Last week Jim Traue had this opinion piece published in the Otago Daily Times about the merger, I mean integration, of The national Library, New Zealand Archives and the Department of Internal affairs. When I read it I had a curmudgeonly response, mostly because the article got me angry. It wasn’t a full response and Jim dropped by the blog to say he didn’t understand why I was angry.
I have been thinking on how to respond without provoking a flame war, which is why it has taken me awhile to compose this. That and the day job got in the way. 🙂
Firstly my general response:
As readers may know, I am not philosophically opposed to the idea of the integration. New Zealand as a nation is relatively small, and it seems to me that if we have a number of government departments all within shouting distance of each, and all running fairly similar operations, why do they need a duplication of administrative functions? I share the concerns that Jim and others have that the integration will dilute the abilities of the organisations to function properly, and will have a negative impact on statutory officeholders. How ever I have been comforted by the approach of the C.E.O.s to the integration, and while the rational from the ministers has been a little sparse, the documents from those implementing the integration have had enough detail to temper those concerns.
Jim asks do I agree with the precept that “1, “personal identity information, information relating to the ownership of property, public records, official statistics, electoral rolls, and published and unpublished documentary material and images” are all “civic information”.”
My answer would be why yes I do. ALL that information is of vital historical importance. Jim is implying that personal identity records are of a lesser value to personal archives which is to my mind wrong. Historians and genealogists rely on that information to gather an accurate picture of society in general. The personal records give a vital view of how the individual works within that society. It may be that this move will accord those records with a greater respect.
Jim also then asks whether I agree with “2, Therefore, the Dept of Internal Affairs, because it has “the enhanced technology capacity and expertise to enable New Zealanders to access information” should control the National Library and Archives New Zealand.”
No, not necessarily, but if the three organizations are doing very similar work, then eliminating unnecessary duplication can be beneficial.
To address why I was angry. In the original piece, my reading of it implied that Jim was dismissive of the current workers in their ability to act professionally. This was in part informed from his email alerting nz-libs to the article, in which he asks if “The national library have been hoisted on their own petards”. Since I have a lot of respect for the current holders of office in the National Library, I was angry at the pattern of denigration I have perceived, that Jim has used in his writings with reference to those office holders.
As a couple of points of counter argument to Jim’s view that the Department of Internal Affairs is somehow going to run down the other institutions or will not value them. The DIA currently puts out some fabulous resources, such as the Jock Hobbs Te Are [Encyclopedia Of New Zealand]. If they value that, why won’t they value the archives or library? Yes over the last century there are examples of bureaucracy making poor decisions, but we also should remember that as a stand alone department for the last twenty years the National Library has been in a leaky building!