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Speaker: This is your National Library

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  • Ian Dalziel,

    Gordon
    Is this also our National Library after the proposed merger of Archives NZ and the National Library into Internal Affairs?
    Or is that spectre still looming?
    And if so can you comment on the implications/drawbacks/benefits of that?
    I understand if it is imprudent to do so in the current climate, though...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5046 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Ian, that's a political decision and it would seem rather unwise for any public servants to be discussing it here.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16754 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Sacha,

    Ian, that’s a political decision and it would seem rather unwise for any public servants to be discussing it here.

    Gee, I guess that's why I put that proviso in -
    "I understand if it is imprudent to do so in the current climate, though…"
    Doesn't mean any number of more anonymous commentarians can't raise relevant points on the issue... hell maybe some politicians may even learn something...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5046 posts Report Reply

  • Lisa Black,

    I love Papers Past! Paragraph 4 is my favourite news article (go Foxton!).

    Wellington • Since Jul 2010 • 63 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Lisa Black,

    How about the handy tips from "Mr Amies, the Levels Road bird poisoner" - presumably his official title.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3555 posts Report Reply

  • paynter, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Hi Ian:

    I've commented on this in a more general sense here.

    I'm not sure I have much to add. The changes I referred to are still underway, and as public servants we now have to make sure the new organisational structures work for the National Library and the wider DIA.

    Gordon

    Since Nov 2006 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    In the current political climate it is very hard for public servants to speak out about anything, even to friends and family - I haven't seen such a repressed public service for a long time and the weapon is a culture of constant restructuring and redundancies. Any criticism of their masters - their ministers and government - is not tolerated. You can see it in how the EQ people won't criticise the government for not giving them enough resources, the mine inspectors won't criticise the government for lack of inspection resources or regulations, the DHBs won't criticise their lack of resourcing but have to go ahead and close services.So the poor old public blames the public servants who are doing their best with constantly reducing resources, and don't join the dots and put the blame higher up. So, I think the rest of us should feel free to criticise the poorly thought out policy that saw the National Library and Archives NZ forced to amalgamate with DIA, as the librarians and archivists cannot.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2096 posts Report Reply

  • paynter, in reply to Lisa Black,

    I love Papers Past!

    Who doesn't? We're always finding amazing stuff in there (or noticing other people finding amazing stuff). We even had our own meme: Lobsterotica.

    I'm not a historian, librarian, or media type, but I've been staring at these pages for years now. The recurring themes that I think are the most interesting and unexpected include the gruesome descriptions of violence (and not just against penguins), the prominence of local and classified advertising (it was front-page material), the high quality of the world news, and the advertisements for what we consider hard drugs.

    The best stories we hear are from users who learn something about a family member or ancestor. No matter how terrible the story -- theft, adultery, suicide, murder -- it turns an distant and historical figure into a real person who they can relate to.

    Also, people tend to think of their ancestors as old people, as old as they are when they die. But you're more likely to get into the Court News when you're young.

    Gordon

    Since Nov 2006 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to paynter,

    Also, people tend to think of their ancestors as old people, as old as they are when they die. But you're more likely to get into the Court News when you're young.

    So they did, occasionally : )

    Something that was really big with the kids about a century ago was the childrens' pages. In their heyday they were like an early 1900s Facebook. Unfortunately it's difficult to identify people as they used pseudonyms (Cupid, Awkward Ned, Arohanui, etc.). The best gold I struck was when a female ancestor, who I remembered as a very old lady from my childhood, had her identity inadvertently revealed in the Dot's Little Folk section of the Otago Witness. Once I'd realised who she was I found a series of exquisitely detailed letters about her life in Brunnerton.

    From a few years later I found the account of the court case of the Englishman who married her and fathered her only child, while neglecting to mention that he already had a wife in the old country. He got six months for bigamy, but the stigma blighted the rest of her life. A couple of older folks, who'd dismissed her as "that poor old thing" who'd spent much of her later years washing dishes at the Wellington gentlemen's club, were visibly moved to discover how beautifully she'd once written about her hopes and dreams.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3555 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Thanks Gordon, for all the links - as a callow and impressionable youth I used to do Papers Past old school and often bunked class and went to the original Chchch Library (this great building now a victim of the earthquake) and read the old Lyttelton Times and other papers in the New Zealand Room - I loved the fact that overseas news came in with the ships from papers and letters sent from the mother country - intimations of the start of a European War (WWI not that they knew to number them then!) vying for space with bodies found in suitcases on bridges in London - and all those wonderfully polite ads.
    One of my regrets about the earthquakes was losing a box of very early British and American magazines (and another is the loss of Smith's Bookshop!)

    and in breaking news - it has just started snowing (well sleeting) in Shirley, Chchch, brrrr......

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5046 posts Report Reply

  • paynter, in reply to Sacha,

    I'm wary of speculating too much further while our thinking is still being formed

    Isn't that how ideas are teased out?

    Maybe "speculating" is the wrong word. In the case of access & rights, I am interpreting other people's arguments for you, and I don't want to mis-interpret them.

    I'm happy to send a follow up on this topic in a few months when our collective understanding is a bit better.

    Gordon

    Since Nov 2006 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to paynter,

    Can I ask whose collective understanding?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16754 posts Report Reply

  • paynter, in reply to Sacha,

    Sorry, I meant within NatLib. We're a diverse bunch. But as noted we have a working group looking at collections and metadata access policies.

    Since Nov 2006 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to paynter,

    Please feel free to feed those questions to your group. Be interested to hear any feedback.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16754 posts Report Reply

  • Lisa Black,

    Thanks for the heads up, Gordon. @cyclingwgtn is now following @NLNZ.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2010 • 63 posts Report Reply

  • Titus, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    In what way, precisely, has the amalgamation of Archives NZ and the National Library into DIA been a poorly thought out policy, and how has it had an adverse impact on those institutions? Both the Library and Archives retain their statutory roles and functions unchanged, and both still enjoy access to a responsible minister independent of the Internal Affairs portfolio. The only change is that there are two fewer chief executives.

    Public service criticism of a government's policy is provided through the free and frank provision of policy advice. It is up to the ministers of the day, as individuals elected to represent the popular will, to decide on whether or not to accept that advice.

    Public servants do not enjoy the privilege of criticising their superiors in public as it undermines that most crucial aspect of the public service-politician relationship: trust. As it happens, one of the most egregious and despicable betrayals of that trust has been related to the leaking of a cabinet paper on the merger of Archives and the Library with DIA.

    Since Jul 2011 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Lyall, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Hilary and Gordon. Thank you very much for you pointers to sources. I'll get onto them about photos.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 21 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Titus,

    Captain's Log, Man date 2011...

    It is up to the ministers of the day, as individuals elected to represent the popular will, to decide on whether or not to accept that advice.

    That is a very sobering (and scary) thought...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5046 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    That is a very sobering (and scary) thought...

    That's not scary at all. It's how the system should work. No one expects a new Minister for the Environment, say, to hit the ground running fully conversant with all the issues facing the environment both in the past and the future. That's what the bureaucracy is actually for - to keep track of the history and use it to produce evidence-based advice to the Minister. The Minister should make decisions and set direction and let the officials do what they do well.

    The scary part of that is that that is not how this government is working, nor (albeit to a lesser extent) the last one. They are telling the officials what advice they want to hear and refusing to look at anything that contradicts their will, and they regard the government agencies as mere executive extensions of the 'Government of the Day" that should just follow orders. It's a politicization of the public sector and it's been happening since 1987 and the restructure of the state sector.

    A perfect example is Prostetnic Vogon Joyce and the roads of national insignificance. He WILL not hear anything that says they're a bad idea, that they'll wreck the environments they pass through, that they're unnecessary, that we can't afford them, that they won't actually solve the problem etc etc. We know, down here in Kapiti - we've tried showing him the logic, the economics etc etc - and he has said "I'm not changing my mind". That is the scary part.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2153 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Titus,

    Titus, you have expressed exactly why it is tough (almost unsafe) to be a public servant in NZ today. Assumptions like 'superiors', and that trust is only a one way relationship, indicates to me that you might be someone paid to enforce this merger rather than a librarian or archivist with their professional values of public service, the importance of intellectual freedom, good record keeping and preservation of the nation's culture and identity.

    However, some points as to why this merger is flawed policy and will be have to be undone in the future (as it was in the early 2000s): free and independent collection of the nation and state's records could be threatened by directives from DIA 'superiors'; donors may be less willing to donate to organisations that are not seen as stand alone and whose collections may be subject to dispersal from 'superiors' with no understanding of library or archival values; budget constraints in a bigger department could see library and archives funding squeezed as being of less value than other business units; less specialised and inappropriate IT systems being imposed on library and archives records which could threaten such things as public access or long term collection; and, all the other risks from having the leaders of the national library and archives NZ being low level managers in a huge department of state which has many conflicting roles. Archives and the National Library could possibly merge in some form with each other as they seem to be working well together, but they need an independent structure and a passionate, knowledgeable, senior minister to advocate for them.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2096 posts Report Reply

  • vangam,

    Frankly, the merger of National Archives & Library and the DIA stinks of the heavy hand of increased government surveillance.

    Rangiora • Since Jun 2007 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to vangam,

    eh?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16754 posts Report Reply

  • Titus, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    State-operated cultural institutions are no safer as departments than they are as business units of a larger department. A government that truly wished to destroy them would - regardless of their status under a schedule of the Ombudsmen Act or whatever.

    To adress your points:
    1. Free and independent collection of the state's records cannot be threateded by directives from DIA 'superiors': the Public Records Act mitigates against that. Incidentally, you should be aware that the PRA anticipated (in its separation of chief executive and chief archivist functions) a time when Archives would be subsumed again into a larger department.
    2. Donor perception. I suspect this is an untested canard. Perhaps someone from the Turnbull might be willing to comment on this. As for Archives, well, records must be made and kept, and Archives can enforce compliance.
    3. Archives and the Nat. Lib. retain Votes independent of Vote Internal Affairs. The Secretary of Internal Affairs can't siphon off funding from one of those Votes to say, the Local Government or Racing portfolios.
    4. DIA, which has recently acquired the IT folk from SSC is probably the best placed institution not to make foolish IT decisions. I might also add that the Nat. Lib. doesn't have a terribly flash history in IT decision making.
    5. True, the National Librarian and the Chief Archivist are lower-level managers now (are they deputy secretaries?) However, they retain access to their responsible minister. I would be anxious were the ministerial portfolios to be dispensed with.

    I am not an 'enforcer', as satisfying a role as that might be. I am someone with a better appreciation of the probity required of a public servant than whichever Nat. Lib. or Archives staff member/s shamefully leaked the cabinet paper proposing the merger with DIA. That act was hardly a demonstration of the 'professional values of public service'. Quite the contrary. Check out the public service code of conduct some time.

    Incidentally, why aren't you upset at the Ministry of Fisheries being merged with MAF? Is it because Fisheries was the creation of a National government?

    Since Jul 2011 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Titus,

    ncidentally, why aren't you upset at the Ministry of Fisheries being merged with MAF? Is it because Fisheries was the creation of a National government?

    Obviously I am not replying for Hilary Stace but - MAF was more efficient in policing fishers & fisheries* that the erstwhile setup: maybe MAF, being back to its old self, can do a better job.

    *Yep, I'm well aware of the fact that DoC also has a hand in policing certain fisheries.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • paynter, in reply to Titus,

    I am someone with a better appreciation of the probity required of a public servant than whichever Nat. Lib. or Archives staff member/s shamefully leaked the cabinet paper proposing the merger with DIA.

    As a point of clarification, the SSC investigation found that:

    2.1 In the circumstances, I find that it is likely that the information used in the article came from more than one source.

    2.2 While it cannot be entirely discounted, it is more likely that the information was provided in a general way, rather than from the journalists having a copy of the Cabinet paper itself. If the journalists had possession of the Cabinet paper, the article could have been expected to have been more accurate than it was.

    2.4 While during the inquiry there were a number of illustrations of carelessness in the way information was treated, I did not find that any one of these was the cause of the deliberate unauthorised disclosure. However, they illustrate how a lack of care can provide an opportunity for someone to gain information which they could disclose to a third party.

    However, they also found:

    5.2 The evidence points to one of the sources for the journalists being either someone in the National Library, or someone being told something by someone in the National Library, who then passed this information on.

    The National Library was specifically mentioned in this way. ArchivesNZ was not.

    Since Nov 2006 • 28 posts Report Reply

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