Introduction. This exploratory study aims to map the premises of developing interoperability of archival holdings and the understanding of how “interopera- bility” is understood from an operational perspective at archival institutions. The study is based on a comparative survey of the views of archivists from Croatian, Finnish and Swedish archives on the perceived needs, barriers and preferences regarding online access and interoperability of their metadata and holdings. Method. A web survey comprising 35 multiple-choice and open-ended ques- tions focusing on current state and plans regarding online access and interopera- bility of the holdings and metadata of the institutions was sent out to archives in Croatia, Finland and Sweden in autumn 2015. Analysis. Both quantitative and qualitative analyses were carried out on the data, which related to 45 individual archives. Quantitative analysis employed the statistical package SPSS, while the qualitative analysis referred to content analysis of open questions by one of the researchers. Results. While the respondents are unanimous in their opinion that inter- operability is important for their institutions and useful for their users, the current level of interoperability and the online access to holdings provided by the responding institutions is in discrepancy with this opinion. The lack of resources and expertise could be traced back to the shortage of interest at stra- tegic and managerial level. Conclusion. The findings suggest that there are several obstacles in the way to providing improved interoperability and online access to archival holdings and metadata. At the same time, there is a lack of conceptual agency that would try to redefine the problem and try to choose appropriate methods, develop mean- ings and relations between the concept of interoperability and the principles of archival work. Published as: Faletar Tanacković, S, Golub, K & Huvila, I (2017). The meaning of interoperability and its implications for archival institutions: challenges and opportunities in Croatia, Finland and Sweden. Information Research, 22(1), CoLIS paper 1653. Retrieved from http://InformationR.net/ir/22-1/colis/colis1653.html (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6oVlokz6i).