Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Penny Carnaby, National Librarian reponds to highly critical Listener editorial

Kia ora colleagues

Some of you will have read the editorial in the latest Listener, commenting on the Library’s redevelopment programme.
Unfortunately the Library was not given the opportunity to provide any background information about the programme to the Listener. So, I intend to respond to this editorial, providing some overall context and correcting some of the assumptions made within it.
Some of the key points I intend to make are:

* The business case supporting the National Library building redevelopment was robust, thorough and well planned. This planning was done over four years, and included several options. The current option to fully redevelop the building was the favoured one, because it gave best value.

* The current National Library building needs to be fixed to address critical issues with plant, machinery and leaks that put the collections at risk. Any intervention on the building necessitates a full relocation of people and collections - the risk to the collections is too great to undertake any building activity while they are still located in the building. This means that we need to leverage the cost of the relocation itself and do as much as we can to the building while we’re relocated.

* New Zealanders have every right to be welcomed into their National Library. All over the world, national libraries are changing to meet their people’s needs, and encouraging interaction with heritage collections. Take the British Library and the Library of Congress, for example. Neither of these are public libraries but both welcome all visitors to view the extraordinary collections in innovative and integrated ways.

* We are committed to exhibiting the collections in ways that are engaging and stimulate general interest. The new building will bring New Zealanders together with the collections in new ways, both physical and digital, which will greatly enhance access to and understanding of our nation’s heritage materials.

* Doing this will in no way compromise our role as a research library.
We have stated that we will upgrade and expand research facilities - we will provide more space for researchers, have a more clearly defined arrival point and clear positioning of the Alexander Turnbull Library’s research facilities.

As librarians it is the very nature of our profession to encourage discourse and debate on some of the key developments that will shape our society. I believe that the National Library’s redevelopment programme is part of this - the transformation we envisage will make an ongoing contribution and difference to the way that New Zealanders view and interact with their heritage materials into the future.

I look forward to seeing some of you at the South Island Public Library Managers conference next week, and taking the opportunity to update you on the redevelopment programme. Senior staff in the National Library are happy to come and talk with any interest groups about the redevelopment programme, so please get in contact with us if that would be useful. If you haven’t seen it already, check out this link which outlines the planned access to collections while we are relocated from the building:
All the very best
Penny Carnaby
Chief Executive/National Librarian

This was sent to Bookman Beattie by a senior librarian who suggested I " might want to add it to your blog to provide some balance to the discussion". I am pleased to do so.

1 comment:

Al said...

The print collections at the National Library in Wellington are currently stored in very poor conditions which put them at significant risk. This ought to be the subject of major national concern. Instead the project which will fix this situation and improve overall access, and which we should be celebrating, has been subjected to a great deal of uninformed and sometimes quite scurrilous comment. The National Library has now set up a website with further information
and is inviting researchers to notify them in advance about research materials they will require while the project is underway. This seems to be a reasonable compromise, in order to achieve long term preservation of and access to these unique collections for future generations.