Book Guardians Aotearoa welcomes a discussion on the purpose of the National Library of New Zealand.

Lydia Wevers made some very good points in this regard in a recent (January 2021) letter to the Dominion Post in Wellington. We support her call for an open debate on what a National Library is for and the place it should occupy in our nation’s intellectual and public infrastructure.

As Lydia has noted, and as most acknowledge (even within the Library), the DIA is not the right place for the Library. The NALI review has concluded this, and the previous National Librarian stated this in his submission to the review and on leaving office late last year.

Lydia’s letter is below:

The Librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Chris Szekely, has also commented on the role of the Turnbull Library, as distinct from the National Library, in the correspondence pages of the Dominion Post. His letter, of 13 October 2020, is posted here:

Chris Szekely updated his comments on 25 January this year in response to Lydia’s letter, and we reproduce Chris’ comments here.

We welcome informed and accurate debate and as part of this process, we have secured a meeting with the Minister of Internal Affairs, Jan Tinetti, for late March. The Minister is also responsible for the National Library.

She has inherited the mistakes of her predecessors, but we hope that these can be corrected if the Minister is presented with more accurate information than she has received to date. Sadly thousands of books have already gone, but we seek an informed and careful review of the collection and not the careless disposal that we have seen recently and in former decades.

For instance, the National Library Act of 2003 provides for the preservation of the library’s documentary heritage, and this is clearly not served if a huge proportion of the library’s collections are to be disposed of without regard to subject matter or the research interests of New Zealanders, nor appreciation of all the cultures which inhabit these islands.

We have advice to this effect, as well as the informed opinions of those who drafted the Act, namely former National Library Minister Marian Hobbs and former Prime Minister the Right Honorable Helen Clark.

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