Future of Libraries Summit

I was lucky enough to attend the Future of Libraries Summit last Friday in Wellington. It was co-hosted by LIANZA and Te Rōpū Whakahau and 160 people attended from all over Aotearoa.


The aim of the day was to build on the work that is occurring in various parts of the library profession by taking a “cross-sectoral approach to the future of libraries, to discuss the challenges for the sector and agree on a collaborative action plan to take the profession forward”

Phew! No pressure! 

It seems there was an excellent response to the idea of the summit – library workers are clearly eager to participate in the conversation about where the profession is headed. I know a few people who were disappointed not to be able to attend for one reason or another, so it was great that there was the opportunity to listen in online and also follow the tweet stream at #FoL15. The tweeters were very active and the event trended number one.

The format of the day was a facilitated workshop – after a mihi and inspiring introduction by LIANZA President Kris Wehipeihana, we were grouped at tables where the discussion was based on five questions:
1. What are the key drivers of the profession?
2. What would a flourishing library sector look like in 2025 if we address these key drivers?
3. What are we currently doing to address these drivers – at the library level, at the sector level, at the whole of profession level?
4. Where are the gaps?
5. Who should take responsibility for these gaps?
6. Where to from here?

Some of these questions were re-worded during the day to put a stronger focus on coming up with solutions. There was some concern expressed that many of the ideas generated were repeats of ideas discussed years ago and not moving us forward. We were then passionately urged by Kris to dig deeper and be more bold and courageous in expressing our ideas. I was impressed with the flexibility that occurred to try and make the day more valuable. I think that in some cases the verbal report backs to the whole group did not capture or represent all of the content generated in the discussions, so I am hopeful that the scribes at each table were able to record the ideas more fully. This was certainly the case on our table where I thought the vibe was mostly exciting and creative. We got bogged down a few times into negative territory but our Facilitator Sue Sutherland and other members of our table were good at turning that around.

Some of the key drivers (not all because I can’t remember, wish I had a copy of our notes!) discussed at my table were increasing inequality, neoliberalism, poverty and homelessness, the changing patterns of information access (libraries being bypassed), information overload, digital literacy, theories of learning, lack of diversity in staffing, the need for digital library skills in an organisation (as distinct from ‘corporate’ IT skills), the government’s online strategy, the tertiary education strategy, copyright and the need for open access, barriers to collaboration and innovative practice.

In response to this some of the things we talked about (again from memory!) were the innovations occurring in libraries such as Tauranga City Libraries partnering with the business sector including Venture Tauranga, Auckland Libraries’ makerspaces, community engagement happening at South Taranaki District Libraries, Kōtui, the shared library management and discovery service operating in most NZ public libraries. I also mentioned the integration of student support and library services in my place of work, Ako Ātea, at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic. Here students can be connected with other services such as health and counselling, and programmes runs such as a weekly Breakfast Club to help improve the lives of students. All of these achievements were driven by a few people who had a clear vision and an understanding of the ‘why’ in what they wanted. The ‘why’ comes before the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ in any successful collaboration.

We also talked about the importance of the library as a safe place, and also about the role of a librarian as a trusted guide, a connector to information and resources, including to other people. We will have more people from other vocations working in our libraries to provide the expertise needed, such as IT, teaching, social work. Our librarians will know how to provide services for all types of learners, and design thinking will become an important skill. In the future (this really should be now or tomorrow!) we will all be able to articulate the value of our libraries, and this value will be recognised by our community and our funders.

We talked a lot about how to overcome barriers to collaboration and innovative practice such as taking action, ‘just doing it’, ‘asking for forgiveness not permission’ and it only takes 15-20% of a community to inspire a revolution. It was awesome to have Rab Heath from OMGTech on our table to spark some of these ideas. We discussed the concept of people who engage with libraries as ‘members’ (of the library community) rather than the uncomfortable terms customers or patrons. Rab told us that as a child using libraries he saw himself as a member of a tribe. In the future all tamariki will have a library card and be part of the ‘tribe’. There will be seamless access across the library sectors, one library card for all. We discussed the value of having a policy at high level to provide direction, but in the mean time we should just ‘do it’.

This was just a snippet of the discussions at our table, and it was interesting to hear the report backs from other tables, where I loved the concept of the ‘libraries without boundaries’ and a national approach to licencing. There is so much that is common to libraries in all sectors, if we develop a shared infrastructure, then we can focus our energy in co-designing the distinctive services that our varying communities need. There was a whole ‘nother conversation over on Twitter. Some valid comments were made here about the predominance of a Pākehā World View in the discussion, that male views seemed to be proportionally over-represented, and that a few people dominated the discussion at their table. It is disappointing this occurred and I celebrate the people who provided this feedback. I hope we (including me) can all listen and learn from this. I am aware this blog post represents yet another Pākehā perspective.

I look forward to the whole thing being collated and what comes next. I am keen to be further involved.

I am grateful to the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Regional Committee of LIANZA for sponsoring my attendance that the summit, and the crew at Bay of Plenty Polytechnic for letting me go for the day.

I also thank LIANZA and Te Rōpū Whakahau for providing the opportunity for this level of engagement in the things that really matter. Thanks also to Table 15: Penny, Janet, Maria, Sue, Rab, Peter, Lynda, Richard, and Jay. I enjoyed spending the day with you.

The future of libraries in Aotearoa belongs to, and will be driven by our community; it is an open and enhanced future that enacts Te Ao Māori, where librarians  will continue, as they have always done, to improve the lives of people by facilitating knowledge creation.

Ngā mihi maioha

Lee Rowe

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Thames 1915-1917

This is a reflection on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings during WW1. As far as I know none of the men in our family went to this war but instead, as farmers, raised “fats” – slaughtered, frozen to ship to the troops.

The following is an excerpt from my grandmother’s unpublished memoirs. Thanks to my sister Andrea for information and the photo of our grandmother as a girl.

“…In the early days, long before our time, Thames was a very busy, rowdy, prosperous gold mining town and boasted, according to old identities at least a hundres hotels, and at closing time it wasn’t safe to be about, but in our days there were only three or four hotels, and the township was gentle and law abiding. This was during the first world war and everyone was knitting jerseys, balaclavas and socks in khaki wool. Large fruity cakes were cooked and soldered into tins, and biscuits by the hundreds were sealed in air tight tins. We school children helped in the packing of parcels and were allowed to put our names and addresses and a cheery message in with the goodies. The soldier who received the parcel with my name in it wrote back to me so I wrote to him again. He was killed in action soon after this, and when we saw his death notice in the paper with his parents’ address we thought it would be a kind gesture to send the very interesting letter he had written to me to his parents. They were very grateful as they had not had any mail from him at all. In those sad days transporters carrying mail etc. were being sunk frequently. I was sorry to lose my letter, but pleased that his mother had at least something he had written from overseas. She sent me a memorial card with a photograph of him in uniform.”

 Winnie Hutchinson,  my grandmother as a young girl, 1910s
  Winnie Davies, nee Hutchinson (at right) at a Country Women’s Institute jubilee. 


A brief look back to LIANZA Conference and Telsig Forum 2013

Late last year I attended several inspirational conference presentations about the changing nature of libraries. These included the Presidential Address from Laurinda Thomas, keynotes from Nat Torkington and Penny Hagen at LIANZA 2013 Conference, and Mal Booth at Telsig 2013 Forum.

Key messages I absorbed are that although our ‘artefacts’ are changing libraries are still essential services with the potential to change lives. We are no longer just book and text based warehouses, but community based cultural hubs where new knowledge and insights are created. Our communities should be active participants in designing new services. I realised we could do more in my organisation to engage and involve our students and staff in planning new services.

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Having a Say

Faced with a proposed restructure of library and student support services at the end of 2011, I completed an individual submission and contributed to a group submission about the proposal, outlining points of agreement and advocating for some adjustments. To prepare, I talked a lot to staff and read numerous articles about integrated services and factors that contribute to Māori student success. The proposal involved the dis-establishment of my position.

I felt ok during this period of uncertainty. I think this was because going through a redundancy in 2005 made me more resilient to change, knowing things have a way of working out. I’m glad I took all opportunities to have my say. A few of my suggestions were adopted, a few weren’t, but management seemed to appreciate my submission.

Embracing Change

In November of 2013 I attended the Telsig Forum in Auckland. I was struck by a keynote presentation by Lynley Stone of Information Workshop. Lynley spoke about the nature and impact of change, emphasising the difference between what we can and cannot control, and how important it is to act on that which is within our control. Change is normal and unsettling but we can do things to lessen its impact on us personally. Lynley encouraged us to look for opportunities to gain experience and training, perform our jobs well and think of ways to do them better in order to prepare well for inevitable change.

What I gained most was not so much the message but the way it was delivered. I wish I could have bottled Lynley’s presentation and taken it back with me to my workplace. Her message was strong and clear but told with kindness and empathy. I encourage my team to embrace change and to actively seek opportunities to develop, but I realised I could do this in a more supportive way after attending Lynley’s talk.

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End of the Archives

At the end of last year I prepared to hand-over my part-time role as Archivist at Otumoetai College to a new person. Because I work full time in another role, this job involved working one Sunday a month. The hand-over involved ensuring all the procedures I had set up were up to date and accessible, and training the new Archivist.

I am proud of what I achieved in this role which I held for 5 years and that the systems and procedures I set up to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of the school are robust and professional, ready for the new person to take over. However I was also pleased to relinquish the role because this allowed me to begin some study have more energy for my other job.

ANZ 23 Mobile Things

Last year I participated in the ANZ 23 Mobile Things course facilitated by Abigail Willemse and Kate Freedman. This involved learning about various mobile apps and technologies on a weekly basis, undertaking practical activities and participating in Twitter chats.

Some of the 23 ‘things’ were familiar to me such as Twitter and Library Thing but I learned about many new apps such as HistoryPin and discovered how augmented reality can be used in libraries. During the course I began using the Feedly and Pocket mobile apps which I’ve since found invaluable to manage my social and professional reading. I loved interacting with the friendly and enthusiastic librarians on this course.

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Makerspaces : Exciting and challenging

This is my reflection on The NMC Horizon Report 2014 Higher Education Edition which was published earlier this year. This report identifies 6 key trends impacting on higher education: the growing ubiquity of social media, the integration of online, hybrid and collaborative learning, learning analytics, students as creators rather than consumers/the rise of makerspaces, agile business models and the evolution of online learning.

Reading this report was both exciting and challenging. For example the idea of establishing a makerspace at my workplace is incredibly exciting to me, as I can see it being a way to recognise and support students as creators rather than consumers, and to bring together the tools, skills and expertise that exist across all our programmes, and I’d love to be involved with this. How to link this to strategic goals and make this happen is the challenging bit. I’m going to follow up on the further reading in this report and commit to writing a paper about the potential for a makerspace at our institution.


Leadership and personality

When I was doing a uni paper last year, I read several books and articles on the topic of leadership and personality including The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain, Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Authentic Leadership by Bill George and Quiet Leadership by David Rock.

This reading helped me understand myself and others better; and to value the way I learn, communicate and lead. It affirmed for me that ‘quiet’ leaders can be effective leaders. It helped me to develop my strengths in supporting others to learn and solve their own problems by asking questions and focusing on solutions not problems. I also supported changes so that a group of staff with introspective qualities had more suitable work environments to re-energise and think.

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Mobilising the values of Pacific cultures in education

In December 2013 I attended a keynote presentation from Winnie Laban at the ANZSSA (Australia New Zealand Student Services Association) Conference in Wellington. Luamanuvao Winnie Laban is Assistant Vice Chancellor (Pasifika) at Victoria University of Wellington and has previously been a Member and Minister of Parliament. In 1992 she was bestowed the Samoan chiefly title of Luamanuvao.

Winnie spoke passionately to us about how education is greatly valued by Pasifika, yet achievements levels are low. Student services have the potential to mobilise the values of pacific cultures to increase participation and involvement.

At my workplace our focus has been predominantly on raising achievement levels of Māori students. Pasifika students make up 4% of our student population. Since this session I have had several discussions with staff about ways to incorporate inclusive practices for Pasifika, and a group of staff have begun informal Samoan language sharing sessions, but there is work to be done to put a sustainable plan in action for students.

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