Editorial ... putting good reports to work.
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
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
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|Publication:||Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services|
|Date:||Mar 1, 1997|
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