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Book & Print in New Zealand : A Guide to Print Culture in Aotearoa



Mention was made earlier of the planning and the activities undertaken by groups of early European settlers, leading to the establishment of libraries in communities. Popular pressure and the initiative of individuals, whether users or public-spirited persons, continued to be influential, and remain so to the present day. The influences are expressed through 'friends of the library', as various as the veteran Friends of the Alexander Turnbull Library, the National Library Society or the support groups for particular public libraries, and local lobby groups formed to meet specific situations. However, the more sustained effort has come from the people with the most immediate vested interest: those involved in the operation of services, and the governing authorities of those libraries, acting collectively.

The impulse to form a group nationally to promote the advancement of libraries came from Dunedin. A newspaper man, Mark Cohen, inspired by his involvement in the campaign to form a public library in Dunedin and by his observations during a trip to England, the United States and Canada, persuaded the Dunedin City Council to convene a conference of public libraries in 1910. The seven libraries who attended that conference resolved themselves into the Libraries Association of New Zealand. This organisation, through a revival and change of name in 1935, and a further change of name in 1992, established a continuity with the current New Zealand Library and Information Association.

The first change of name, to the New Zealand Library Association, aimed to reflect a more balanced view of the organisation's objectives and activities. Rather than being an association of libraries it had become an association of all parties with an interest in the welfare and promotion and of libraries, including the sponsorship of professional standards.

The dominant voices in the Association were inevitably those of the professional librarians working in the field, but representatives of governing authorities remained effective members, and often occupied the highest offices in the organisation. The broad terms of the Association's constitution, allied with the small scale of the library sector in a relatively small country probably explains why much of the history of libraries in New Zealand can be traced through the records of the Association. The diverse groups which make up the library sector have chosen to work within the single organisation, albeit as discrete sections. The Association itself has mastered the geography of the country by forming branches or regional groupings, each of which draws sustenance from the national body and in turn feeds its energies into national activities. The story of the NZLA was told comprehensively in its jubilee year by W.J. McEldowney (1962) and in his supplementary article (1970). The Association's historical records are held by the Alexander Turnbull Library.

The Association has been the major generator of material about New Zealand libraries, in its capacity as a publisher of journals, other serials, and monographs, as a commissioner of surveys and reports, and as an author of submissions to official bodies. A professional journal, New Zealand Libraries, began in 1939, having evolved from an organisational newsletter. The newsletter function was continued by a monthly publication, under the title New Zealand Library Association Newsletter (1956-77), and from 1978 as Library Life. With less regularity the various geographical branches and interest groups of the Association have published newsletters. Branch newsletters may be found in major libraries in the areas concerned, but those of interest groups have not been retained consistently. Neither type form part of the Association's records.

New Zealand Libraries has been indexed in the Index to New Zealand Periodicals and in Index New Zealand (INNZ), but partial cumulative indexes have also been published by the Association from time to time: Robinson and Henderson (1960) for the period 1937 to 1957, and Battye (1974) for the period 1958 to 1970. The newsletter, in its various guises, has never been indexed. This is a significant gap in coverage because the newsletter is a useful source of information about activities of the Association, and about individuals and events in the library sector. From time to time, the proceedings of the Association's annual conferences and occasional seminars have been published.

The NZLA/NZLIA has cultivated relations with kindred organisations in other countries, most conspicuously with the Australian counterpart, the Australian Library and Information Association (formerly known as the Australian Library Association). Three joint conferences have been held by the two associations, in 1984, 1988, and 1994. The proceedings of these have been published. From time to time, there has been a more regular exchange of ideas and thinking between the two countries by way of journals which sought an Australasian audience: APLIS (Australasian Public Library and Information Services) and the short-lived New Librarian.

Acknowledging traditional ties, the Association has been an active member of the Commonwealth Library Association (COMLA) from its formation in 1971, and New Zealand librarians have been prominent in its administration. An account of the objectives of COMLA was given by John Stringleman (1973), and 15 years later the work of COMLA was reviewed by Stringleman (by then a past president) and the current South Pacific Representative: Stringleman and Wooliscroft (1989).