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Call for Libraries to remain open to all


New statistics back call for country’s most popular cultural institutions to remain open to all

Local authorities need to focus outside the three “R”s of roads, rubbish and rates and recognise the value of libraries, says the head of the country’s library professionals.

Mirla Edmundson, President of LIANZA (the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa) called for local authorities to think twice before imposing charges that could discourage people from using libraries.

“While many local authorities are investing in internationally cutting-edge libraries open to all - some authorities are trying to impose high charges on library users,” she said.

Ms Edmundson, speaking to mark Library Week, pointed to the results of the recently released Statistics New Zealand survey to back her call. The survey shows that libraries not only remain highly popular in the electronic age but also attract a wide cross-section of society, particularly the least well-off.

The Cultural Experiences Survey - carried out as a supplement to the Household Labour Force Survey and involving a nationally representative sample of nearly 14,000 adults – found that:

- unemployed people are higher users of libraries than the employed.
- low-income earners (less than $15,000) were higher users than those with incomes over $50,000
- young adults (14-24 year olds), parents (35-44 year olds) and the retired (65 years and over) were the highest users of libraries.
- using libraries is the second most popular cultural activity for New Zealand - buying books is the most popular.

Ms Edmundson said each year LIANZA stepped in to support rural librarians struggling to keep library services free or affordable

She said local authorities should be mindful that public libraries were the gateway to the Knowledge Economy for many people who could not otherwise access such information resources. So libraries played a significant part in the success of the local economy, including helping the unemployed gain skills and information so they could find jobs or start up small business ventures.

“Libraries and other cultural institutions are also no longer just optional extras as the new Local Government Act requires local councils to deliver on social, economic and cultural objectives.”

The new Act came into force on July 1 this year and LIANZA is working with Local Government New Zealand to find ways they can work together to meet the new legislation’s requirements.

Meanwhile this week is Library Week and libraries across the country are celebrating the fact that libraries are the country’s most popular cultural institution with 1.1 million adults (plus countless children) visiting each month.

Ms Edmundson said there were many things to celebrate including the newly opened Puke Ariki – New Plymouth’s library, museum and information services complex – winning the 2003 Creative Places award from Creative New Zealand.

Today LIANZA marked Library Week by announcing the finalists of the 3M Award for Innovation in Libraries. This year’s finalists are:

- Christchurch City Libraries for their Reading Crusade which used local rugby heroes the Crusaders, to successfully encourage young boys to read.
- Metronet (an initiative by Manukau and Auckland City libraries) for creating, a gateway to New Zealand’s public libraries online.
- Parliamentary Library for infocus a fully searchable database drawing on press releases, published articles and other databases to produce weekly bulletins tailored to MPs’ interest areas.

Also TODAY (Tuesday August 12) thousands of booklovers young and not so young were to gather in hundreds of libraries up and down the country for the first ever nationwide simultaneous storytelling.

At 10.30am on the dot, national celebrities, local politicians, kuia and kaumatua will be telling or performing NZ children’s classic – The Kuia and the Spider by Patricia Grace (published by Penguin) in English, Maori and NZ sign language.

Amongst the many Kuia and The Spider readings across the country will be:

Storytelling in NZ sign language at Kelston Deaf Education Centre
Contact: Keren Marsh 09 8274589

Broadcaster Kim Hill at Wellington Central Library
Cabinet minister Marian Hobbs at Karori Library

FOR MORE INFORMATION on LIBRARY WEEK EVENTS (including Kuia and the Spider readings) check out the website:


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