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Towards the world's most liveable city: the creation of Auckland libraries.

Auckland is in the North Island of New Zealand and is the country's largest and most populous city with 1.5 million residents. A new Auckland Council was created on 1 November 2010 by the amalgamation of seven smaller councils-- Auckland City, Franklin District, Manukau, North Shore, Papakura District, Rodney District and Waitakere, and the Auckland Regional Council. This council is the largest local government authority in Australasia, and its library service, with 55 libraries and 4 mobiles, is the largest in the southern hemisphere. That library service is providing leadership for the new city in its aspiration to become the world's most liveable city within 30 years. This has been facilitated by the strong cooperation by the individual library services long before the amalgamation was proposed and implemented.


In 2002 a group of Auckland region library managers formed a consortium to develop a better library service for the areas they served. Looking back it feels that in a serendipitous, yet thoughtful, way they began the process of moving Auckland into a single city. Their actions also anticipated the creation of the largest public library network in the southern hemisphere.


For the mid part of the 20th century Auckland was composed of a myriad of small towns, boroughs and cities squabbling amongst each other to protect their patches. This structure hindered the growth of the greater Auckland area. An amalgamation in 1989 created a new Auckland region made up of seven smallish cities and districts. However, there were still issues when the different authorities had conflicting interests, different approaches and protective instincts. The 2010 amalgamation into a single city region and Auckland Council heralded a new era.

In 2002 the library managers of the five largest Auckland local bodies, Auckland, Manukau, North Shore, Rodney and Waitakere, decided to implement a common library management system. The eLGAR (Libraries for a Greater Auckland Region) consortium was born. Papakura joined the consortium in early 2009, and Franklin migrated to the shared LMS software in August 2010. The managers did not mention the words regional library service at first--such talk was regarded as subversive, and not reflective of current local government thinking. Nevertheless, the members of eLGAR strategized carefully, garnered appropriate support from their councils and in 2005 installed Innovative Interface's Millennium software under the banner Smarter Systems, Better Libraries, Greater Auckland. Each library system remained a separate entity, and existing local body boundaries were assiduously adhered to. Yet the pattern for working together had been set.

A Royal Commission on Auckland Regional Governance was set up by the NZ government in July 2007. In March 2009 it released a final proposal for a single city. In April it was announced that Auckland would become a single unitary authority by November 2010 and the government set about putting in place the necessary legislation. The Auckland Transition Authority (ATA) was set up to lead the change, boundaries were finalised in March 2010, elections were held in October, and the new Auckland Council sprang into life on 1 November 2010.

The new city

By New Zealand standards the city is very large, with a population of 1.5 million from a national population of 4 million. It stretches 183 km from south to north. Over 70% of Auckland's landmass is rural, and rural areas contain some 7% of the city's population. The political structure of the new council is unique in New Zealand, with an executive mayor and with a two tier cogovernance model. A governing body of 20 councillors, reduced from an aggregated 109 in the previous authorities, oversees regional matters. Previously, 145 community board members looked after local interests; these are now in the hands of 126 local board members in 21 local boards. Each local board has five to nine elected members. A number of Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs), reporting through the council's chief executive, were established to take care of such diverse matters as transport, water, regional facilities, property holdings, investments and major events. Seven public libraries became one network of 55 libraries as part of the Operations Division of the council. The Libraries and Information department (Auckland Libraries) reports to the council's Social and Development Forum, the governing body's Regional Development and Operations Committee and all 21 local boards.

The vision of the entity's inaugural mayor, Len Brown, is 'making Auckland the world's most liveable city'. The library's initial response was One city. Auckland Libraries. All yours. Building a worm class library of the future, today.


The council model is one of cogovernance and its method of operation, some two years into the process, is still being developed and refined. The governing body focuses on the big picture and on region wide strategic decisions. It sets regional strategies, policies and plans. For libraries it is responsible for the regional aspects of the service--the network of the facilities, base service levels, collections and the digital infrastructure, and also for setting the overall library strategy and budget. The local boards represent their local communities and make decisions on local issues, activities and facilities which help build strong communities. Each board is responsible for between one and four libraries. They have some budget that they can allocate to the libraries in their area and boards take a keen interest in the operation of their libraries. Service delivery managers report to the boards on a quarterly basis and own the library's relationship with them. The boards see one of their main library roles as advocacy which means libraries not only have a high public profile in the city but also a very high political profile.

A good foundation

Because of the eLGAR consortium, Auckland Libraries was almost ready to provide integrated, seamless service on day one, 1 November 2010.

The libraries shared a common library management system and many common business roles. Staff had worked together for the last eight years and a strong relationship of collaboration and trust had built up. These individual library groups had, prior to amalgamation, worked to establish an understanding of common values, philosophies and practices.

They had also worked together on a service initiative called 'Best customer experience', in order to deliver a consistently high standard of service everywhere. Of course, theory and reality are not the same and the last two years have seen strenuous efforts made to align past practices and ways of thinking, and to tackle unexpected issues that arose from the amalgamation. Still, the libraries were already on this journey towards being one homogeneous service before day one.

One library, one card

In September 2009, in preparation for the new city, amalgamating libraries set up the MyCard Project, the purpose of which was to design and implement systems and processes that would allow users to borrow from anywhere and return to anywhere across Auckland. The project would serve as a foundation for the about-to-be-created single library service for the city. It would also create access to a unified collection using existing library cards. There would be one set of loan rules and uniform library charges, based on majority practice --for example no fines for those under 18 and no reserve charges. These were endorsed by each outgoing council. MyCard was highly important in that it gave management and staff an aligned focus and set the user firmly at the centre of the library service. It was also designed to demonstrate that from day one Auckland Libraries could deliver a tangible benefit of the amalgamation.

Operational issues

The scale of the new library was daunting for everyone. In addition to the 55 libraries there are 4 mobiles and more than 12 rural or voluntary libraries with which Auckland Libraries has some association. The library staffing is made up of some 850 full time equivalent (FTE) positions comprising 1300 permanent staff. Additionally, there are 200 casuals and 200 volunteers. Auckland Libraries is a department within the council's Operations Division. The manager Libraries and Information has a lead team of eight managers responsible for Regional Resources (collections), Business Planning and Support, Heritage and Research, Service Development, and Digital Services. Service delivery is divided into three similarly sized areas, south, central and north and west. A number of internal teams have been set up to establish a sense of cohesion across the staff and management. These groups include Auckland Libraries Managers (Alms) with 30 members and Auckland Libraries Leadership Forum (Allf) with about 120 members. The libraries share council services for HR, finance, IT, and communications and public relations. It also retains some specialist inhouse marketing expertise.

Budget and programs

Auckland Libraries has an operating budget of $77m and a capital budget of about $28m. There are 3.5 million items in the collections. The operational figures are no less impressive: each day, 7 days a week, there are 46,500 items issued; 35,000 visitors; 11,000 website visits; and over 6000 requests filled. An estimated 400,000 participants took part in programs and events in the first year. The libraries have over half a million active members, and an ambition is to have every one of the city's 400,000 children and young people with a library card (see article Dare to explore, pp 190-198 in this issue of Aplis, editor)

The first year

The public face of day one, which actually went on for several weeks, was a carefully orchestrated exercise. All departments of the new council were charged to provide a seamless transition from the old system to the new. Existing service levels were to be maintained without compromise to service quality. Was this achieved? In many ways the answer is yes. The libraries knew that there were very high expectations of the combined services. For years some of the local authorities had charged an annual nonresident fee for people wishing to use their library services. This was a particular frustration for those wishing to use Auckland City Libraries' extensive collections. Now all this became unnecessary with borrow anywhere return anywhere in place. There was the immediate delivery of a unified service and an equally immediate uptake by Aucklanders. From day one books began to move from one end of the region to the other causing a logistical pressure that was far beyond the estimated levels. No one had foreseen the enthusiasm that residents would show for their expanded library service.

During the first six months of the new service visitor numbers increased by 14%, issues were up 4%, there was a 62% increase in requests filled and 2.6 million items were moved between libraries.

Collection utilisation

Prior to amalgamation most libraries had successfully floated their collections within their own borders. Unfortunately different book security systems were used in the amalgamating libraries, thus preventing immediate city wide floating.

Free access to the region's collections immediately created an unprecedented, unanticipated and unsustainable increase in the volume of material being moved around the region. Volumes moved across the region averaged 370,000 per month--on any one day, the size of a medium library's collection is on the road. The response was the regional logistics project. The volume of items passing through each library and being handled by already busy staff in inadequate spaces that were not designed for this volume of material very quickly became a health and safety issue. It was soon apparent that a completely new approach to materials handling was needed. After an intense piece of work and the consideration of a number of options, the library saw that it needed a central/regional logistics model with local distribution and centralised support. The logistics operation was outsourced to a local courier firm. It has quickly become a business partner integral to the service. The resulting reduction in book handling by library staff has significantly decreased the health and safety issues. Further developments such as the introduction of system-wide radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging for book security by the end of 2012 and emphasis on realising the benefits of RFID will help focus effort away from transactional activities to improve the user experience.

While the library worked on this solution residents continued to push borrowing rates to new highs. A number of library users set out to visit all 55 sites--a challenge because two of the libraries are on islands in the Hauraki Gulf, and two people began separately to provide blog commentary on their library experiences as they moved from library to library see; libraries/

The New Zealand herald 14 May 2011 m?c_id=6&objectid=10725447 called the library service 'the best thing to come out of Auckland's super city'. Staff trying to cope with the increased workloads were helped by being able to bask in public praise and take real pride in their achievement.

Day one saw the end of what had been called transition, but more correctly was preparation. Real transition began on the 1 November 2010 as the new council and the library looked ahead to what was waiting. The public were obviously on board from the beginning but the libraries still had a way to go--building a new organisation and culture, vision and strategic direction, establishing new political and other stakeholder relationships, redesigning processes, creating one website, and getting logistics into perspective.


Even small things were difficult--an email distribution group for all library staff did not appear for almost a year. Internal communications emerged as a major issue. A staff engagement survey in early 2011 showed that only 60% of library staff felt informed about the organisation and only 64% felt a sense of belonging to it. The library response was to establish an internal communications framework which took the approach 'communication starts with me' and that conversations matter. Staff research reinforced the obvious--different people require different communication methods for different purposes, therefore multiple communication channels were required to deliver the message. Over the last year staff engagement scores have risen as a result of the effort used in creating and applying the framework.

The first year of operation was challenging and at times confusing but always exhilarating--so much to do, so much to learn. Most library staff simply moved into the new council with the same job at the same location. On the 31 October 2010 staff knew everyone and everything about their library service and their council. The next day, with the many changes going on around them, they felt they knew no one and nothing.

Business as usual with a new face

How different were things? At first, not very much --there was still a library service to run, users to serve, books to buy, elected representatives requiring reports. But as the months rolled by the sheer scale of the new library and the new council began to demand attention. Displaying a council agenda in each library now required 55 copies, something the centralised printing office struggled to accept. Distribution of flyers, posters and official public documents took on a whole new dimension. Arranging meetings of groups of staff involved fleets of cars and hours of travel time. Business as usual purchasing took on the proportions of a major project. Seemingly simple tasks such as purchasing and installing printers at service points became significantly difficult.


The libraries continued to promote the love of reading, provide access to information, provide meeting spaces and remain at the heart of their communities. However, a structure of plans and processes was required to ensure the evolution of the council and its departments. The council set about drawing up a raft of documents to set an overall framework for development of the new region. These included the first Auckland plan which is an interagency spatial plan looking forward for 30 years, council's 10 year long term plan, the annual plan, the city centre plan, asset management plans, a unitary plan and local board plans for each of the 21 boards. Many of these documents focus on the big picture, seeking to fix those parts of the city that need upgrading--such as the public transport system. Within this planning context Auckland Libraries began to look at its own requirements with a department specific annual business plan, an asset management plan, a roadmap of project priorities, and planning around gaps and needs, service delivery and overall strategic priorities and directions.

Children and young people

From the beginning, a very strong emphasis was placed on service to children and young people. The first business plan included several objectives written around this service. These ideals have evolved in the second and current business plan to the overarching goal of '200,000 children and young people are active library members by 30 June 2013.' This represents library membership for half the child and youth population of Auckland (400,000) and is a stretch target as the current library membership total for this group is 120,000.

Staff development

Very early in Auckland Libraries' evolution a strong commitment was made to training and development. Not only did this create a direction for bringing staff together and working to the same rules and with the same processes, it also meant an emphasis was placed on ensuring staff were continually being prepared for the constant change that is required of libraries in the 21st century. The scale of Auckland Libraries means there is much expertise to be shared internally, and learning together as staff trial and deliver programs has quickly demonstrated the benefits of a joined up library service with a big pool of talent.

In the midst of all this planning it became apparent that the foundation of the new council, built on data transferred from legacy councils, had weak spots. One of these was the interpretation of budget figures. No two legacy councils did things the same way so that when the library budget was compiled there were gaps. At the same time there has been a not unreasonable expectation by the new council and ratepayers, that there would be economies of scale. A challenge for Auckland Libraries, with its multiple service points, area served and large growth in transactions, has been that sometimes bigger is actually more expensive.

Remuneration, professional registration and internal culture

Staff were generally enthusiastic about the new organisation and came into it with a mixture of nervousness and excitement, and a determination to ensure the new library service worked well. This was helped by the fact that almost all library staff transferred across to the new council, retaining their existing positions and not having to reapply for them.

Because job titles and job descriptions varied from legacy council to legacy council a significant number of salary and working condition discrepancies soon became apparent. Early on, the council embarked on a job evaluation process to address these discrepancies, and to establish a common job banding and remuneration framework. During the job evaluation process, Library and Information Association of NZ Aotearoa(Lianza)professional registration www. was recognised as a factor in the grading of library professional roles. This moved them from a user to a technical category, thereby recognising that qualified librarians are professionals alongside similarly registered professionals.

At the same time, the decision to make Lianza professional registration a prerequisite for specialist professional roles has seen a sharpening of focus on qualification and registration. The fact that Auckland Libraries is the only public library employer over such a wide geographic area also has an effect on the market, and places a particular responsibility on it to offer career development opportunities to its employees. Both the registration and remuneration initiatives will eventually have an effect on library salaries in the rest of the country and on enhancing the importance of Lianza registration inside and outside the profession.

While there are, and will continue to be, parts of the amalgamation that are challenging, the benefits and opportunities are enormous. Auckland Libraries now has a scale which should be of great value in the provision of innovative library service to the residents of the city. It is fast building a cohesive internal culture and has already established a strong working relationship with the local boards and governing body. Systems must be brought together for consistency and streamlined, and a service baseline with allowance for local variations must be established. Also, Auckland Libraries' relationship with the other New Zealand libraries is being gradually redefined and developed.

Changes in collection management

At the same time as Aucklanders are changing their borrowing habits, they are increasingly going online to check the catalogue, reserve books, download digital content and use other library web resources. There is clear evidence that the popularity of digital content will continue to grow and that this growth will be exponential. Digital use jumped significantly after last Christmas and is expected to do the same again this year as more digital devices are received as gifts. This means that a number of changes to the library service offer and associated processes must be devised and implemented quickly.

Upon amalgamation the collection teams of Auckland Libraries were in a number of locations and were operating with the different policies and processes of their previous library systems. This resulted in inconsistent user experience. The differing cataloguing and processing practices were particularly evident in the floating collections. Auckland Libraries, although a single entity, was not receiving the benefits of economies of scale, and was certainly difficult for suppliers to work with. There were inefficiencies and duplication, and libraries could not respond to the changing needs of users in a timely way. As long as the collections area remained fragmented the risk to the cohesiveness of Auckland Libraries was significant.

The collections revolution program, was devised to increase the use of collections, increase user satisfaction and to sustain value for the ratepayer. A program of work was planned and resourced. Fifteen projects address the service delivery model, policies, management processes, and organisation structure. To date there are 8 live projects with the rest to commence over the next 12 months. The end of 2013 will see better informed collections development, one unified regional resources (collections unit) entity and a consistent approach to labelling, classification and cataloguing.

Auckland Libraries has meanwhile realigned its interlibrary loan processes from seven into one. This confirms its commitment to work within the national interlibrary loan scheme, while at the same time endeavouring not to be swamped by requests as one of the largest suppliers in the country.

Alignment of security technology

Another issue that had a significant effect on staff workload was the disparity in technology. Library staff and users were required to adjust to working with mixed technologies, as the legacy libraries were operating two different stock identification and security systems. Self check loan rates fell significantly as items on the older electromagnetic security system could not be checked out on the RFID self check machines and vice versa. Pre November 2010 self service check out transactions averaged 75%. After the amalgamation, these levels dropped to 50%, resulting in a doubling of staff assisted transactions on the front desk.

In early 2012 project Tahi was set up to address these issues by completing RFID tagging of the remaining stock--1.8 million items (out of the total 3.5 million in the library system) in 26 libraries and to install RFID hardware (staff workstations, security gates, self check machines) in 33 libraries. In late September 2012, the contract for ensuring a consistent RFID approach was awarded to 3M. Auckland Libraries can look forward to self service levels rising past their original levels and the removal of barriers to region wide floating. Other anticipated benefits are a reduction in the number of items moving around the city and less book handling for staff. Planning is underway to ensure that staff time saved can be measured and applied to user service.

Transition to transformation

As the library service was sorting itself out internally so the council began to create a cohesive organisation set around six values--pride, accountability, respect, service, teamwork and innovation. This values framework places a strong emphasis on inspirational leadership in working with customers and communities and also with staff. These values are echoed in the libraries, along with goodwill, collegiality and a sustained focus on being one library.

Libraries across Auckland had for a number of years been working on a best experience program which looked at the totality of the library experience through user eyes. This ranged from the location of the library, to the quality of the stock, to user service.

During 2011 Auckland Council began to develop a program Every Interaction Counts based around the three guidelines of Understand the customer, Act in the customer's interest, Deliver outstanding service. The program was initiated in the Operations Division of the council and has an intuitive quality to which public facing staff quickly relate. Elements of the program are already reaching council wide. Initially it was a service initiative, but more recently is evolving into a way of working so that everyone in the organisation practises understanding and working well with their colleagues. This is not necessarily straightforward for some council departments but the program does have the potential to enhance greatly the culture of Auckland Council.

Every Interaction Counts is part of the council's transformation program which began on 1 November 2011, giving staff permission to leave behind transition and their old ways of working and to move onto making Auckland Council a world class organisation. Transformation is based on three main areas of focus--customer experience, operational excellence, and the creation of high performance teams. Each area of focus is lead by a member of the council's executive lead team The work needed to achieve the shifts and changes is cascaded down through the organisation into projects and is reflected in divisional, departmental, team and individual goals.

Allied to transformation are a number of major council plans the most significant of which is the strategic 30 year Auckland Plan http://www. This very readable document is not just a council program of work but is a plan for Auckland encompassing the contributions of multiple stakeholders. It states a vision for the city and the transformative shifts needed to make Auckland the world's most liveable city. The plans and strategies that flow from the Auckland plan will profoundly influence the shape of the library service in the new city. Auckland Libraries is responding with its own plan, expressed in library actions. Future directions 2013-2023 is in draft form and will be available on the library website once it is approved by the council. This is expected to be in early 2013 --see

Future directions

Future directions 2013-2023 will be Auckland Libraries' 10 year plan. The document mirrors and responds to many of the actions outlined in the Auckland plan. It reflects the plan's emphasis on children and young people through the goal that every child and young person in Auckland will have a library card. Other priorities in the Auckland plan include a major place based initiative titled the Southern Initiative (lifting economic prosperity, education level and community cohesion in the most significantly deprived suburbs in Auckland's southern area) Emphasis is also being placed on the specific needs of Maori, older people, Pacific peoples, and the city's very diverse migrant communities. In response to the council's initiative to create a stunning city centre www.aucklandcouncil.govt. nz/en/planspoliciesprojects/plansstrategies/ccmp, Auckland Libraries is investigating a 24 x 7 nontraditional library space in the central city. The proposed focuses of Future directions emphasise a mixture of long term thinking and short term activity.

1 Digital library--your library available anywhere anytime

2 Children and young people--every child a reader, every child a library member

3 Library spaces--engaging spaces at the heart of the community

4 Customer connection--programs and services that inspire learning and participation

5 Heritage and culture--Auckland's unique stories shared and celebrated

6 Collections that meet customers' needs.

The story continues

Auckland Libraries has made significant changes over the last two years and is increasingly growing in its sense of unity--but it will take several more years to become a fully functioning whole. A number of new or replacement libraries are being built or are in the planning stage. However, all of them were projects planned before amalgamation. Currently work is being undertaken on a libraries facilities plan which will give direction for new developments, refurbishments, filling identified gaps and even the possibility of amalgamating existing sites. The plan will inform each local board on the status of library provision within its own area, and the governing body on the pattern of networked libraries across the city.

In the opinion of the public, the media, and of many politicians, Auckland Libraries has delivered the most tangible benefit of the new council. It has a very high profile. This is highlighted by the fact that there are far more library stories in the media.

The challenge now is to continue to seize the opportunity of the amalgamation to develop library services which remain relevant in the twenty first century, which will help make Auckland the 'world's most liveable city', and which will deliver best possible value to citizens of all ages and circumstances. Auckland Libraries is, surely, off to a flying start on this exciting journey.

Acknowledgement This article was written with the help of the following lead team of Auckland Libraries
Allison Dobbie    Manager Libraries and Information
GeoffChamberlain  Manager Central Libraries
Sue Cooper        Manager Heritage and Research
Mirla Edmundson   Manager North and West Libraries
Corin Haines      Manager Digital Services
Louise LaHatte    Manager Regional Resources
Greg Morgan       Manager Service Development
Kim Taunga        Manager South Libraries
Jane Taylor       Manager Business Planning and

Geoff Chamberlain Manager Central Libraries, Auckland Libraries, New Zealand

Received October 2012

Geoff Chamberlain BA Dip Lib Grad Dip Business&Admin is manager Central Libraries, Auckland Libraries, responsible for service delivery for 17 of the 55 Auckland libraries. He has wide experience in public libraries and as Takapuna library manager oversaw the amalgamation of six council libraries to form North Shore Libraries in 1989. North Shore Libraries was the first library system in NZ to open all libraries all day on Sundays. He established the North Shore Libraries Foundation, a fundraising trust for the libraries in 1992. North Shore Libraries were early adopters of self check loans and floating collections. Geoff was president of the NZ Library Association in 1989, and was awarded a Lianza fellowship in 1996. Address: Auckland City Libraries PO Box 4138 Shortland Street Auckland 1140 New Zealand email geoff.chamberlain@
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Author:Chamberlain, Geoff
Publication:Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Dec 1, 2012
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