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Editorial ... putting good reports to work.

Commencing with Borrowed time, the 1993 Comedia report from the UK, the last three years have seen a plethora of international, national and local public library surveys and reports. Whatever the, at times, questionable assertions of such reports they must all be welcomed as highlighting fundamental issues and challenges facing the community's most heavily used and popular asset--its public library. Two Australian reports of particular significance have been the 1995 Navigating the economy of knowledge, and now the 1996 2020 Vision which is reviewed at length in this issue of Aplis by its new New Zealand editorial adviser Rosemary Norman. Also in this issue is an extract from State of the nation: Australia's public libraries which complements 2020 Vision. Navigating, 2020 Vision and State of the nation are all the valuable outcome of the work of the Libraries Working Group of the Australian Cultural Ministers' Council. However, similarly valuable have been a number of state focused reports since the early 1990s, leading the way being NSW with several fine reports funded in part by the Library Council of NSW, and often under the rubric of Hans Guldberg and his associates. One such report is the 1996 Student use of public libraries in Campbelltown, a summary of which is in this issue. The latest report A part of life, Lane Cove Library: the social role and economic benefit of a public library reflects well on Lane Cove Council, the Library Council of NSW and Guldberg and his associates--it would be a great report to be read by every city manager and local councillor in Australia and New Zealand. A part of life will be reviewed in the June issue of Aplis but do not wait until then to obtain your(free?) copy from Kathleen Bresnahan, Manager Public Libraries Branch, State Library of NSW, Macquarie St Sydney NSW 2000 fax(02) 9223 9702 or email kbresnahan@ilanet.slnsw.gov.au.

Arriving at the same time as A part of life was, from the other side of our continental nation, Information and beyond: strategic directions 1997-2001 from the Library and Information Service of WA. Another handsome and positive production, its introduction has a salutary quotation from T S Eliot's The rook

Where is the life we have lost in living?

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

More prosaically, it later notes

The public library network has created a system for circulating material

to 229 libraries, serving nearly every locality in Western Australia.

However, the libraries differ widely in the level of service they are able

to provide.

This last is a major issue for public library provision in Australia--the inequities in provision of resources, technology and services, much of which derives from lack of qualified staff at the very time when our library schools are producing excellent graduates with nowhere to go--what a waste of a largely publicly funded asset! There are probably few local authorities who, with information on their deficiencies and the nudge of public comparison and disclosure, could not really afford to employ more qualified staff in their most heavily used service. The Public Libraries Benchmarking database described in this issue has potential to achieve both, as does the imminent ABS survey of public libraries. Information on the inequities of provision can already be found in sources such as the Directory of Australian public libraries (4th ed Auslib Press 1995). Compare, for example, Lane Cove in NSW with 30,250 people and 11.2 qualified staff with Mt Gambier in SA with 28,538 people and only one hard pressed qualified librarian and no library technicians. Even allowing for the reduced requirement for technical services staff in the South Australian system, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that Lane Cove Council views its library as a major community asset and that the Mt Gambier Council, not a poor council, currently lacks such an understanding. The Liswa strategic direction aims to address this issue in WA--get your copy from Liswa, Alexander Library Building Perth Cultural Centre Perth WA 6000 fax (09)427 336.

The challenges for public libraries are truly experienced globally. On the www there has been considerable discussion of a November 1996 US Benton Foundation report Buildings, books and bytes, the methodology for which was designed to ferret out discordance between public and library opinion leaders. Laura Weiss, author of the report, at www.benton.org, observes that the public is lagging behind the profession's vision of the future and that

Libraries have their work cut out. But unlike many other US public

institutions, which are today greeted with considerable public scepticism,

libraries start their campaign from a tremendous base of

popular support. Witness the enthusiastic public reception to new public

libraries in Phoenix, San Francisco and elsewhere. Libraries are being

touted as a vital partner in attempts to revitalise central

city cores. Indeed, libraries are ahead of many professions in moving

toward a communications campaign and repositioning that takes account the

tumultuous effect of the digital age. Many other

institutions ... are just waking up to the fact of the digital revolution,

and that fundamental changes may be required. In this sense, libraries are

ahead of the curve.

Pulling funding decision makers around the curve is the major challenge. Reports such as those described above provide more than enough information horsepower--what is now required is a well funded, systematic, national program of dissemination and persuasion targeted at every city manager, every local councillor and the community of every local authority in Australia. Let us hope that both the Australian Council of Libraries and Information Services and the Australian Library and Information Association will put this at the top of their priorities as they review their relationship during 1997. Nothing else is likely to be able to persuade the good burghers of Mt Gambier and elsewhere that they should, and could, be doing better for their citizens of the information and learning society in the 21st century
COPYRIGHT 1997 Auslib Press Party Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Bundy, Alan
Publication:Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Mar 1, 1997
Words:1001
Previous Article:Books in the Life of a Child: Bridges to Literature and Learning.
Next Article:State of the nation: Australia's public libraries.
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