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Official Launch Of Te Puna

Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of comment about Information
Technology systems - most of it negative. Today I want to talk about an
Information Technology story that is an overwhelming success. I want to talk
about a project that is delivering all that it promised, is user friendly, and
responds to the needs of its users. I want to talk about a system that has come
in on time and in budget. Its called Te Puna - and today it is my pleasure to
officially launch it.

Te Puna means "wellspring of knowledge". The National Library is a terrific
resource, but it means nothing if that resource is not accessible to the people.
Te Puna is the key to unlocking the knowledge within these walls, and in
collections throughout New Zealand.

The National Library has been in the spotlight recently. There are those in
society who never want to see change, who believe that the Library should be
locked in a time warp, who believe that the Library should only exist for an
academic elite. I do not hold that view. The National Library and its
constituent collections is one of New Zealand's treasures, but it is a living
treasure, it is a treasure which everyone should be able to share. It is not a
fossil. Just because the Library looks like a bunker does not mean that we
should have a bunker mentality.

Earlier this year, I launched a major initiative to promote Information
Technology in schools called Learning in the Third Millennium. At that time, I
drew attention to the changing face of learning. In the first Millennium, the
spoken word was the tool of choice. The innovation of the printing press
revolutionised learning for the second Millennium. Now, on the threshold of the
third, electronic information is a key source of knowledge.

Yet electronic knowledge will no more supplant books than books supplanted the
spoken word. These different types of storage and communication work together
and add to the variety and richness of knowledge that is available to us all.
But it is not sufficient for knowledge to be available, it must be readily
accessible.

Yesterday, the Government unveiled its 5 Steps Ahead programme. This recognises
that the move to a knowledge economy requires a range of initiatives to make
progress. It is a dynamic process, and one that is affecting all levels of
business and society.

The National Library has not stood like King Canute against this tide, but has
moved to positively respond to the challenges it will face in the 21st Century.

I know that this change did not come easily. Earlier this decade, the National
Library attempted to update its Information Technology. The project was not a
success. It would have been easy to throw up our hands in horror and try to
hide from the facts, and ignore the reality that the demand had not gone away.
Instead, the project was stopped, $5 million was recovered and a fresh start was
made. The result is what we are launching today.

Te Puna uses mature technology. It has been tried and tested around the world,
and as a result it is well understood by the library fraternity. The advantages
it has over the old New Zealand Bibliographic Network are tremendous. For a
start, it is Y2K compliant. It doesn't require specialist training and skills
to operate. It is capable of expanding in future to meet the demands that will
come. Already, it is a success. Around 300 libraries are currently using the
system.

In my own patch of Nelson, the local libraries of both Nelson City and Tasman
District Council are "on line" as are the Polytech, Nelson Marlborough Health
and the Cawthron Institute. But the information flow is not just a one way
street. Its ease of use and versatility means that for example, the Health
Funding Authority are making their holdings and records available on Te Puna so
that their specialised resources can be accessed by a wider audience.

Specialised resources require specialised skills. Information technology
requires skilled people to drive it and, as part of launching Te Puna, the
Library is going to go through a process of restructuring. The Chief Librarian,
Christopher Blake, will be briefing staff this afternoon on the detail of these
changes.

Te Puna has cost $9.1 million. That is a lot of money, but when put alongside
the advantages that it brings, it is money well spent.

This cost has meant reprioritisation of the National Library's budget and has
also driven the need to restructure. Some in the public service believe that
the cost of Information Technology should just be an add-on for the taxpayer, of
course the private sector has no such luxury. Just as other organisations have
had to restructure and reprioritise to meet their IT needs, so to must the
National Library.

For decades we have seen accumulating knowledge within what is now the National
Library. It has been a mighty effort, undertaken by generations of dedicated
people. Those who had the vision and passion to start the process of collection
did not intend it to be lost in dusty vaults. Henry Ford once said "History is
bunk". Wisely, he stuck to building motor cars. The history and wisdom within
these walls has just as much relevance today as it did when it was collected.

Te Puna is the flagship of a range of initiatives which the National Library is
undertaking as it evolves into the next century. It has not compromised the
role of the Library, or the quality of its collections. What it has done is
unlock that vast treasure trove for you and me. In a few months time, the sun
rises on the new Millennium. We can take pride in the fact that our National
Library is a world leader, and has beaten that sunrise to be at the forefront of
bringing people and knowledge together. I congratulate all those who have been
part of this exciting and successful project, and look forward to the positive
response that I know you will have from thousands of New Zealanders.


Thank you.

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