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

Surveys and planning

Surveys and planning

The practice of modern government, in the frequent mounting of commissions of inquiry, working parties and reviews has obscured for us the fact that major enquiries 50 years ago were major events in the library world. They seemed to be necessary way stations on the road of development, and they stand prominently in the record of development.

The foundation stone of the modern library structure in New Zealand is considered to be the Carnegie-funded survey by Ralph Munn (from Pittsburgh, United States) and John Barr (City Librarian, Auckland): their findings and recommendations are set out in the document known generally as the Munn-Barr Report (1934). The document has been a reference point for subsequent studies and proposals on a number of issues: a national library, regional library service, resource sharing, library legislation, promotion of service in rural areas, library service in schools, professional training and remuneration.

It introduced or reiterated support for ideas of free library service (quite radical at the time), state subsidies to local library authorities, raising of the library rate, and lifting qualification standards for library workers.

Whether the Munn-Barr Report was as effective as it is supposed to have been is of academic interest only, because the survey was not the last word. The need for review and commentary by an outsider was to arise again in 1950 and in 1960. In 1950 Miriam Tompkins, from Columbia University, was commissioned to conduct a national survey of public library service. The outcome of her enquiry pointed a course towards regional library service, as an alternative to the existing service based on individual local authorities. The setting for the Tompkins survey is described by C.W. Collins (1950).

The next visitor was Dr Andrew Osborn, invited by the NZLA to conduct a national survey and review of library resources. His findings and recommendations were set out in his report: Osborn (1960). Background to the forthcoming survey was provided by Jean Wright (1959). Those interested in historical perspective may read the review of the Osborn report written by Ralph Munn, 26 years after he had conducted a similar survey (1960).

The most recent activity which could be compared fairly with these three surveys was the large exercise in collaboration between the National Library of New Zealand and the NZLIA, The N Strategy. This exercise in policy formulation and strategic planning was designed to draw upon the energies of organisations and people within New Zealand, coupling the various library groups with various interest groups within the community at large: information technology, communications, marketing, commerce, manufacturing, and so on. It operated through conferences, workshops, consultation across all sectors, and the mounting of research and policy development by working parties dedicated to various specific issues. The objectives of the programme are set out in The N Strategy: Recommendations for Actions for Prosperity (1992).