The main task of the National Archives (NA) is to ensure preservation and usability of society’s written memory, documented cultural heritage for today’s and future generations. On the other hand, the NA guarantees the protection of citizens basic rights and duties as well as the transparency of the democratic state through the holding and preservation of archival records. NA is a government agency in the domain of Ministry of Education and Research acting on the basis of Archives Act and Archival Rules. The collections of the National Archives can be found via the Archival Information System AIS using the titles and names of the archives, series and records.
Estonia is covered with a comprehensive network of libraries, which operate on the basis of library regulations. The Estonian library system is used by every second inhabitant of Estonia. The network includes 895 libraries (2019):
- The Estonian National Library;
- 528 public libraries;
- 38 science and specialised libraries;
- 329 school libraries.
The General Principles of Cultural Policy up to 2020 (see chapter 1.1) state the following regarding libraries:
- the Estonian library network, based on the needs and interests of all its users, comprises public, school, science and specialised libraries and the Estonian National Library. The public library service ensures free access to information and is equally available free of charge to all users. All public libraries in Estonia will have broadband internet;
- public libraries have an important role in ensuring that all people living in Estonia have an equal opportunity for self-education and participation in culture. As institutions of local municipalities, public libraries operate as flexible and multifunctional centres for invigorating local life and culture and offering opportunities for lifelong learning;
- books in Estonian are available for all regardless of their format. The state supports the acquisition of quality literature and culture-related periodicals that are significant from the aspect of Estonian language and culture for public libraries;
- state recognises the value of the cultural and literary programmes of public libraries, the realisation of initiatives related to lifelong learning, programmes targeted at encouraging reading and shaping the reading habits of children and youth and activities targeted at people whose native language is not Estonian, and also acknowledging the interests of readers with special needs;
- the Estonian National Library, an entity operating under public law collects, stores, and makes available the majority of books published in Estonia or related to Estonia. The Estonian National Library is also filling the duties of a parliamentary library, ensuring the information service of the Riigikogu and other constitutional institutions, and a development centre of library studies.
The Ministry of Culture coordinates the development of the library network as a whole in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Research. The task of the state is to guarantee equal free access to information for everyone via the library service. Using libraries as well as loaning books and using Internet is free of charge in the libraries.
The activities of libraries in Estonia are regulated by the Public Libraries Act, the Legal Deposit Act and the National Library of Estonia Act. Work is currently ongoing regarding the amendments of the Public Libraries Act (see chapter 2.1.).
The Estonian National Library (ENL) is a public institution that is tasked with the collection and preservation of books published in Estonia or containing information on Estonia, making these books available to everybody; with research and development in library studies and related disciplines; and with fulfilling the duties of a parliamentary and scientific library. ENL coordinates and advises the other Estonian libraries, and also serves as a culture centre. The activities of the national library are financed from the state budget.
The task of the Estonian Storage Library is to preserve all seldom used printed works from all over the country, to oversee book exchanges from the exchange collection, and to service people with visual impairment. The exchange collection accepts unwanted books from libraries, organisations and private persons. The activities are financed from the state budget.
Estonian Library for the Blind services people with vision impairment or other disabilities, disorders or diseases that prevent them from reading normal writing and is financed from the state budget.
The Estonian Children’s Literature Centre collects, preserves, and offers the opportunity to engage with children’s and youth literature for all enthusiasts as part of Estonia’s cultural heritage. Its mission is to support a variety of initiatives, including research, education and entertainment.
Public libraries are local government institutions, the activities of which are coordinated by the Ministry of Culture. Cooperation between public libraries is organised by the Council of Public Libraries under the Ministry of Culture. Each county has a central library, which serves as a distribution, training and advisory centre for the other local libraries. The purpose of public libraries is to ensure free and unrestricted access to information, knowledge, achievements of human thought and culture for inhabitants, to promote lifelong learning and individual development. All public libraries shall operate pursuant to the Public Library Act and the UNESCO Public Library Manifesto.
The establishing of a network of public libraries shall be based on the following principles:
- at least one public library in every city with more than 10 000 inhabitants;
- at least one public library for every 15 000 inhabitants in cities with more than 10 000 inhabitants;
- at least one public library for a service area with an average of up to 500 inhabitants.
Public libraries are financed from the local and from state budget. According to the Public Library Act, local governments shall ensure the remuneration of employees, regular supply of collections with items, rooms, furnishings and management costs. The Ministry of Culture finances acquisition of items, realisation of national programmes, remuneration and maintenance of four employees of the public library serving as a county library and costs to establish connection with the public network.
The task of a science library is to collect, preserve, and process scientific information and to make this available to the general public. Science and specialised libraries include the ENL, libraries of universities and other higher education institutions, as well as specialised libraries of various organisations. The activities are coordinated by the Ministry of Education and Research.
A school library supports the learning process and is thus a component of an educational establishment. Pursuant to the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act, each school must have a library. In case there is no library in the school, the local public library shall provide library services to students.