Kāpiti Council faces searching questions
Editorial by Alan Tristram
More and more Kāpiti Coast readers must be asking themselves why missing librarians seem to be causing more problems than missing books these days.
Since the advent of new Library and Arts Manager Leeann Morgan huge changes have been introduced in our four district libraries.
Fair enough…perhaps… but the changes have forced, encouraged or allowed almost a third of the trained staff to leave our library service.
The Independent has now asked Ms Morgan and the KCDC to answer a detailed series of questions about just what’s going on.
(Here, I declare an interest. I was, for many years chair of the Friends of the Kapiti Coast District Libraries and remain a member of the committee. I have also been an avid library user all my life)
Among the staff who’ve left are some highly-trained specialists who can’t easily be replaced — and their substitutes are often not able to do the specialised work.
Ms Morgan has some laudable aims: One is to use librarians in a variety of roles — ‘multi-tasking’ is the catch phrase. All well and good, but what if these specialists are unhappy about
having to leave — or to neglect — their areas of expertise?
And what happens when library users want expert help and are subject to interminable delays while untrained staff search for answers at a busy time?
One expert I spoke to said: “The dumbing down is getting dumber and dumber.”
Computers up; staff down
The libraries are also introducing many more computers, freely available to a clientele of largely younger users. That’s good. But how much reading is going on? And are the other library activities being compromised?
Is this another case of the KCDC management taking its eye off the ball and allowing things to run out of control?
Perhaps it is.
One example of out-of-control changes: I personally know of two staff who have been forced to leave because new rosters mean they just can’t balance their normal family lives and their library jobs. But this was quite possible in the past.
Former manager serious worried
The situation is so serious the former Libraries’ District manger, Leslie Clague,. has written a letter to the media.
Mrs Clague says, obviously with regret, that ‘over the past year she has received numerous phone calls and has had many conversations with past and present staff, users and even library suppliers.’
She says: “All have expressed frustration, concern and/or dismay at the changes.”
Mrs Clague lists three main areas of concern:
- Non-fiction collections are being reduced or decimated .
- Qualified librarians are no longer readily available to answer questions at the information/reference desks.
- There is an over-emphasis on popular, light-weight fiction.
And the former manager also outlines another prime area of concern:
“I have been contacted by Kapiti authors and teachers who used to use the library for study, research and writing, but are no longer prepared to do so.
“The atmospherics is simply not conducive.”
Exodus of librarians
On the loss of so many staff, so quickly, Mrs Clague says: “Several professionally qualified library staff have lost their positions in the restructure, or have chosen to leave because they did not approve of the plans.
“Public libraries are not book stores and therefore require different structures.”
And I must say my own view is that libraries are as much about librarians as books. People matter!