Yesterday the government made it’s announcement of the various proposed restructurings that were rumoured last week, including the merging of National Library and Archives into the Department of Internal Affairs.
Like most Government documents the “Cabinet Paper” detailing the rational and the proposed actions is a longish, dry paper, full of management and political speak. Most people would put it down within thirty seconds of picking it up. I wonder if they do that on purpose?
Anyway the bits that concern us are from page 9. As I have said previously I have no philosophical objections to such a merger, being of the mind that for a small country do we really need so many departments replicating work. While I know centralisation doesn’t necessary mean efficiencies, there is a good argument to be made for attempting go gain efficiencies through centralisation and pooling of resources. My biggest concern was in the dilution of the scope and purpose of the Chief Librarian and Archivist, and the place of the Turnbull within the resulting amalgamation.
So the following part was of small comfort:
“Risks have been considered and can be mitigated. We are conscious that stakeholders are likely to express concerns that specialist services and skills in the separate departments would be lost. While Archives New Zealand and the National Library are currently well regarded and successful institutions, the prospective role of an enlarged DIA is not as well understood. Officials consider that good change management and communications can mitigate these risks. Stakeholder concerns could include a view that the Chief Archivist’s independence or archival practice would be undermined, or that the separate status of the Alexander Turnbull Library would be threatened. This risk can be mitigated by retaining, with only necessary minor amendments, the legislative provisions which currently set out the role and powers of Chief Archivist and National Librarian, together with associated bodies such as the Archives Council. However, it is unlikely that mitigation of risk in these ways will allay a level of publicly expressed concern.”
They are right. It won’t allay publicly expressed concern, especially with such a lack of detail. My biggest fear is by the time we get the detail we need, what we find out will be all wrong and it will be too late.