For the People New Zealand’s Horowhenua community—a district of 30,00090 minutes north of Wellington—had a problem. Its many historical societies and museums were struggling. Content wasn’t getting online, valuable historical and cultural information was staying locked up in people’s heads, and volunteers, ready to offer a host of skills and services, were going untapped.
But the community had two resources critical to a solution: the Horowhenua Library Trust, which was valued as a leader in the district, and Joann Ransom, then deputy head of libraries and an early advocate of what would emerge in 2006 as “Kete Horowhenua,” a community-built digital library of arts, cultural, and heritage resources.
Kete—the Maori word for knowledge—is a digital repository that includes images, video, audio, documents, article, discussion threads, and more, both historical and contemporary. “It had to look gorgeous but not intimidating…be self-maintaining and monitoring as far as possible, with no layer of library expertise needed,” Ransom says.
Most important, the people would decide what they wanted to include, and the project would harness the community’s expertise as recorders, photographers, memoirists, catalogers, and scanners. “It had to facilitate the building and strengthening of relationships, not just among items in Kete but among people as well.”
It also needed to use open source tools and be released—no surprise as Horowhenua was behind the development of Koha, the world’s first open source library management system.
Today, Ransom is an international advocate for Kete—in addition to her day job as the director. Following in the footsteps of Koha, new Ketes are starting to spring up worldwide, including one for Auckland’s Chinese community and another geographic Kete in Orange County, FL.
For Ransom, Kete doesn’t just open the library to the community; it allows the community to transform the library. “Our people…work alongside us, they bring us knowledge we don’t have…[they] are fabulous ambassadors of the library.”