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Posts Tagged ‘Jim Traue’


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relating to the ownership of property, public records, official statistics, electoral rolls, and published and unpublished documentary material and images” are all “civic information”.”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!

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Sigh. Jim Traue weighs in on THAT merger.  There are a number of aspects of his opinion piece that I can agree with, and there are a number of aspects of that I disagree with. I am however finding it difficult to formulate a proper response, because it has got me angry.

Why am I an angry? Because, and I may be wrong in my reading, I found the article insulting to the dedicated professionals that work at both the National Library and Archives New Zealand.  A great swath of the hyperbole seems to be based on the assumption that the Librarians and Archivists working in those institutions would somehow view the treasures entrusted to them with less care than they do now.

Quite frankly Jim owes a lot of people an apology after that.

Plan to integrate collections is dangerous nonsense [Otago Daily Times]

The Government plans to merge the National Library and Archives New Zealand into the Department of Internal Affairs. Jim Traue has serious reservations.

John Milton’s body will spin in its grave on the other side of the world when his spirit receives the message that Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, Samson Agonistes, his other poems and political pamphlets, including his classic defence of freedom of expression, highlights of the collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library, are now all equated by Her Majesty’s Government in New Zealand with the registers of births, deaths and marriages in the Department of Internal Affairs.

It’s enough to make the man a raving republican.

The Maori Party, the Iwi Leaders Group and Maori voters will be incandescent when they discover that their taonga held by the Turnbull, its collections of Maori language books, periodicals, newspapers and manuscripts, now have the same mana as the electoral rolls.

Thousands of sons and daughters who have entrusted private family letters, diaries and photographs to the Turnbull because they trusted the library to preserve them and ensure they would be used with proper sensitivity will be ropable that they are now classified as “civic information” on a par with the census records gathered by Statistics New Zealand.

Katherine Mansfield will be very bitchy at the thought that the manuscripts of her short stories, poems, letters and diaries are just like passport documentation.

Susan Price and Dorothy Neal White will be flabbergasted that their fine libraries of children’s books, highlights of the National Library’s research collections, are “civic information”, lumped in with the records of naturalisation, gambling, lottery grants and film censorship.

Charles Heaphy VC will be appropriately heroic when he learns that his paintings and drawings of early New Zealand are equivalent to the land registration records held by Land Information New Zealand.

Read the rest here.

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Yesterday, during Sunday Morning’s with Chris Laidlaw there was a discussion of the Role of Public Libraries in New Zealand. I haven’t listened to it yet, but will be doing so soon…

11.05 Ideas: Loving our Libraries

New Zealand once held the record for the most libraries per capita in the world, and the public library continues to be one of the most popular facilities provided by local authorities around the country. Ideas explores the changing face of libraries in New Zealand with Green MP Gareth Hughes who is campaigning against the introduction of user-pays in libraries; former chief librarian at the Alexander Turnbull Library Jim Traue, and Wellington City Library collections manager John Stears.

Presented by Chris Laidlaw.

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