Speech to Library & Information Association of New Zealand Conference Delivered by Nicky Wagner, MP, on behalf of Hon Nathan Guy

  • Nathan Guy
National Library

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.  Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to be here today on behalf of the Minister responsible for the National Library of New Zealand, the Hon Nathan Guy.  He could not be here today as he was required to attend a Cabinet meeting.  However, he would like me to pass on his best wishes to you all.

He would also like me to tell you about his impressions of the library and information services sector.  He sees a profession in good heart, one that is skilled, dedicated and future-focused, and that has a significant contribution to make, not just to New Zealanders' cultural life but also to our economy, communities and institutions.

I'm going to talk about how your profession can continue to contribute positively to this country's well being. So, what are the Government's expectations of your sector, particularly in relation to achieving our objectives?

In this context it is helpful to summarise our goals for the medium to long term. The "driving goal of this Government is to grow the New Zealand economy in order to deliver greater prosperity, security and opportunities to all New Zealanders."

We also recognise that we are in very difficult times.  While we might be starting to see signs that the economy is stabilising we are not out of the woods yet. There's still a lot of work to do if we are to make a robust recovery.

Priority areas of interest to your sector include the roll-out of an ultra-fast broadband network throughout New Zealand; improving and expanding our schools in a 21st century school-building programme; and improving front-line services to the public.

We need to lift education standards and modernise New Zealand's school system to ensure it responds to the varied needs of our young people. This includes a strong focus on literacy and numeracy. 

Another key driver for our Government is innovation, including investment in research and development. 

This recognises that "the talent pool, long-term research, and research that underpins our economic and social foundations, are all important parts of the mix." I know this driver will be important to the libraries here at this conference representing the research and tertiary sector.

Clearly, libraries and wider information services have a key role to play in helping reach these goals.   The services you provide are a principal component of a successful society and the public is expecting more and more from them.

How can services be better streamlined to cope with demand? How can technology assist with this? What services will our society need in the 21st century?

We are pleased that your profession is actively addressing these questions, including the National Library of New Zealand - principally through its modernisation programme, known as the New Generation Strategy.  The National Library is one of our country's leading cultural and heritage centres and has a vitally important role to play in preserving the documentary heritage of our nation; both for cultural and economic reasons. 

I know the Minister is keen to see more people, from all walks of life, engaging with, and learning from, the collections housed there. 

We are pleased the modernisation programme will make its taonga more accessible and that the Library is realigning its services to meet the needs of an increasingly digital world.

Generating ideas and knowledge - whether it's in the form of a book or an e-journal researched in the library, a New Zealand film based on diaries of a past hero, or a school student's assignment - all are dependent on easy access to information.

The National Library and the wider library sector represented here, including the research and university libraries, special and public libraries, have an important role to play in making quality New Zealand information accessible and available to New Zealanders, both in an online and physical world. 

As New Zealand moves towards a knowledge economy, that is increasingly digital and global, this role is going to become even more important. This extends to ensuring that material and content is preserved.

The National Library's ground-breaking work in digital presentation and curation through the NDHA is now featuring in the Government's thinking on data re-use and looking after New Zealand's digital assets in an integrated way across all government agencies.

This is going to provide real value as the Government's broadband networks are rolled out and is a good example of how our national institutions can be innovative, using technology and creative thinking to deliver world-class results through a public-private partnership.  It also demonstrates the real value of cross-government, cross-sector integration.

More of this sort of partnership and integrated approach is needed and indeed collaboration amongst your organisations and wider profession makes a lot of sense in these difficult times.

The Minister is looking to the library sector to proactively identify and work on shared opportunities, which are practical and cost effective.  

Existing programmes like the National Library-powered APNK (Aotearoa People's Network Kaharoa) and the sector's EPIC (Electronic Purchasing in Collaboration) initiatives are two great examples of collaboration enabling public libraries and libraries generally to build on their capability to deliver relevant and valuable services to their communities and institutions.  

We are also very pleased to see that the National Library, along with LIANZA, public libraries and local and central government, are all working on a business case to develop a shared library system across public libraries. 

Shared collaboration will not only enable the sector to realise ambitious goals in how future services are delivered, but should also drive efficiencies.

Our Government has also said that we're committed to moving resources to the frontline. 

I personally believe librarians are very much at the frontline of delivering research information and lifelong learning opportunities, of engendering a love of reading and supporting people to become digitally literate, and generating new ideas and innovations. 

As trusted civic spaces, libraries give New Zealanders from all walks of life the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds, as well as our rich history. 

And of course, in times of hardship libraries become even more important to their communities and organisations - as you will know from the increased numbers of people visiting libraries around the country, and indeed around the world.

This growth, I am sure, also reflects the expanding role of libraries, especially in the digital age. With the explosion of digital information, we need your profession's skills more than ever, especially in helping citizens to find, decipher and evaluate this explosion of information. 

It is important we harness the potential of the digital environment but to do that we need strong infrastructure. You have probably heard about the Government's $1.5 billion ultra-fast broadband investment initiative. 

The Minister of Communications and Information Technology, the Hon Steven Joyce, released the details earlier last month, outlining our commitment to partnering with the private sector to accelerate the roll-out of ultra-fast broadband services to 75 percent of New Zealanders within the next 10 years. 

For New Zealand, the future of broadband is in fibre, and taking it right into homes will bring significant gains for productivity, innovation and global reach.  Of course it is not the pipes themselves that will bring productivity but the content and services we pump through them and libraries are in the business of content and information.

Of specific interest to many of you will be our recognition of the importance of ultra-fast broadband in schools.  For the next six years we'll be focusing on priority broadband users such as schools and health services, businesses, plus greenfield developments and certain tranches of residential areas.

It is in light of this digital evolution that the National Library has embarked on its modernisation programme, or New Generation Strategy, that I mentioned earlier.   It is essential that the National Library continues to modernise the delivery of its services to ensure it remains relevant and responsive to its customers. 

In concluding, I hope I have given you a sense of the Government's direction and aspirations for this country, and the vital role your sector plays within it. It also presents your sector with some specific challenges.  I know that the Minister is keen to support you in addressing these challenges. 

The first is the continued integration of library and information services throughout New Zealand, and extending to how we better integrate information across government agencies, for example, the data re-use programme mentioned earlier.

We need to see more of this integration, to ensure New Zealand data and research is easily found and available to support our businesses and communities.

The second challenge is continued collaboration to drive efficiency but also to enable the sector to be effective at a national and international level.

As we all know, there are limited resources and to be truly effective in the digital age and knowledge economy this sector needs to be smarter with the resources it has - you have a good history of collaboration and will achieve so much more through a collective approach.

The third is managing the new literacy challenges of the digital age. While broadband provides the pipes or the means to get content quickly from a to b; the content is firmly in your space.  We need your profession to take the lead in providing New Zealand citizens with the confidence of access to quality, New Zealand content. 

The fourth and final challenge is the sector's increasingly important role and link with education, particularly in improving literacy and fostering the joy of reading.  We need to see some rigour around how the sector is making a difference to this key Government objective.

In essence, we are asking you to think carefully how the sector as a whole can grow from here and play its full part in the future development of this country. We look forward to working with you on these challenges and seeing your sector take a strong, leadership role.

Thank you for your time today.