Archive for the ‘Policy’ Category

It must be that time of year again, as libraries battle councils feeling the money crunch.

User-pay income rise needed at the library From the Gisborne Herald

LIBRARY users could be asked to put their hands in their pockets to help maintain the service and could be called on to have their share of library costs increased to 15 or 20 percent.

Some parts that just had me steaming…

“As calls were made at the committee meeting yesterday for the H.B. Williams Memorial Library to increase its revenue, chairman Brian Wilson said he was looking at a scheme that had not been tried anywhere else in the country.”

Ok lets hear it…

“Referring to an article on the library on the front page of The Gisborne Herald Weekender last Saturday, he said the efficiency committee might have to consider holding its meetings with the public excluded to prevent people from undermining it.”

Gosh you wouldn’t want the public to have a say in how their money is spent would you…

“Mr Wilson said he and Graeme Thomson had some ideas for raising more income from the library. A fee of 50 cents to $1 for books could raise a worthwhile sum of money. Children’s books could be excluded.”

We have never seen that before… I will scurry off and see if there is any literature on that topic later today.

“Graeme Thomson said the library could be compared with sports fields, for which clubs had to pay a rental. The library had been described as the living room of the community. Many people would say Rugby Park on a Saturday afternoon was that.”

Not really. The Rugby park is the deck you use on the weekend.

“Both Mr Thomson and Mr Haisman challenged the statement that 5000 people a week visited the library, saying they had never seen it even half full.”

And words start to fail me… That is only 104 people an hour… I know how big Gisborne library is and it would be easy to have that many people in there and it to seem “half full”… 

“Mr Thomson said he believed the library could use volunteers more. He had seen that done in Opotiki when he was young, Librarian Pene Walsh, who joined the meeting said the library already had 40 volunteers and was carrying out a volunteer drive.”

Poor Pene…

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Webstock used to be my no-miss conference until this week. It’s like a combined rock festival and party for geeks – the learning and fun are intense and amazing. If Webstock was a keyword it would be “awesome”.

Nethui was not a rock festival, and less of a party in terms of headiness. Yes, there were superstars like Lessig. Yes the were miraculous acts of collaboration like the special on-off licence for that audience in that room granted by the BBC for a one-off showing of their documentary The Virtual Revolution. You might have watched it, but you can’t say you’re one of the few people in the country who have done so legally. Both of those wonderful things were not what the three days were about – quite the opposite.

The three days were about New Zealanders coming together to look at the challenges of the future and start the conversation around the question, “What do we do now?” It is easy to be brave in an environment in which one’s heroes are on the stage. At Nethui, we were required to be the heroes, in all our everyday ordinariness, speaking in that drab accent we wince at when we hear it from our neighbours and carrying all of the feelings of cultural unworth we New Zealanders seem to cherish.

There are plenty of good summations of the event available – I recommend Russell Brown‘s usual solid effort as a good starter for ten. You can even be a virtual attendee of large parts by viewing the videos collected here.

But if you weren’t there, and you had a question, answer or idea nobody else in the room did – then it wasn’t just you that missed out, it was all of us.

Don’t worry, libraries were well represented. In the last combined session on access, someone at one of the mics said the following:

“It’s not like you can go down to your local library for a lesson on how to use the internet.”

“Yes you can,” came a voice from the far side of the auditorium. I’m not sure who – but I have a suspicion it might have been a new friend from Dargaville. *waves* Whoever it was, they have my applause. *applauds*

When you’re “at the mic” you can often can only keep one thought in your head. “No, but you can’t just go your local library and…”

And then what you really should have been there for happened.

We, all of us from libraries, sitting wherever we were gave him the SHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH!

Zippy Shut Up. by stev.ie
Zippy Shut Up., a photo by stev.ie on Flickr.

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During the recent exchange on NZ-Libs around the selection of vendors for the Kotui shared LMS initiative, a topic I will probably touch on in one of this month’s posts, Paul Sutherland ended with a throwaway line around developing a collaborative Public library of New Zealand.   

The idea of a “National Public Library” or “Public Library of New Zealand” is one that I have often tossed around in my head. I think that it would quite exciting to have one public library system that covers the whole of the country. I think that there are many reason why this would be a good idea, and many reason why this would be problamatic to create. I am yet to decide whether the difficulties would be insurmountable, however I think a conversation could be had around this.

So for my “Blog Everyday Day of June” posts I will be looking at the various pros and cons of such a service.  

The first post will be on LMS… :-)


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I’m recently relocated back to my hometown of Brisbane, so I hope I’ll be forgiven for continuing to post the odd morsel from across the pond.

There has been recent media kerfuffling over here about the dumbing down of universities- this isn’t anything new. More specifically though, the de-bookifying and starbuckisation of the university library has been given some airplay. Of course, anyone who works in a university library knows that what looks like throwing out perfectly good books and installing funky armchairs is actually the intersection of digitisation, space restrictions and a shift in student information seeking behaviour. I’m not saying throw out all the books (like most librarians, I’m something of a bibliophile) I’m just saying, the times they are a changing, and this is no Fahrenheit 451. See the Sydney Morning Herald article “Books get the shove as university students prefer to do research online” and the letter “Truth stranger than fiction as uni pulps books”.

Illustration by Cathy Wilcox

I love some of the gentle psychological warfare going on in these articles- claims that libraries are throwing out all the books on morality for example seems a little to obviously aimed to inspire outrage. I also find the comment that “most libraries see their function as an archive” curious- funny, but I thought it was archives that felt that way.

My new workplace, Queensland University of Technology, has just undergone massive revamping thanks to the generous purse of the dearly departed Rudd government. On paper, QUT has become another Starbucks library. It hurts anyone who loves books to see them end up in a skip, but then most of us know this has nothing to do with love. It has to do with space, time (particularly, the last circulation date) and money. If we could more often save old books from landfill and get them into the hands of people who need and want them, would there still be anything to complain about?

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Wot no books? From their Facebook page.

I would call it a brilliant protest, but we don’t know if it will be successful yet. I can’t imagine it won’t, but bureaucracy will be bureaucracy. So for those who haven’t seen it:

Library clears its shelves in protest at closure threat [From Guardian UK]

Users urged to take out full allowance of library books in campaign to keep Stony Stratford branch open.

The library at Stony Stratford, on the outskirts of Milton Keynes, looks like the aftermath of a crime, its shell-shocked staff presiding over an expanse of emptied shelves. Only a few days ago they held 16,000 volumes.

Now, after a campaign on Facebook, there are none. Every library user was urged to pick their full entitlement of 15 books, take them away and keep them for a week. The idea was to empty the shelves by closing time on Saturday: in fact with 24 hours to go, the last sad bundle of self-help and practical mechanics books was stamped out. Robert Gifford, chair of Stony Stratford town council, planned to collect his books when he got home from work in London, but left it too late.

The empty shelves, as the library users want to demonstrate, represent the gaping void in their community if Milton Keynes council gets its way. Stony Stratford, an ancient Buckinghamshire market town famous only for its claim that the two pubs, the Cock and the Bull, are the origin of the phrase “a cock and bull story”, was one of the communities incorporated in the new town in 1967. The Liberal Democrat council, made a unitary authority in 1997, now faces budget cuts of £25m and is consulting on closing at least two of 10 outlying branch libraries.

Stony Stratford council got wind in December and wrote to all 6,000 residents – not entirely disinterestedly, as the council meets in the library, like many other groups in the town. “In theory the closure is only out for consultation,” Gifford said, “but if we sit back it will be too late. One man stopped me in the street and said, ‘The library is the one place where you find five-year-olds and 90-year-olds together, and it’s where young people learn to be proper citizens’. It’s crazy even to consider closing it.”

– they should be finding ways to expand its services and bring even more people in.”

Emily Malleson, of the Friends of Stony Stratford Library, said: “I was lucky, I got in early, so I got some nice children’s books – and my children came along and took out all their books too. I had to bring the car to get them all home. The late-comers just had to take whatever was left.”

The pictures from the Facebook page are priceless.

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There is always an element when publishing something, either officially or unofficially, off being conscious of ones reputation and role. It is something that is constantly in the back of the mind as I write here, and on my other blogs. From your writing people will get impressions about you, and they may even get impressions of your workplace, even when you stress that ‘the opinions are your own and in no way reflect…’

I was struck yet again how difficult this is in today’s instant media age, and how easy it is to damage not only your reputation, but that of the place you work at.  In this morning’s New Zealand herald there is this story:

Tolley upset at paper on standards

Education Minister Anne Tolley is to complain to the Speaker Lockwood Smith over a Parliamentary Library research paper on national standards in primary schools.

Mrs Tolley said the paper was “unprofessional”, “highly political” and so biased it could have been written by the union opposing the policy.

Mrs Tolley wants the paper withdrawn and rewritten.

Library researchers frequently produce papers on topics of the day, on the economy and legislation before the House.

They are displayed in the library, in the Beehive cafeteria and some are available on Parliament’s website.

You can read the offending paper here.  I haven’t read it fully yet, so I can’t comment yet on whether the criticism is valid. Of concern to me is that a Minister felt they needed to complain to the Speaker in the first place.  The Parliamentary Library has for many years had an unblemished record of impartiality. It will take only one paper to tarnish that record. I hope that the Parliamentary Library has dotted it’s I’s and crossed it’s t’s. What it does mean is that I will be thinking about what the meaning of impartiality is. Is impartiality adopting the position of the government? Does it mean you can’t publish anything critical? I certainly don’t think so, but it does mean that if you do publish something critical it must be above reproach.

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A Moderation Dilemma

On the library blog I like to occasionally post on something that isn’t really related to the library, but maybe of interest to readers. You know, those random little titbits’ that make you think have that’s weird/interesting/sad/cool.  On Friday I blogged on the Tararua District Library blog about a new web service in the States called Rentafriend. It’s a service that allows you to hire someone to act as a friend or acquaintance for an evening or a day.  It was a “say what?” sort of story, mixed with a “yeah right” Tui reaction.

The trouble being that someone commented on it, and I am unsure as to whether I should leave the comment up, or moderate it into the cyber waste basket. The comment itself isn’t spam, so not an instant delete type comment. In fact it’s an interesting comment that is quite relevant to the topic. The problem is it seems to be from an escort agency in the UK with a link back to said escort agency. So I find myself going back and forth, between trashing the comment and leaving it up. I suppose I could just delete the link.

What to do?

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The process by which Archives New Zealand and The National Library are subsumed into the Department of Internal Affairs continues at full pace, with the release of the Integration Plan.  You sometimes have to quietly appreciate management speak. Calling the process an integration seems less ominous than a merger. Maybe there is less baggage with that terminology.

The plan itself looks to be quite fast passed. I did note that implementation starts in November, so that will mean that the inevitable redundancies from the process will start at just in time for Christmas. I feel for the staff.

The Questions and Answers on the new Integration site were fairly interesting. Of particular interest to me was this:

Statutory officers


There will be no change in the standing or functions of statutory officers.

Issues raised

The Chief Archivist and the National Librarian are statutory officers. Concern has been expressed that such officers should not be employees of a Chief Executive, but must be completely independent. It is argued that the changes announced by the Government will lead to a reduction in necessary independence, and make the Chief Archivist and National Librarian subject to undue influence. It is argued that the positions are similar to that of the auditor-general or the ombudsman, and should be treated in the same way.


The Chief Archivist and National Librarian are statutory officers, but not officers of parliament, as are the Auditor-General and the Ombudsman. At present, they are employees of the State Services Commissioner. Under the Government decision to integrate, it is very likely that the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs will appoint people to these positions. The Chief Executive would be the employer, rather than the State Services Commissioner, in the same way that the Chief Executive would be the employer of all staff in the new Department.

The Chief Archivist and the National Librarian will act independently, and not be subject to the direction of the Chief Executive in matters of their statutory authority.

They will be accountable to the Chief Executive for their effectiveness, efficiency, and managerial actions.

The positions will then have the same status as other statutory officers now within Internal Affairs, for example such as the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, the Chief Executive of the Local Government Commission and the Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management. Examples in other departments include the Commissioner of Crown Lands, the Surveyor-General, the Registrar-General of Land and the Valuer-General, who are each employed by the Chief Executive of Land Information New Zealand.

It would be unlawful for the Chief Executive to interfere in the statutory decision-making of any of these officers, and unlawful for the statutory officer to accept such interference.

The intention of the three Chief Executives in advising Ministers is to ensure the legislation required by integration does not:

    • alter the nature of the services associated with Archives New Zealand or the National Library.
    • constrain the current levels of independence of the Chief Archivist and the National Librarian.
    • diminish the ability of key stakeholders to take action to protect the independence of the National Librarian and the Chief Archivist.
    • change the role of the Alexander Turnbull Library.
    • change the role of Ministerial Advisory Groups.

The following information was added on 9 June 2010:

Clarification has been sought on the exact scope under which the Chief Archivist and National Librarian would act independently of the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs. The decisions that have been made to bring about the integration of the three departments have made clear that the legislative changes will give effect to: the Chief Archivist and the National Librarian being appointed by the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs; the appointees being responsible to the Chief Executive, without predetermining reporting structures and without compromising the statutory roles they are responsible for performing; the intent that current statutory independent functions will be retained, including protection from improper influence.

Legislation will need to be introduced to Parliament before the end of the year and the implementation of the integration. Inevitably that legislation is likely to be fast tracked. When it does come down the stakeholders will need to go over it with a fine tooth comb to ensure that it does what the above response states.

Looking for a positive in the whole process, it may mean that The Chief Archivist and National Librarian will have more time to put their energies into their statutory roles, and have less administration to worry about. I am thinking that the best thing we as external observers can do is to engage in a positive manner to ensure that our concerns are dealt with properly.

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There is a bit of discussion going on round here about how moving to a learning commons model changes the model of service from librarians as The Sage to librarians as A Knowledge Guide.  Or something like that.  One of the comments made during this discussion was “We should not employ people who don’t like customer service.”  Which seemed a fair comment at the time.

So it interested me to see this post from the Swiss Army Librarian reporting on a presentation entitled MLA2010: Black Belt Librarians: Dealing with Difficult Patrons.  Some good advice in here don’t get me wrong.  I do note however, that the presenter states a library must have rules.  This is one of the Must Have rules.

A word on “Welcoming Rules” – which sign works better:

  • No cell phones allowed (with cell phone inside of a red-slash-circle)
  • Welcome to the library, for everyone’s comfort, please do not use your cell phone in the library

The first one works better – people just need to know the information. It is clear and concise.

Ok got that.  So customer service story here is that no cell phones in the library means good service?

So then I head over to Michael Stephens Tame the Web blog where he has on many occasions talked about library signage.  For eg. Ten Signs I Hope I Never See In Libraries Again which includes signage like this one by Aaron Schmidt

Sign in a library photographed by Aaron Schmidt of Walking Paper (http://www.walkingpaper.org/286)

So customer service story here says cell phones are good and should be allowed.

Then I look outside at our students and see this:

And this:

In fact, all the tables I look at have students, laptops, textbooks, notes and yes – a cellphone.  Or, (to poach Mr Collin’s words from Pride and Prejudice), I should say cell phones as there are several.  The reality for us is that almost all students here seem to be an extension of their phones.

What is the best customer service story to tell?  I suspect the answer lies somewhere in the middle road.  But you can understand why I’m feeling a little polarised today.

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In case you missed it, here is an open letter Penny Carnaby has sent around regarding the proposed merger of the National Library and Archives into the Department of Internal Affairs.

Open letter to the library sector from Penny Carnaby, National Librarian

Kia ora colleagues

I thought it useful if I updated everyone on the recent Government announcement that Archives New Zealand and the National Library of New Zealand would amalgamate into the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA).

Firstly, I want to thank the many individuals and sector groups that have been in touch during the past few weeks. Of course many questions and at times concerns have been raised and I want to assure you that your questions will be answered in the next few weeks.  We will put these up on a web link very soon.

Since the announcement I have met with the Libraries of New Zealand through the Strategic Advisory Forum (made up of CONZUL, Te Rōpū Whakahau, ITPNZ, Parliamentary Library, NZLLA, LIANZA, SLANZA, GIG, the professional education sector, APLM and HealthSIG); the Library and Information Advisory Commission (LIAC), Guardians Kaitiaki of the Alexander Turnbull Library, and the Public Service Association (PSA). I was also able to catch up with the South Island Public Library Managers at their conference last month.

The Minister responsible for the National Library, the Hon Nathan Guy, has met with the Guardians and LIAC.  At each of these meetings the groups have posed questions about how this decision will impact on the services the National Library delivers to the people of New Zealand and especially the library and information sector.  In the weeks ahead the National Library will draw on this expertise as we work together to shape the new organisation to ensure this move is beneficial for all of us.

So why the change?

The Minister is quite clear that this move has been made to strengthen the three institutions and that the amalgamation provides opportunities to use common capability, expertise, economies of scale; providing better public access to the information we hold.

Will this affect the statutory independence of the National Library and Archives New Zealand?

I think there is good understanding about the need to preserve the statutory independence of the National Librarian and Chief Archivist.

Both the National Library of New Zealand and Archives New Zealand are internationally recognised as enduring cultural institutions in any country.

What happens next and when? 

We have set up a CEs Steering Group to lead the implementation and this group meets weekly.  This includes me, Brendan Boyle, CE of the Department of Internal Affairs and Greg Goulding, the Acting Chief Executive and Chief Archivist of Archives New Zealand.

One of our priorities is to agree a vision for the new department.

Although this will be a new organisation, we have common values. The National Library states a key purpose as: “Connecting New Zealanders to information important to all aspects of their lives”.An Archives New Zealand value is: “Connecting our communities with the nation’s records”.

Internal Affairs’ purpose is to: “Serve and connect citizens, community and government to build a strong, safe nation”. We are all committed to this objective:  “the services we deliver today will be better tomorrow”. So it’s a great start – the customer comes first.

The senior teams of our three organisations will meet next week so we can find out more about the significant capability of each organisation and what we can each contribute.

This week, the Chair of LIAC, Don Hunn and I met with the Solicitor-General and Auditor-General to understand options and any precedent we could draw from across the state sector which would both protect the integrity of the National Library and independence of the National Librarian while at the same time deliver on the Cabinet decision to amalgamate the National Library into the Department of Internal Affairs.   It was an excellent meeting and subsequently the three CEs have developed some questions that would test that there were no unintentional changes to the Act that c ould threaten the integrity of the Act.   

What to expect next over the new few weeks:

  • Changes to the legislation will be drafted
  • There have been several OIAs and it is expected that information will be released later next month. 
  • When the relevant legislation goes to the Select Committee it is anticipated there will be opportunities for submissions.

There will be regular updates to the sector and stakeholders.  This will be the last message from me alone on this matter; later messages will come from all CEs. 

Because librarians are passionate advocates of freedom of access to information, you have my personal assurance as National Librarian that the sector will be kept fully informed and importantly, through SAF, LIAC and the Guardians, will be consulted so they can help shape these new directions. I will be preparing the way for the new structure by introducing stakeholders to the new arrangement and the people responsible for implementing them, and helping build productive working relationships.

On the New Generation strategy

We are going to be busy and business as usual remains a top priority.

National Library staff are full steam ahead on implementing our new generation modernisation programme.  We have a demanding programme on our hands and it’s going well.  New reading rooms have opened in Wellington as we commence the Wellington building upgrade; the collections are nearly decanted; mass digitisation of the pictorial collections is under way and new services are being designed.   We are not an organisation unused to change but we certainly have a “gig on our hands”.  During the new generation transformation, no job will remain unchanged and we are all up to it.

Ka kite ano and keep your questions coming.

Penny Carnaby

National Librarian and Chief Executive

National Library of New Zealand

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