What's Next For Keeping Public Libraries Free?

image of Laurinda ThomasIf the phrase, "the rage of a thousand librarians" doesn't mean anything to you, you may not have been watching the Local Government (Public Libraries) Amendment being read in parliament.

The Bill, which aimed to guarantee that core public library services would be kept free, was narrowly defeated after some energetic debate in the house. See the transcript here Local Government (Public Libraries) Amendment Bill - First Reading 

So what happens next? It's tempting to think that's the end of it - that the door has been closed on it forever, that the attempts to advocate for change have failed. However I believe that's far from the truth.

Librarians mobilised in numbers. People tweeted, visited MPs, posted messages on Facebook. Articles popped up in the press about the bill. On the night the bill was read, there were a flurry of tweets which demonstrated the passion with which people supported the cause of keeping public libraries free. Online debating broke out between tweeters and MPs.

But to me what stood out more than anything else was that we, as a profession, mobilised. We advocated on our own behalf. We raised awareness of the fact that free public library services, and in fact libraries themselves, are not protected in New Zealand. 

One of the things we wanted to encourage during the Keep Public Libraries Free campaign was to find ways, big and small, that people could be involved, and to demonstrate that you don't have to be an advocacy expert to contribute. The fact that so many people did is a testament to how much we care, both personally and professionally, about our libraries.  

And this, most certainly, is not the end.

There is a season to everything. Ideas shift. Governments change. We now have a precedent to build upon, a full understanding of what arguments may be used against us, and a larger number of people who know what the issue is and why we want to fight for it. We have support from Community Groups. From Friends of the Library groups. From the public.

There are certainly lessons to be learned, as there are in any campaign. Would we do some things differently next time?  Of course.  Would we do it all again?  Most definitely.




Great post Laurinda and excellent idea Barbara worth doing


That is a fabulous idea Barbara and a great way to target our action.


Definitely! I think libraries are an election issue that we don't talk about enough. Given how many people use libraries, voters should know where their MPs stand on them - just like they do on issues like health and education. 


that sounds like an awesome idea Barbara!


Have we identified what libraries would be at risk depending on which electorate they are in?  In the lead up to the next election what if we were able to tell library users "your MP supports/does not support your free public library as shown by the vote after the first reading of this bill.  You can decide whether this person is worth your vote!" 

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