Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa
Te Rau Herenga O Aotearoa


Often when people think of a library they think of their local public library, however, there's more to the library and information sector than meets the eye!

While the library and information profession may seem like a homogenous group, libraries are actually classified by sectors and the communities they serve.

These sectors are:

  • Public libraries
  • School libraries
  • ITP libraries 
  • Tertiary libraries
  • Special libraries: Health, Law, Government

All libraries share similar values such as equitable access to information but each sector faces unique challenges when serving their communities.

Academic libraries

Academic libraries are emerging as a community hub for university and college students offering multiple services, such as book lending, interloans, and computers in one destination.

They are designed to support study and learning for students and well as supporting the institutions themselves in the delivery of research and learning strategies. 

They currently serve 181,000 students and 14,436 academics and university staff, with nearly 3 million visits to their libraries every year and a total budget of over $120 million. 

All academic librarians have Master's Degrees and specialise in a specific subject.

Public libraries

Public libraries are emerging as community hubs, embracing the opportunity to empower their neighborhoods. 

In addition to their traditional services, public libraries are becoming a valued community resource, providing makerspaces, meeting space, career and cv advice, training courses, literacy programmes for children, as well as becoming a repository for local history. 

Over 55% of New Zealanders are members of their local library, and public libraries process a staggering 95 million transactions a year, host 7 million internet sessions, and have over 35 million individuals through their doors.  

Digitally savvy, public libraries have also embraced ebooks growing issues by 2000% since their introduction in 2011.

School libraries

School librarians are critical to children achieving positive educational outcomes.There is a lot of evidence showing children who attend a school with a dedicated school library resource do better academically, regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds.  

School librarians are also hugely important when ensuring both digital and information literacy and are vital to the education of New Zealand children.

Through our #brandlibraries work, BRR has indicated that school librarians are in a unique position where they're able to connect with their community from a curriculum perspective, and can also provide the gateway for exploration outside of the parameters the Board of Education sets.

ITP libraries

There are 16 ITPS in New Zealand - spread across New Zealand from NorthTec in Whangarei to Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) in Invercargill. There were two mergers in 2016 - Aoraki Polytechnic and Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology merged to become Ara Institute of Canterbury; and Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and Waiariki Institute of Technology became Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology.

ITP learners are diverse: most students study from Levels 3 to 7 (certificates, diplomas and degrees) but there are many learners at Levels 1 and 2 and increasingly, ITPs are offering post graduate qualifications. Many ITP students are “first in family” in tertiary education, mature or second chance learners and often their prior learning experience has not been positive.  The proportion of ITP learners who are Māori or Pasifika is higher than in most New Zealand universities.

ITP libraries are part of the learner experience and many ITPs have libraries on several campuses due to the distributed nature of the sector. Library support is crucial for the many “first timers” to tertiary education and academic support is often part of what ITP libraries have to offer. Changing library structures and new technologies and e-formats have meant that the sector is rapidly evolving with many libraries now providing merged services with student support. This “one stop shop” concept for students is becoming more popular. 

Special libraries

All libraries are special, but some are more special than others!

Special libraries within New Zealand are found within research institutions, professional associations and museums, as well as the university's medicine and law schools.

These libraries have a much greater reliance on technology to interact with their patrons, however, there is still an emphasis on the importance of developing personal relationships with them. 

Their value is in their ability to filter a wide-range of information, thus saving time in research.

Special libraries reduce the cost of information provision for organizations through the efficient economy of scale. 

If you work as a Special Librarian you may be interested in joining SLIS - our special libraries interest group!

Share this on