Discovering new pathways to information: How I discovered library size and location increasingly matter lessJune 6th, 2018
The Helen Zwartz Scholarship, in memory of librarian Helen Zwartz, is offered each year to a librarian serving a smaller community in New Zealand. It enables that librarian to undertake professional development via an internship at the National Library of New Zealand.
Working as a librarian at Te Anau public library, I met the criteria and saw this as an opportunity too good to miss.
Librarian’s experience to benefit community — Southland Express newspaper article
Soaking up scholarship experience — Advocate South newspaper article
Te Anau library
Te Anau is a town of approximately 2500, located in Southland and bordering the mighty Fiordand National Park, The library is one of seven small community libraries and a mobile library service, comprising the Southland District Library service. The closest city to Te Anau is Invercargill - a two-hour drive away.
Working in this setting, my colleague and I have become accustomed to requests for a wide variety of information at the library, but have sometimes struggled to meet everyone's needs.
Common requests here in Te Anau include:
- books and material documenting the area's history
- genealogy records, and
- guidance regarding the recording and preservation of personal histories.
Like most small public libraries, our collection is limited, and we do not have access to subject specialists. However, we have always endeavored to ensure that our library users are not disadvantaged by their location.
My goals for the internship
Embarking on the internship, my goal was to acquire knowledge and skills that would enable me to better identify and access relevant information from our base in a remote location. I was particularly eager to develop my knowledge of the scope of the National Library collection and online National Library services.
The internship programme organized for me included numerous meetings with library specialists across multiple departments, work-shadowing and opportunities to learn how to make use of online resources. I was able to ask questions to better understand the vision for the future of National Library services, and identify opportunities to access information via the National Library website.
My experience of the National Library website before the internship
Prior to this internship, I had utilized the National Library website infrequently and with varied success. I had never explored the full content of some of the services offered nor attempted to retrieve many digital resources.
The National Library felt both physically and mentally remote from my day-to day work as a librarian in Te Anau, and consequently many of my searches did not include the National Library at all!
Understanding of the National Library website after the internship
Whilst completing the internship I was particularly struck by the enormous variety and volume of the online collection. I discovered many valuable materials that would enable me in my small public library, to meet previously difficult to meet information requests.
I wonder whether other public librarians are aware of the full extent of the collection accessible online?
My favourite collections and online services from the National Library
Some of my favourite collections and services are listed below.
Papers Past — digitised New Zealand newspapers, magazines and journals, letters and diaries, and Parliamentary Papers.
Digital NZ — this site includes 'Make it Digital' (an invaluable set of guidelines for those embarking on their own digitisation project.
Digital images — information to help preserve and organize digital image files
Index New Zealand — abstracts of articles from a huge range of New Zealand periodicals and information about how to get them.
A - Z Collections — a list of collections that you can search.
Services to Schools — content to support school libraries and supplement classroom resources.
Music Hire Service — get performance material or list your own collection.
Ask a Librarian — I also discovered an invaluable service offered by the National Library on their website called ‘Ask a Librarian'.
By selecting this service, library users are able to seek specialist support and advice regarding their research needs. Items are regularly scanned and emailed to remote library users at minimal cost.
I would urge all public librarians to explore and bookmark these services. Keep them in mind when you are asked for resources beyond the scope of your library collection.
You can access National Library collections and specialist staff support wherever you are
When meeting with the various staff who respond to these online research enquiries, it was clear to me that they all shared a genuine desire for the collections they manage to be utilized throughout the country. I was inspired by their determination to meet the needs of the requestor and support the development of research skills nationwide
You clearly no longer need to live in, or travel to Wellington to access many of the library collections or specialist staff support.