Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa | Te Rau Herenga O Aotearoa
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Last week I had the opportunity to do something that most teenagers would love to do, and most adults would run a mile to avoid - I was on TV.
Many of you will have seen the footage on Breakfast, in response to a Marlborough Councillor who (inadvisably, imho), made an off-the-cuff comment that perhaps libraries could be replace with eReaders. Cue media frenzy.
I've had a number of positive comments about the piece and some very thoughtful feedback, like this from Books and Adventures.
It's true that often we don't get to chose when or how the media decides to be interested in us. Library stories tend to be doom and gloom (The final chapter for Libraries?' as Breakfast put it) and fighting with Councils about budget cuts. Positive stories tend to revolve around the feel good factor and are often relegated to 'filler' status (the recent North and South article being a notable exception). These undoubtedly give the profession publicity, but is it the kind of publicity that we really want?
I ask this as a deliberately provocative question. What is the conversation that we want to be having about libraries with the public of New Zealand? And, is that a conversation that the people holding the purse strings will actually care about?
When we started the #brandlibraries piece of work, it was deliberately about some of these questions. Our current brand is, very strongly I would argue, books. It has served us well for hundreds of years. In some regards it still does. In other regards, it leaves us dangerously exposed as a profession.
There are things that that LIANZA can do to help shape a new conversation (like #brandlibraries for example, lobbying and high-level advocacy). But we rely on you to make those real, personal connections every day that inform public opinion. We're a passionate profession that needs to talk more and get louder about what we do and the value of that.
So, the next time you're out and someone asks you what you do, make sure you tell them, and why it's so important.
Be proud, and change the conversation.