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Book & Print in New Zealand : A Guide to Print Culture in Aotearoa

Librarianship

Librarianship

Joan Stevens's 1968 article about Frederick Knox, the first Wellington librarian, describes well what a community regarded as suitable qualifications for operating a public library. Over 40 years later, those responsible for making an appointment to the position of first Librarian of the Auckland Public Library were a good deal less demanding (see article on Edward Shillington, DNZB, vol.2, 1870-1900). The consideration that was uppermost in the minds of the appointing board in Auckland was the need to show encouragement to a married man; an acquaintance with books was a less pressing need. As late as the 1930s, it was not uncommon to see the appointment of persons without library qualifications to positions of some seniority in larger libraries.

Prior to World War II, the person who wished to gain qualifications for library work typically would enrol for courses run by the Library Association, London. Rank and file staff in libraries were required to have little more than an upper primary school pass. The raising of the qualification levels of workers in libraries is a story of activity in the late 1930s and 1940s by the re-energised NZLA, directly, and in partnership with the Carnegie Corporation of New York (which tied its development grants to a requirement for staff training) and the newly-established Country Library Service. See Maxine Rochester (1990) on 'the revolution in New Zealand librarianship'. The development of a training regime for New Zealand is a story initially of in-service correspondence courses, then the establishment of graduate studies (1946), the replacement of the correspondence courses by a 'sandwich course', and the eventual transfer of graduate studies (the Diploma of the New Zealand Library School) to Victoria University of Wellington, and the transfer of non-graduate studies (the NZLA Certificate) to the Wellington College of Education. The story is told in Ronnie (1996).

Ronnie (1980) describes the work of the New Zealand Library School, from its foundation in 1946 to its close in 1979. Information about graduates of the School was published regularly in New Zealand Libraries each year, but there is a convenient source of listings of students in Dienes (1995), which covers the entire period of the School's existence, 1946-79. It is a list of students, arranged by class year, noting the bibliography that each student produced. The list is prefaced by statistical information about class numbers, academic qualifications and gender balance, and has a subject index to the bibliographies. Complementary to Dienes is the work by Rimmer and Siddells (1972), a listing of Library School bibliographies, 1946-72. The period covered is shorter than that covered by Dienes but entries are annotated.

The transfer of the graduate education of librarians to Victoria University of Wellington in 1980, bringing with it the full recognition of library education as a tertiary qualification, was the outcome of protracted lobbying pressure by the Association. It was a campaign complicated by the issue of what to do with the training course for non-graduates. A key document was the report of a working group appointed by Minister of Education Kinsella in 1969 to advise him on the future of education for librarians. The report of the group is a useful reference, more for its history and summary of the contemporary situation than for its conclusions and recommendations (which were not implemented): Working Party on Education for Librarianship (1969).

With the two arms of library training secure in their respective institutions, a period of quiet progress might have been expected. However, changes in social conditions and in the library environment forced further review. One of the issues, distance education, is the subject of a paper by Richardson (1990). Another issue, research and advanced studies, is treated by Roderick Cave (1984b, 1991). The interested parties twice invited experts from overseas, English and American in turn, to survey the situation and to make recommendations: Saunders (1987), Barron (1994). For a broader account of education for librarianship in New Zealand at a critical stage of its development, see Gerald Bramley's World Trends in Library Education (1975).

An interesting episode in the development of library education was the campaign to establish a training course for teacher-librarians, as part of a wider campaign to strengthen library services in schools. A course began at Wellington Teachers College in 1986 with 20 students, but ran for two years only. The story is well told in Ronnie (1996), but additional light is thrown on the issue in two papers published by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research: Lealand (1988, 1989). The director of the 1986 course described the event: Gawith (1986). A background article on the subject, with bibliography, published 20 years earlier, retains some interest: Burns (1963).

An allied question is that of professional qualifications. Discussion of this issue within the profession was coloured by the existence of the two levels of training, graduate and non-graduate. Less than ten years after the commencement of the graduate school in 1946, the Association put in place a system of professional registration, which conferred on suitable persons the qualification Associate of the New Zealand Library Association (ANZLA). This is essentially the system which operates at present. An early paper by John Barr (1948a) sets out some of the difficulties in achieving what he called 'certification'.

Five years after Barr the subject was thoroughly treated by a number of prominent librarians at a symposium, reported in New Zealand Libraries, October 1952. In 1954 the annual conference of the Association adopted a registration proposal; explanatory remarks made on that occasion were reported in the journal: McEldowney (1954). These two references between them provide a fair description of the background and principles of the system. The rules and procedures of the registration system have been modified substantially since 1955, generally to strengthen the requirements.

The NZLA/NZLIA, contrary to some views of it and occasionally the wishes of some members, has never been an industrial organisation nor, in the current parlance, has it acted as a negotiating agent, but it has taken an interest in the working conditions of librarians, in particular the levels of remuneration. From 1960 it maintained a standard salary scale, within which there were recommended levels and scales of salary for various grades of library qualification and for various grades of management responsibility in libraries. In a sense the standard salary scale was a management manual rather than a piece of industrial advocacy. It brought together and recorded the best practice in the library sector and related sectors, so that employing authorities and library managers might be assured that they were offering competitive conditions, an important consideration in what was a period of high employment. A summary account of the scale and its history is given in McKeon (1973). Prior to 1960 there had been efforts on three occasions to strike standard levels of remuneration in public libraries; the background to the production of the first comprehensive standard scale is given in New Zealand Libraries (22, Sept. 1959, pp.152-63). The issue of what stance the Association should take in industrial matters, and what degree of militancy librarians should exhibit is canvassed in a series of thoughtful articles in New Zealand Libraries: Roth, Brooks, Traue, Gittos (1974).

In the decades after World War II workforce planning was understandably a preoccupation of a sector confronted by steady business growth on the one hand and a relatively small labour intake on the other. How was the profession to estimate the numbers needed to avoid shortages or surpluses of various
Black and white photograph

The Country Library Service bookvans which operated from 1938 to 1988 are remembered fondly by people who lived in more remote parts of the country, and they also offered an unusual and satisfying lifestyle for the librarians who provided the service. When the National Library phased out the bookvan service a personalised 'books by mail' service was introduced, but this was soon discontinued and local and regional authorities assumed greater responsibility for the information needs of their residents. This National Publicity Studios photograph (c.1950) shows librarian Evelyn Franklin delivering books at Ngāhinapōuri, in the Waikato back-country. (National Archives: National Publicity Studios Photographic Collection [Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ, reference number F-33976-1/2- (A2197)])

types of worker? A series of survey articles was published in New Zealand Libraries between 1968 and 1987, showing the employment patterns of librarians, related to a variety of factors: age, country of birth, date of training, type of qualification, gender, marital status, and type of employing library. Extrapolated from this information there were statistics about gains and losses of people from the workforce, and growth trends in subsectors of the library community. See O'Neill and Traue (1968), Traue (1972), McEldowney (1982, 1987).

In the year prior to the publishing of the first of these articles, the Professional Division of the Association carried out a general survey of library work. The purpose of the study was to ascertain how the work of libraries was being discharged, in particular its allocation between clerks, library assistants and the two types of qualified staff. The knowledge derived from the study was expected to help in subsequent planning of training, negotiating of salaries, and achieving of efficiency in library operations: O'Neill (1967b).

Another survey was carried out a year later directed specifically at women and their position within the profession. The report on the survey was published, and its findings were the subject of a seminar within the 1968 Conference of the Association. The issue of New Zealand Libraries for February 1969 carries the report of the seminar, a collation of the comments made by the women who were surveyed, a commentary by a library employer, and a report of the discussion which occurred at the seminar and the resolutions which arose from it: NZLA, Professional Section (1969).

The paradox of the 'five-sixths minority' was put before the profession, with a plea for correction of the anomaly, in a statement made by 12 women librarians in New Zealand Libraries in 1975. The signatories observed that women outnumbered men 5:1 in the library sector, but senior posts in libraries were distributed in the inverse proportion: Thwaites (1975). In that International Women's Year, the journal carried further comment about deficiencies in the profession's treatment of its majority members, for example in an article which identified sexist language in the student notes for the Association's Certificate Course examination. Ten years later the same career patterns were revealed in a survey undertaken by Jan Bierman (1985).

The most recent treatment of the subject was a paper by Glenda Northey (1995). The author argued that the Association had throughout its history obstructed the advancement of women in the profession. The force of the arguments was weakened by their dependence on records of the Association and on simple quotations from past commentators, without regard to the circumstances in which statements were made or the value that certain concepts and expressions possessed at the time that they were made.