Red Alert

Archive for the ‘National Library’ Category

Now for something completely different

Posted by on November 2nd, 2012

Next Members’ Day, my bill, the Local Government (Public Libraries) Amendment bill will have its first reading in parliament.

The bill, originally drafted by Labour MP Grant Robertson, was drawn from the ballot a couple of months back and as its sponsor, I’ve been on an exploration of the wonderful services our Public Libraries and librarians provide.

I admit that while I’ve been a fan of public libraries for years, going back to my childhood and the childhood of my son, I haven’t been a regular visitor recently. So this bill has re-ignited my passion for libraries, for books, for knowledge, for history. It’s been wonderful seeing the national treasure of our public library services, from the small local library to those with bigger collections.  These are indeed national taonga.

Public libraries play an important role in our communities. They give everyone access to information and improve literacy and reading.  They are community hubs for a range of activities, and they help strength local communities.

Who could ever imagine that our libraries could be at risk, yet with the government’s focus on Local Government costs, with a nasty bill due to be reported back soon, increasingly, strapped Local Authorities may turn their attention to library services and more charges.

New Zealand has no legislation that guarantees free public libraries. We are out of step internationally with countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada – all of which protect free public library services via legislation. We are not meeting UNESCO guidelines where public libraries in principle should be free of charge and the responsibility of local and national authorities, financed by national and local governments.

My bill will help New Zealand meet UNESCO guidelines, address the issue of user charges and ensure that NZ’s public libraries are an essential component of any long-term strategy for culture, information provision, literacy and education.

Our Library services should not be bound by an individual’s ability to pay, but that is becoming increasingly the case. Statistics show that introduction of user charges result in lower usage of public libraries and this in turn directly impacts on our communities’ literacy outcomes – it adds to inequality by denying access to those who can least afford to pay.

Then there’s our precious collections, which store our history.  Imagine these being developed on a user pays basis?  Do we really want unbalanced, profit-driven libraries that cater only for immediate, popular choices, rather than non-profitable alternatives?

We are becoming an e-society, but without libraries and free access to e-government and other services, the digital divide will expand.  It’s almost impossible to do anything these days without access to the internet – even looking for a job, where advertisements and applications are usually done on-line. Information about government services are increasingly only available through the internet.

Libraries play an important role in bridging the digital divide for those without personal computers or other devices.

There’s many reasons for this bill, but the most important one is keeping our public libraries free for all users.

If you want to support the bill, go to the Keep Public Libraries free facebook page or the website for the Library Information Association of NZ (Lianza)

Most important of all, let your MP know where you stand on this issue.

the leader of the national party even hiding from granny herald live chat

Posted by on October 31st, 2011

Key & English have declined an offer of a live chat with Herald readers.


Missed this to get it out in time for David’s chat. But thought the pattern of the skipper skipping possible hard questions is instructive.

Guyon Espiner on state sector reform

Posted by on March 10th, 2010

Guyon Espiner has blogged on the proposed state sector restructuring. While I don’t agree with everything in his piece it is great that he has taken the time to actually analyse the proposals.

Change should not be confused with progress. Any employee who has gone through a company restructuring exercise knows that. Most workers have a story about the bright spark in management who pulls various parts of a company apart seeking greater efficiencies only for the next boss to take the helm and put them back together again. The result is plenty of upheaval and little gain. I wonder if the latest state sector reforms might end up being a little bit like that.

That is definitely my view of the proposals around Archives New Zealand and National Library. Whatever minimal cost savings might result, the upheaval will outweigh it. Moreover, can anyone in the government actually say that the two organisations are not working efficiently? They have both had top notch audit reports for the last few years. The people who use the services of the Archives are delighted and believe it has never been working better.

This really does feel like National is doing this because they want to be seen to do something in the state sector. Lets be clear, I support finding efficiencies in the public sector. Sometimes that might mean shared services, common procurement, and even structural change. But the approach National is taking is ad-hoc and seems to not take into account what agencies actually do.

Archives and the National Library might not fit into a narrow view of what is important in terms of public services. But they are the guardians of our history, and in Archives case a key part of our transparent and open government. They deserve better than being pushed back into Internal Affairs.