Knowledge nation

June 23rd, 2016 By Public Programmes

The National Library hosted its third Horizon series panel discussion on Tuesday 7 June, 2016. This session explored the concept of “one big library” as an interface across a multitude of public and school library systems and the benefits we stand to gain as a nation if we can provide better access to publicly held collections and research.

Three outstanding speakers - Shaun Hendy, Professor, University of Auckland, Jane Cowell, Director Engagement & Partnerships, State Library of Queensland and Paula Browning, Chair – WeCreate and Chief Executive – Copyright Licensing New Zealand, discussed the thorny issues of copyright, moral rights, access fees, open data and internet provision and to consider how we might create one knowledge network for New Zealand.

This session was facilitated by Nathan Torkington. Photos by Llewe Jones

Paula Browning, Shaun Hending, Nat Torkington, and Jane Cowell.
L-R: Paula Browning, Shaun Hendy, Nat Torkington, and Jane Cowell.

Parts of the event recording were inaudible, and have been replaced with a best guess in [square brackets].

Read the discussion

Nat Torkington, Shaun Hendy, Jane Cowell, Paula Browning. Introduction by Bill Macnaught.

Bill Macnaught

Kia ora tātou, nau mai haere mai ki Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa. Ko Bill Macnaught ahau, te tumu whakahaere o Te Puna Mātauranga. Tēnā koutou katoa.

Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the National Library of New Zealand for the third in our series of public talks about the future of the National Library of New Zealand. We have got some very good friends and colleagues here to help us with our thinking this evening. I should start by saying that the views of the panellists are not necessarily the views of the National Library of New Zealand, which gives them complete freedom to say what they think, and that’s really what we’re looking for is some challenge, some fresh thinking to help us at a very important point in time for the National Library of New Zealand.

We celebrated our fiftieth birthday last year as an institution, and we have been thinking long and hard about where we’re going into the long term, into the future, over the next fifteen years. What are the things that the National Library of New Zealand will continue to deliver for the people of New Zealand?

We came up with three broad themes. One is about how we celebrate words as taonga. The fact that we hold for posterity, in perpetuity, the words of New Zealand. We also realise that we have a leading role to play in helping to make New Zealand into a nation of readers, tackling the problem of literacy levels. Clearly we don’t do that on our own, we have many partners to work with in that space. The third area that we were very clear about is that we need to create a system shift in the way that we share knowledge in New Zealand, and that’s what tonight’s topic is all about. How we get better, smarter at making knowledge available for reuse by New Zealanders.

Bill Macnaught speaks to the panel.
Bill Macnaught addresses the panel.

We have got some experts on the panel here this evening to help us with our thinking about that. First of all, Nat Torkington, who is an old friend of the National Library of New Zealand. I first met Nat when we were both commissioners on the Library and Information Advisory Commission, and I welcome colleagues who are here this evening from the Library and Information Advisory Commission in the audience. So Nat has happily volunteered to chair this panel this evening, and bring the best out of our three key speakers.

We have with us Jane Cowell, one of my colleagues from State Library of Queensland, who is here to share some of the exciting ideas that are developing over the ditch in bringing the state of Queensland together more effectively as one knowledge state.

We have Paula Browning here, who is Chief Executive of Copyright Licensing Limited and also Chair of WeCreate, and Paula will explain a little bit more about what that involves, but importantly we recognise that if we are to get better at sharing knowledge in New Zealand, some of that knowledge will be freely shared and some of that knowledge will have a price attached to it. We expect to continue to reimburse the creators of knowledge and information, the authors and the publishers who hold rights to some of the content that we want to share more easily. We already do that, but the conversation with Paula and other colleagues in the publishing industry is helping us to think through how we get smarter about licensing arrangements if that’s what it takes to get the knowledge unlocked, for example, for students in schools up and down the country. So we have some interesting discussions to follow in that space.

Last but by no means least is my old friend Shaun Hendy, whom I’ve known since before I took up this role as National Librarian. Shaun and I first met by accident sitting down for lunch together at Te Papa at a research conference. In those days I worked in Taranaki and I was speaking at the conference about the role of public libraries as community research centres. I didn’t realise I was sitting down to lunch next to one of New Zealand’s pre-eminent scientists, but Shaun is an incredibly talented nanophysicist among other things, and also an author. So Shaun and I have discussed on a number of occasions the importance of opening up research information and making it freely available to the widest possible audience in New Zealand, so really looking forward to hearing Shaun’s ideas about that.

Enough from me. As I say it’s a free and frank conversation that I’m looking forward to, and who knows, it may eventually become policy of the National Library of New Zealand and you might hear it here tonight for the first time. Please welcome our panel.


Thank you, Bill. Never were more exciting words spoken, that’s a fantastic opportunity. Some day you’ll be able to say that you were here in the room when this happened.

So I’ve been associated, as Bill says, with the National Library for many years, almost a decade now, and in that time I’ve got to know the world of libraries and librarians very well. It has been a world that has seen itself struggling at times for an identity. This is a fantastic opportunity that we have right now, not to be on the back foot but on the front foot. Not to say what we don’t want to have happen, but to say what we do want to have happen.

We’ve been given licence to create this. We’ve got the will here. What we need is to put the ideas together in a way that connects for the maximum value for New Zealand.

Nat gestures while Jane looks on.
Nat Torkington.

So my background as Bill said is in technology, so I’m completely comfortable with the internet, and rooms full of people perhaps a little less so, so if you’ll bear with me I’ll take this opportunity to zone in on my comfort space – which is the internet – and tell you what I do know about this thing that is changing what it means to be a library; changing what it means to be a citizen; changing what it means to be a knowledge and content creator and/or consumer.

I know that the network that we call the internet is actually a series of smaller networks joined together. There was a party in the late 60s when the two universities who were able finally had their machines talk to one another, that was two networks talking to each other over the internet for the first time. So joining up networks is something that the internet is extremely good at because that is how it was built. And it is something that we should bear in mind as we go ahead on our brainstorming, that it would be foolish to fight what the internet is good at.

I know that the internet has succeeded in connecting people to knowledge, but I should probably caveat that a little more by saying that it’s connected some people to some knowledge. Everybody in the room will I think nod at different ‘somes’ but we can all acknowledge that the success of throwing open the gates of knowledge to the world is a mixed bag. We find ourselves in a different place than when we started, but I don’t think that we’re by any means ‘there’ with what we have right now.

It has been fantastic at removing the tyranny of distance. Before there was the internet to connect you to the far off corners of the world, you felt every kilometre separating New Zealand from the rest of the world, whereas now, Shaun and his colleagues are able to interact with his peers internationally from the finest universities in the world – not just the finest universities in New Zealand or the finest universities in his home town. The folks who are inventing things in New Zealand can invent things with the knowledge from around the world, not just domestically. So we should acknowledge that geography plays a key role here in whatever it is that we are going to do.

The internet has also been really strong, while it breaks down the barriers of geography, content is accessible that helps make my geography make more sense to me. So it can be as simple as a Facebook group for the people who live on my street, or it could be that the collected histories of our town, of our area, of our people, are now available and consumable in a way that they weren’t before.

It has made distribution very easy, made usability a little harder, made getting paid a whole lot harder in some cases. It’s not without its challenges.

This world that we find ourselves in, driven by the internet but not exclusively made of the internet, is one that presents the panellists today with a challenge. That challenge is, can we imagine what a knowledge network is, that is composed of the pieces that we have available to us? Can we put them together in a way that yields value for our country, for ourselves, that wasn’t there before? Economic value, social value, educational value, all of the various types of values...

I’m going to kick off by turning the microphone over to Jane here.

Jane’s the Director of Engagement and Partnerships at the State Library of Queensland. She’s got a project that shows us the way. It’s not the answer, there is no one true answer, but it’s wonderful to have something out there. So Jane, could you tell us about Project Lucy?


So, Project Lucy came about after a twelve month research project into what a digital public library would look like. Similar to what a one knowledge network might look like. What we found is that even in the digital, people want to connect to people, they want to connect to place, and they need to connect to content – and want to connect to content. So how does that look in a digital space? One of the key learnings that we had was that it shouldn’t be delineated by the physical building.

Jane responds to Nat.
Jane Cowell.

So we were looking at a discovery platform that is an aggregator of all library content, so that people could actually go in the one space to find the things that the library had that they didn’t know they could go to a library for. The other key aspect that we learned, and this is back in 2012, was that [over and above resources and knowledge, this had to be centred on the people themselves. It’s about aggregating information from all the places of interest to the individual, whether they be art galleries, universities, public libraries].

We set it free. So the Library Board in Queensland felt this was much bigger than Queensland. We set the idea free and a commercial entity has come to us wanting to build the platform, and is allowing us to contribute and work with them around what this might be, and they’re using it for the future of public libraries in the UK.

For me, it’s about university libraries, public libraries... your opportunity should not be limited based on your age, where you live. You should be able to access research and content from anywhere.


I’m hearing two pieces to that. I’m hearing about joining up of library collections so that small towns which ordinarily have a small collection would have access to a pooled collection – and I can speak from personal experience, as somebody whose small town joined the Auckland ‘borg’ when the super-city was created. The only redeeming feature of that political amalgamation has been the exquisite collections of the Auckland Library. Everything else has been a bit of a wash for the citizens, I’m sad to say, but oh my gosh have we appreciated having access to that collection. This is powerful, please don’t underestimate that.

The other piece of it is that using the library as a space where people who create creative works, knowledge, collections, are able to share them with an audience. There are variables around the commerce that happens there, but the idea is to take the library from having a narrow supply of material that is pushed out – in other words, a few publishers – and turning it into a much wider [pool].


And so we become places that help create.


Shaun, tell us about the value of this kind of joined up knowledge. What is the value of knowledge to the nation?


Well this is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time now. As a scientist it’s almost in my job description to complain about the lack of funding for science, but then if you actually want to mount the case for more investment and more investment opportunities, you have to think about what are the benefits that come from knowledge and science.

I guess I started thinking about how we use knowledge and particularly scientific knowledge, and this is what got me into the area we’re talking about. I guess I would call it the economic geography of knowledge. What is it about a certain place that means that some parts of the world create more knowledge than others? And as a country, New Zealand, we’re quite unique in terms of our geography. We’re a long way from any other major centres, so the places with research centres and creators of knowledge are quite distant from us, and also we’ve got a relatively low population density. That’s quite interesting from the point of view of knowledge exchange.

Shaun talks, gesturing.
Shaun Hendy.

If you look around the room tonight, look at the person next to you, they know something that you need to know. If it’s your partner they probably know where you left the keys this morning, but if it’s someone you don’t know, actually they might have a key piece of knowledge that you need… The problem is that that person doesn’t know what you need to know. It’s only from engagement and sharing and exchange that we get to that.

In New Zealand that’s a challenge because we do have this low population density, so the chances are you’ll never bump into that person. So actually geography plays a big role. And that’s [where I’m interested in this notion of a knowledge network] to share knowledge and learning and discovery.

In the long term this is hugely important for us. Almost all economic growth in the long run comes from the generation and utilisation of knowledge. Healthcare, social, wellbeing comes from knowledge, so it is really important to us as a country that we [do this].

For me as a scientist, the other important thing is trust in science. This is a really interesting area. Because we’re not all experts in everything. It’s very difficult for us to evaluate the truth of particular claims that scientists may make. Even me, I’m a physicist, I have a reasonable understanding of how the atmosphere and the climate works but it’s still very difficult for me to evaluate the evidence around climate change. In some ways I have to have trust in my scientific colleagues that they’re generating trustworthy information about what’s happening in the climate. So then, if you’re a member of the public, you’ve come from some other background, how do you trust what climate scientists are saying? And actually that’s about accessibility and transparency of information – getting all the way to the source.

At the moment, it’s really hard. You go on and you look up an article, it’ll cost you $30 and it’s probably the wrong one. Even if you’re an expert you might have to go through dozens of articles. And then that information isn’t set in context. I remember someone emailed some scientific information from a very respectable journal basically saying that no, it was sun spots that were causing variation to the climate, and because I had access to the university library I was immediately able to go into the journal and see that actually that information was displaced by two other articles – but this piece of information was being passed around without any context.


Yes I see lots of people nodding there. The thought of libraries as not just sources of context but also institutions that broker trust. There is something very different about your encounter with a library than there is your encounter with the open internet. Those two have a very different feel and part of it is because of that large institutional trust that is built up there.

So this is all wonderful talking about the value of consuming knowledge, and consuming the resources that a library provides. Would you be able to talk to us Paula about the sustainability of that and the opportunity that we might be able to take here in New Zealand?


Thanks Nat. First of all I have to give the usual disclaimer that I’m not a lawyer, but I know that when you look at somebody who runs a copyright licensing agency you might think I’m the closet lawyer in the room – actually I’m the closet accountant. Which hopefully lets me talk about the economic side of things.

So CLNZ is the licensing agency for the New Zealand publishing sector. WeCreate is what used to be the Copyright Council of New Zealand. You can probably see why we changed the name. What I like to talk about when I talk about WeCreate is the C-word. The C-word isn’t for copyright. The C-word is choice. Copyright gives you the choice as to whether or not you want to be paid for what you do. If you choose, as a person who creates content, to give it away – knock yourself out, it’s your choice. But if somebody else takes that content away from you and says either “that’s mine” or “I’m going to monetise that” or “I’m going to make it available to the world via something like Mega Upload”, that’s not so cool.

Paula speaks, Shaun looks happy.
Paula Browning.

One of the things I really value in the conversations with Bill, and with libraries always as well, is respect for the author. You know, if you’ve got an author who needs to be paid or who wants to be paid for their work, then that’s what they’ve chosen to do.

One of the things we talk about at WeCreate is we talk about needing to diversify our economy. We can’t live – and I have to make another declaration here, closet vegetarian – we can’t live on dairy and beef all the time. We absolutely need to find other ways of doing what we do and taking that to an international audience. And that’s where the WeCreate side of things comes in. We value the creative economy to a certain extent, the government has done that for quite a number of years, so in the industry we’ve gone out and said “OK, this is what we think we’re worth” and we’re having an ongoing conversation about that.

I think there’s some really creative, innovative knowledge and innovation that we have to share with the world but we need to find a way to do that, that is of value to New Zealand and to New Zealanders. A traditional publishing model is probably part of the answer, but in terms of finding new audiences and engaging with readers and people who need knowledge more, then the library as a tool is a good way to start that discussion.


Brilliant, thank you. We have this really interesting opportunity now where we’ve got a National Library with an expansive vision for what it could be to play its key role as a connector. It’s the only institution of its kind in the country, hence the term National Library, and it’s mandated to work with other institutions. So this is a really interesting opportunity to turn that mandate into something that is positive, not just for knowledge creators, but for knowledge consumers, citizens, everybody. It’s a super exciting time.

I’ve taken a bunch of ideas out of what you’ve said... we’ll use that as a quick summary and then I’ll ask the audience for questions.

We talked about, part of the opportunity here is that we could solve a problem of discovery. It’s not just a problem of supply, which I was talking about with my small town getting access to the library in Auckland, but also discovering what you need at the right moment in time, putting together the people who are creating the family history even if the family history will never have an audience that would justify a publisher being involved. We’ve talked about the patron, the customer, the user, the citizen, whichever is your favourite word for the person that we’re all doing it for – we’re talking about putting that person at the centre. Making a system, a service that meets their needs. Because if we only do something that meets our needs, it won’t get used and we will have wasted our time. I know that from the start-up world.

The role of publishers is a really important one. We’ve talked about offering choice as a key value. So you’ve got choice for the person in this environment, of a joined up knowledge network, what might you do? You should have some choice of do I get to borrow this? Is it digital? Is it a physical thing? Can I buy it, can I rent it (if it makes sense to rent something), can we talk about a choice of physical goods versus digital goods? Choice is an important thing. And just as important is to respect the choice of the folks who are providing that information for us. Could be free, could be Creative Commons, could be fully commercial, whatever the model they’ve chosen is – we should be able to support it.

Nat speaks with enthusiam.
Nat Torkington.

It was interesting to see you [referring to Jane Cowell] touch on how you’re implementing what you’re doing. This is bigger than just us. So you’re doing it as a public/private partnership in a sense. That’s an exciting model. You might not use that phrase, it’s certainly one that has a lot of currency at the moment in our country. Something to throw out there and think about in the back of your mind. It doesn’t have to be solved entirely by us in the room with all of our resources.

We’re talking about joining up libraries as one base level of service. We’re talking about different types of knowledge. We’ve touched upon knowledge, we talked about historic content, we’ve talked about creative content, we’ve talked about cultural content. Not just entertainment, not just dry scientific journals, but there’s an opportunity to put all of those things together to create a solution for all of them. We talked about the value of combining not just content but people, connecting them. What do you know beside me that I don’t that will help me move forward? How do we surface the connection between people, the opportunity to connect, the knowledge gap?

We talked about valuing both online and offline experiences and content. Libraries are institutions that span both. They have been fast to leap on the fact that knowledge isn’t only contained in paper the way it was 100 years ago. You can’t find a library in the country that doesn’t have a digital collection and work with digital information as adroitly as it does with physical information. So it makes sense that we would consider those two together.

We talked about trust. The critical value of trust, and that particularly as we build services that know the patron and the citizen, trust is going to be very important there. We talked about context. You want to provide context, supply context, it’s an opportunity for you to step outside of your context, there’s a word floating around these conversations as well.

I’m going to turn it over to the audience. I want you to think of a question to ask these fantastic people or a suggestion for something that we’ve missed, or a structure or a lens that will help us bring a new direction to this. I’d love to hear – you know that chestnut about a problem is an opportunity in disguise – tell me what well disguised opportunities you foresee here?

Jane, is there a challenge that you’ve found that you would call out for us?


I think the challenge is for us to trust the consumer. We can point to ourselves as trustworthy, but currently – the people I was talking to found that joining the library was the hardest thing they had to do. They had to prove where they lived to such a degree that it was really inconvenient to become a member. So I’m talking about actually believing you...

If I want to get a tattoo, how will I know that for a traditional Māori tattoo I should go to the National Library of New Zealand to get the best image unless I have a digital platform that is about me, that is searching accredited information and also maybe points me to the best tattooist in Wellington (I don’t want to get a tattoo really).

So the opportunity I think we have is to actually trust our customer. We put so much energy into protecting the book, protecting the collection instead of fostering that creativity, that ability in the community. You need to think about convenience. Our customers, even in retail you can see, it’s about convenience. All brands are looking at ‘what’s the pain point’ and that’s the next business, that’s the next service.

I was talking earlier about a young boy, he was thirteen. His two parents were academics. He came up with his first piece of educational technology which he sold at thirteen, became a millionaire, he’s now sixteen and goes to school two days a week and manages his business and speaking engagements over the rest of the week. Now, for me, that opportunity came because he had access to the university collection because of his parents. That’s the opportunity that we’re missing for the person who could be that next entrepreneur at thirteen.


What a fantastic opportunity that is for that child’s schoolmates to feel insecure at the age of sixteen instead of waiting for their twenties and thirties like the rest of us!

Highlights from the question and answer session

Trust and security


I wanted to pick up on this idea of trusting the consumer. I recently did a project talking to a lot of scientists around science communication. One of the most common reasons, in talking to other scientists, about why they don’t put their work out there, why are they not sharing it – they actually don’t trust the public. That really came out very strongly when I talked to scientists around the Canterbury earthquakes, when I talked about putting out aftershock forecasts, was actually they were worried that people wouldn’t understand what they meant and that this might either cause panic, with people leaving the city when they didn’t need to, or cause a run on our insurance industry. It wasn’t quite deliberate, but this keeping information close to your chest because of this lack of trust, we can’t continue that way...

Bill Macnaught amongst the audience.
Bill Macnaught in the audience.


You shouldn’t be limited to the educational opportunities in your geography. That’s what libraries have been doing since they started was, what is the information that you have access to in your day to day life? You don’t need to get that from a library, you need the library to provide you with the information you don’t have in your day to day life. That is the things tied up in journals, tied up in subscription collections that are beyond the ordinary mortal’s acquisition efforts.

Audience question:

Are there security implications in trusting anyone? Are there interesting issues that you’ve come across?


So, I managed a public library service for many years and in all the stocktake I never lost more than 1%. So a commercial business would say if you weren’t losing anything less than 10%, why are you worrying about it? Yes, all the witches stuff went, the karma stuff went… so surely karma will get them. I do think yes, there is a loss rate but I don’t believe it’s at a [significant] level. That’s in the physical collections. I think the digital is much more… can we be hacked by Russians? I don’t know, but our systems, our firewalls in terms of that I think are quite secure and our member databases are quite secure.

One knowledge network

Audience question:

About Digital New Zealand...


So you jump to the Digital New Zealand website and, in my case, you search for your family name or you search for the location that you grew up in and you can find not just that a library somewhere in New Zealand or a museum somewhere in New Zealand has a photograph of that area – or one of your family members appeared in a newspaper – but you can then click through to read it, see it, in many cases download it.

Fiona Fieldsend, DigitalNZ:

It’s not just culture and heritage institutions, it’s a wide range of organisations – so Radio New Zealand, Television New Zealand and so forth.


So it’s worth noting there that that’s a really interesting example of the National Library playing that joining up role at a national level. It is doing things for an organisation that they couldn’t do for themselves which is namely, I wouldn’t go out and search for however many participating organisations one at a time to try and find things that are relevant to me as a researcher but I will definitely go to Digital New Zealand. So their collections are getting more use as a result of the efforts of the National Library.

Sue Sutherland:

It seems to me that the National Library for many years now has had the various pieces that make up, or at least contribute to, the one knowledge network for New Zealand. So we’ve just heard about Digital New Zealand, we’ve had Te Puna and the National Library’s Union Catalogue since the 1980s, and that’s when I first heard about things in the cloud, back in the 80s. We’ve got things like APNK... we’ve got things like Kōtui, which is part of the public libraries of New Zealand joined up in one system. We’ve got various other component parts and I guess what I see here is that the National Library now has a strategy, or at least a vision, to see this one knowledge network and bringing in more modern day views of distribution of knowledge of the nation… How do we at this point in time bring all of the players, the libraries and the others – art galleries and so on – together into this one knowledge network, and then make that one knowledge network not just available through the libraries of this world but through the Google search. So when I go to Google and search for whatever it is I’m searching for, I don’t get Amazon come up with the item that’s there, waiting for me to go and click ‘buy’, it actually comes up with Christchurch City Libraries where I live, and says ‘they’ve got this item’. So it’s those component parts, we have them, we will lose them and we’ll commoditise them and commercialise them at our peril unless we see them as part of the one network. So it’s a comment rather than a question but I’m interested to know if the panellists have any comment on that.


So how I envisage Project Lucy isn’t that it comes up on Google, but that it comes up where I am on Facebook, or where I am on Twitter, or where I am on Tumblr, or where I am on Instagram. So in actual fact my social media presence leads me to Lucy rather than my Google feed. But also if I was going on to the Council website, it would lead me to Lucy. So there’s not necessarily just Google, and the way I join is I join with my Facebook or Snapchat or Spotify or whatever account. As an aggregator, the reason you come up on Google, apart from paying for it, is the amount of times you get clicked on. So as an aggregator of content you [come to the top of the list] because everyone in New Zealand is in it. It’s a bit like, is it the chicken or the egg? But I do think that Project Lucy should be where you are in a digital world rather than you have to search for it.


It’s interesting that you talk about it being broader than libraries. You’re acknowledging the fact that knowledge doesn’t begin and end with a library, doesn’t begin and end with the materials that a library physically delivers. Bringing in the wider GLAM sector and the other places people go when they need to find things...

Audience question:

I like the idea of one network but nowadays, I think a lot of people’s problem is they go and search for things but there’s an ocean of information out there. It’s how to tell which is the good information and which is the bad can take a long time. I personally feel different libraries have different roles to play.


So I heard you talking there about one of the roles the library can play is helping foster the critical thinking and the consumption of information. That it’s one thing to have yet another source of information, but without the trust in the library as an institution supplying you with that knowledge or without the ability to filter, which has always been one of the strengths of the staff at a library, is to help you find what it is that you’ve been looking for and not just keeping the weevils out of the old books.

That’s something that fits nicely with this purpose. The challenge of course is to avoid creating yet another place to go to, and I guess this ties back in with Sue there about people already go to Google, so do you surface something in that experience rather than trying to compete with it.


The assumption there is that Google cares about New Zealand beyond actually paying them for advertising. One of the reasons why I’m really interested in this conversation and like this approach to it is that it’s a New Zealand conversation. It’s about what matters to us here, and it’s about how the National Library can play a trusted role in having that conversation with a group of people – I have to have my ‘I represent authors’ hat on here as well – who don’t necessarily trust libraries either. Nobody mention those three letters that really get authors upset, PLR. But Google is not going to do that for you.

I think if you’ve got a place that you can go, like at the moment we go to the physical library or like the Auckland Library Service which has a really good online presence, it’s that trust and it’s going to be about content that will be useful to you and hopefully a lot of that is going to be about where you come from. It’s about our people and our place. Our authors, our creators and things that matter to us as a country. A really strong presence for New Zealand content that we otherwise wouldn’t be accessing. It’s putting New Zealand first.


A real world example. About three years ago we all of a sudden wanted to know something about botulism in milk powder. No-one know we were going to need to know this, and actually most of the papers out there said you don’t need to know about botulism in milk powder and actually that turned out to be the case. What would have made it a lot easier for scientists to share that information with the public was, via the National Library, to share those papers with you...

So in that kind of context, I think the library as a broker of knowledge rather than being at the front end of engagement.

Audience question:

The question was basically about the cost of providing access to those scientific papers. That if we’re going to do this for everybody in New Zealand to be able to read something that costs $100 a click, how in any way, shape or form is that going to be financially viable?


So, the university library already pays; the National Library already pays; possibly your public library already pays something for that pay wall already. If we had a digital platform it wouldn’t be $30 a hit because it’s already been paid for. And you would know that you don’t have to pay $30 because it’s already been paid for by the taxpayer.


There are two sides to the discussion. Yes, there may be knowledge locked up behind pay walls elsewhere but if we want that opened up, we’re going to have to open up as well [to provide access to New Zealand content].

The panel in front of the audience.
The panel.

The role of libraries, and sharing New Zealand content

Sharing research and resources

Audience question:

I’m just wondering how you would get universities to buy into building one knowledge network when they’re purpose-built to be in competition with one another? I was a frustrated postgraduate student trying to do research in other university libraries, so I’m curious.


Yes, that is a challenge in the university sector. But I think in universities we’re constantly having to justify why we fit in the same way that libraries are... Really I think we need some leadership in the New Zealand context to actually start driving that conversation.


There is a conversation happening in New Zealand education at the moment. A number of schools have decided if copyright is a standard, if you’re an employee your copyright is owned by your employer, so for New Zealand teachers, copyright in any material that they create in their teaching is owned by each individual school, and people here from Network for Learning will understand this particularly well.

But from my point of view, from the publishing side of things, the best thing you can do with this is have a conversation. And it is a discussion that has started. It hasn’t quite reached the universities yet but I’m sure it will, particularly when it comes to the science and innovation space – that’s probably where it’s going to start.

Audience comment:

I just wanted to comment along the same lines really. We know that the National Library has got a mandate to work with other institutions, but it’s working with institutions who have relationships with their communities and stakeholders [and] their mandate is not to be free and open with all of their stuff. So there’s really a need to take the conversation upstairs, as it were, so we do look at a whole of nation arrangement where we all understand that as institutions – and I also work with a university with subscribed resources that can only be accessed by people within those licences. In global terms the New Zealand market is a medium Australian city. So it doesn’t seem to me that economically and philosophically we shouldn’t be able to work something out where we agree that we give up a little in order to get a little.


Thank you for that positive statement. That’s a great way to put it. You need to look at the national value and step above the level of any one institution to realise the value of this network.


Can I also say that university libraries, public libraries, national libraries, we are very good at sharing and we actually are quite good at getting the best impact for our communities. So I think we’re poised to have these conversations, to actually make sure that we’re here for the best outcome for New Zealand or Australia – I mean, that’s why we’re here. We’re not here because we’re the University of Auckland. We’re actually here to make things better for New Zealand. That’s why we have a tertiary education network. So I think with that aim in mind I think we can come to an agreement.


I’m conscious that we are five minutes from the end and I will land this plane. We talk about libraries existing for the larger purpose, and when we talk about libraries we need to think beyond the National Library, the public library, the university library. There are prison libraries, there are school libraries, there are so many different institutions that have collections of some form or another. We’re talking about joining our resources, making it easier to access this previously inaccessible body of knowledge.

A creator and innovator shouldn’t be imagined only as somebody working in a business at age 45 who has suddenly had a brilliant idea for how to do something better. You talked about your example of the university child who is a millionaire already at sixteen. That great value can come from surprising places and can be supported by libraries.

We’ve talked so far about joining things up. We’ve talked about joining up collections, we’ve talked about providing access that joins up people, knowledge and people who need knowledge, we’ve talked about the role that libraries play as throwing open the doors to previously inaccessible knowledge for their communities. We’ve talked about thinking nationally, not institutionally. We’ve thought about the challenge of funding and the opportunity of funding, just as it may be exciting to provide information to people who haven’t had it before, you can provide readers, you can provide buyers to people that haven’t had them before. It’s an opportunity to make this world larger for everyone.

We’ve talked about trust as a very critical aspect of what libraries bring to the equation, and what will need to happen to make this successful. We’ve talked about personalisation of access of relevance. Something that my librarian, when they see me coming, they know exactly what I’m interested in and give me exactly what I need at that time. Personalisation has long been a key attribute and strength of libraries.

We’ve talked about the opportunity of the internet, the challenge of the internet, that digital is how we solve the small geographically-bound institution problem that we’ve had so far. We talked about a lot of technologies, a lot of ideas that have been bubbling along. This doesn’t come out of nowhere. I was really heartened to see it connects to a long conversation that Paula has been having across schools, across creators, across the National Library. It connects to conversations that universities have been having within their borders about how much do we pay and what do we get, and then to the wider public about what we do and how you can access the fruits of what we do. And to a national level of, we put all of this money into universities and we find it very difficult to get businesses to use the work that universities have done. How do we spread that research and development wider? How do we make that advantage come from it?

We aren’t the only place in the world considering stepping beyond our institutional borders to do something fantastic. We can look to the good folks in Queensland. We can look to the model that they’ve provided as one possible stepping stone to go forward. The joined up catalogue, the connections between creators of knowledge and consumers of knowledge who already have a template that we can build upon in that place.

I’ve seen lots of hands going up, I’ve seen lots of excitement from folks, heads nodding and ‘yes that seems like the right thing to do’ and ‘gosh there’s an opportunity there I wish we’d seize on and why don’t we have that right now?’ where somebody in a small town like the one that I live in, where there might be 300 people, could have access to the same knowledge and information and creative and cultural content that is accessible to somebody who happens to have a parent who is a university academic.

That dream is one that leads to an incredibly fruitful, incredibly productive, incredibly enlightened New Zealand where your cultural, your heritage, your literary and your knowledge needs are all being met.

Horizon Series 2016

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