates a more equal provision of material to customers. Material borrowed from Helsinki City Library is equipped with RFID tags, which allows for the tags to be read in bulk. This reduces manual logistics and expedites and eases the collection of borrowing data.

Helsinki already adopted centralised materials selection earlier on. This means that the entire collection of the Helsinki City Library is selected in selection groups that operate in a networked manner. Customers may influence choices by submitting acquisition requests, for example. The acquisition lists are also opened to the public for comments from time to time.

– The adoption of this new kind of technology and AI in libraries’ logistics process makes Helsinki City Library the world’s most functional library of this size. This project has also shown that the library sector can conduct challenging, international development work with several cooperation partners, says Director of Shared Services Virva Nousiainen-Hiiri from library network services.

Changes to picking up reservations and reservation notifications

For the customers, the new Intelligent Material Management System is primarily visible through the clarification of the picking up of reserved material in Helsinki City Library. In the future, reservations can be found based on the shelf number in the pick-up library selected by the customer, and the current model where materials have last pick-up dates will be discontinued. The shelf number is given to the customer in the e-mail notification concerning their reservation. The shelf number can also be checked by asking the staff, and later on it will also be possible to check it independently at the borrowing machine in the library.

The floating collection also means that reserved books or other material will no longer be handled individually in libraries. A whole boxful of material is checked in to one shelf at a time, and the volumes are transferred from the box directly onto the shelf. This is why the material will no longer be alphabetised onto shelves individually. The number of volumes per shelf will remain moderate, however, to ensure that reservations can easily be found on the shelf. Customers may return material to any library in the Helmet area, i.e. in Espoo, Helsinki, Kauniainen and Vantaa, and pick up their reservation in the local library of their choice.

– It will be interesting to see what the collections of the libraries in Helsinki will look like with the floating process. Will there be a specific children’s collection somewhere, for example? I think people might at first be confused by the new way of picking up reservations, but they need not worry, because our staff are there to help everyone. Guidance and presence will be increasing in the future as unloading and logistic work will be reduced, says regional library services’ Deputy Library Director Saara Ihamäki.

The e-mail server will also be replaced in connection with introducing the system. The customers that have selected a library located in Helsinki as their local library where they pick up reservations will automatically receive reservation notifications from the new e-mail address. New reservation notifications will be sent from and 22 May onwards from

In the transition phase, customers may receive e-mail messages from both the old and the new system, but the double notifications will be stopped shortly after the introduction of the new system.

The Helmet libraries also use a text message service that is subject to a fee, and which is connected to the e-mail server. Because libraries in Helsinki are going to be replacing their e-mail server, the text message service for reservation notifications will be discontinued for those customers who have selected a library located in Helsinki as their local library. Helsinki will be introducing a new, completely free text message service, intended to become available sometime in the autumn of 2019.

A sizable investment to pay off

The IMMS (Intelligent Material Management System) is supplied to Helsinki City Library by Lyngsoe Systems A/S. The interface implemented in the library system Sierra used in Helmet libraries is supplied by Innovative Interfaces Global Limited. The total cost of the project is approximately €900,000. This sum includes the software and the implementation project as well as maintenance for the following four years.

– The Intelligent Material Management System introduced at this time is a sizable investment. The investment will be returned in a few years, as the resources of all libraries are freed for the task of serving customers. Our initial goal was to implement the system before Helsinki Central Library Oodi opened, as we were committed to opening Oodi with no need for further recruitment. I am very happy to introduce the system now, because it will ease the workload in all of our libraries, says the City of Helsinki’s Library Director Katri Vänttinen.