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Free library services vital for new immigrants

LIANZA Press Release: 1 November 2012

Free library services vital for new immigrants

Public libraries are vital for helping immigrants find jobs and settle in New Zealand says the President of the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA) Heather Lamond.

LIANZA is running a Keep Public Libraries Free campaign to support the Local Government (Public Libraries) Amendment Bill, a member’s bill due to be read in Parliament in November.

If passed, the Bill would make public library services a statutory obligation for councils, and make core library services such as borrowing and internet access free.

Manager of Wellington’s Multicultural Learning and Support Services, Mary Collie-Holmes, said many new immigrants could not afford to pay even modest charges for internet use.

She said services offered through libraries helped immigrants find work and settle into their local community.

"Borrowing English language books aids in learning the language, whilst free internet provides access to newspapers and other resources in their own language that can help overcome feelings of social isolation."

Ada Nally, Multicultural Community Librarian at Wellington City Libraries,said a new immigrant from Eritrea thanked her recently for her help getting him work.

"He had been visiting Newtown library every week to get help reading the road code and practise speaking English with librarians. He proudly told us this week that he had gained his taxi licence," she said.

Ms Lamond said local and central government provided information and many forms online.

"From looking up council services, applying for housing, filling out citizenship forms to completing a census - free internet access in libraries ensures everyone in our communities can fully participate in society."

Debbie Duncan, Manager of Upper Hutt City Library, said the number of people using library internet access for job applications had increased because many jobs were now only advertised online.

"Those library members that used to come and read job advertisements in the newspaper now have to use the internet to check out vacancies. Even the lower-paid jobs in chain stores and food outlets now require online applications, however the people we see applying for these roles lack the necessary computer skills and require significant staff time to assist them with their applications."

Ms Lamond said whilst many public libraries were able to provide free internet access through the Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa (APNK), a number still had to charge for internet use.

"If this bill was passed it would bring us into line with other countries such as the UK, Canada and Australia, who have laws protecting free library services. This is our chance to give all New Zealanders the opportunity to further themselves and participate in our democracy."


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