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Alexander Turnbull Library’s future is secure

Alexander Turnbull Library’s future is secure, says National Librarian

Christopher Blake, National Librarian and Chief Executive of the National Library, has refuted the claims being made by the campaign recently launched by the Friends of the Turnbull Library. And he has urged them to get together with him around the table and discuss the issues sensibly.

“I am always happy to meet with any group to discuss National Library matters,” said Christopher Blake. “It’s good we are putting the debate about heritage and information access firmly on the public agenda. It’s a shame the Friends of the Turnbull Library have so far chosen not to take up my invitations to meet and talk matters through. I am about to extend another invitation to them.”

He outlined again the future direction of the National Library.

“We’re here to give more people, more access to more information,” he said. “And that includes our heritage collections held in the Turnbull Library. Libraries all around the world are changing to meet the needs of the new electronic environment. We can’t be left behind and our new strategic direction makes sure we won’t be.”

Digitising material held in the Turnbull Library is one chapter in the book opening up access to the Library’s heritage materials. This has already started and is proving hugely successful with the public, schools and library users.

Christopher Blake made clear again that the Turnbull Library’s future is not in any doubt.

“I fail to understand what concerns the Friends of the Turnbull Library have. Under the new structure the Turnbull Library is strengthened and its special qualities maintained. The post of Chief Librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library stays as a senior role.”

The job description of the position calls for “a thorough understanding of the principles and practices of professional library management.”

The recent restructure re-confirmed all the Alexander Turnbull Library’s curatorial staff back into their jobs. These staff organise the heritage collections and arrange access to them.

“We want to see materials held in the Turnbull Library and throughout the National Library made available to all New Zealanders. The National Library’s future is about stamping ‘right of entry’ on our information and heritage,” said Christopher Blake.

“So I have to ask – what is this so-called campaign about? What do the Friends want to achieve and why are they taking advice from Communications Trumps, rather than talking to me, the National Librarian? They seem to be a group with a cause, but failing to find the evidence to back up their case.”

The Turnbull became part of the National Library in 1965. It remains separate within, rather than separate from, the National Library. It is one of the jewels in the country’s heritage crown and will continue to collect and preserve the nation’s documentary heritage. Even before 1965 there was opposition to the Turnbull Library becoming part of the National Library and some of these views seem to have endured for over 30 years.

The National Library’s new structure was announced in late August 1999. Significant consultation took place with staff and those with an interest in the National Library before then. The Trustees of the National Library commissioned an independent report into its appropriateness and that report is now with them.

“The National Library’s staff deserve the full support of the Library’s friends. Campaigning against a staff restructure that is already being implemented will have the opposite effect. We are all working to achieve the same benefits. Surely it makes more sense to come inside and talk rather than stand outside and shout. We could so easily be working together and I urge the Friends of the Turnbull Library to join with me and do just that.”


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