National Library Move Challenges Perceptions

Published: Mon 2 Aug 1999 10:48 AM
National Library Move To Cultural And Heritage Opportunity For New Vision
The announcement that the National Library will shift to the new Ministry for Culture and Heritage may be the opportunity it needs to challenge the perception of its role, new President of the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA), Penny Carnaby, said today.
"All recent policy affecting the National Library has suffered from a lack of breadth of vision for its central role in delivering and networking information services to the country," she said.
"There is no doubt that National Library's operations have been misunderstood by the current Minister, Nick Smith. We hope that the new Minister, Hon. Marie Hasler, will have a more enlightened perception about the role it plays in all our lives," she said.
"We are poised at a moment in history of rapid growth in demand for information services. It is crucial to New Zealand's cultural and economic success that we remain in a position to deliver those services to the knowledge-based society of the next century."
Information professionals reacting to the move can see how the National Library might fit into a cultural context, although they are concerned about the implications of an apparent shift of focus away from its educational role.
"The National Library's role in heritage is well established, but we estimate that only 30% of the Library's operation could be deemed to service heritage. The big focus is on education, research, and information networking. Depending on the definition of culture in Hon. Marie Hasler's Ministry, we suggest these services are an essential part of this country's future," Penny Carnaby said.
There are many questions that remain unanswered in the recent announcement, for example, funding, and suggestions of a crown entity. LIANZA would encourage the new Minister to adopt a more consultative approach to ensure that all future decisions concerning the National Library and any issues relating to the information sector are well informed.
"The National Library has just gone through a restructuring review, and another review has been announced for later this year. That kind of attention is welcome if it results in improved resources, but so far there is no evidence of that being the case. The recent proposals for the National Library have raised alarm bells for those who really know its business.
"Of course we are asking how the National Library will benefit from this shift and we would ask for assurances that its critical role at the heart of our education, research, and information networking services will be strengthened, not diminished.
"We trust that National Library funding will not be diverted to other cultural and heritage services.
"The Government needs to dust off its old-world view of library services and grasp the true nature of its crucial role in New Zealand's knowledge economy," Penny Carnaby said.
This shift to the new Ministry reinforces LIANZA's view that the government needs independent advice on all matters relating to the knowledge economy.
LIANZA is the professional body in New Zealand Aotearoa for those engaged in librarianship and information management. LIANZA asserts that `the basic right of citizens in a democratic society is access to information on matters that affect their lives. The right to be informed, to be consulted, and to intervene is essential and fundamental to the democratic process.' LIANZA can be found at

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