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Monday, 31 October 2011

Turning knowledge into value #lianza11

Bill Macnaught - National Librarian
[ETA: Speech now online]

Huge management changes - much change in staff (including Macnaught) and National Library now also a part of the Department of Internal Affairs. Easy to contribute to the aims of government within the DIA.

Cites Weinberger's "Everything is Miscellaneous".

Libraries and library courses talk about organising knowledge.

Some DIA colleagues sceptical about need for libraries/librarians in the future. Can see how algorithmic tools transform how we deal with data. If you're sceptical about the future of everything as unstructured data you'll be scorned. May think librarians are locked into the past.

Old view of all knowledge mappable into a tree-structure. But the world can't be organised like this - particularly obvious now with the internet.

Michael Spence: Knowledge is "the ultimate public good". "Old knowledge has to be disseminated in every generation". Hence education. Creation of new knowledge is costly, but incremental cost of disseminating new knowledge is low (as already disseminating old knowledge). "knowledge transfer causes the productive potential of a developing economy to increase extremely rapidly". Development needn't involve high levels of creation of knowledge, but high levels of sharing knowledge.

How do libraries contribute to the transfer of knowledge?
Public libraries support kids to reading, learning. School libraries do the same and support infolit skills. Academic libraries provide specialised resources to support success of teaching staff and research communities. Special libraries deliver value to support success of their organisation - which may be economic value. School and academic libraries support learning outcomes. Public libraries 'do a bit of everything' but customers don't have to be a member of anything, don't have to justify what they're reading or do a cost/benefit analysis. Purely driven by individual curiosity.

We turn knowledge into value - not just economic value but cultural and personal value.
The National Library turns knowledge into value for New Zealand. Includes valuing our heritage. Working with Archives. Plan to move the Treaty of Waitangi. Looking at ways to share collective resources. Literacy, learning and public programmes team busy - this year much about rebuilding public schools programmes in Christchurch. (Slide of destroyed original site (probably from their Flickr site); now up and running again in Cavendish Park.)

Ultra-fast broadband in schools initiative from government. Also rural broadband initiative, working with APNK. Launch of National Library Beta.

Shoutout to Sue Sutherland and Penny Carnaby's work; and acknowledges that much of this wouldn't have been possible without National Library being part of DIA.

Big opportunities and challenges in shift to digital. Has led initiatives like Digital New Zealand, Kōtui etc from within NDL but can't rest on laurels! Asking staff to think about the environment in ten years time (using new equipment: shows a slide of a crystal ball). Plan to facilitate conversations with colleagues across New Zealand and overseas to exchange ideas of the future.

No-one has a crystal ball, but as professionals it's our responsibility to describe a desired future and persuade decision makers to support it, rather than letting the future happen to us.

Reaffirm fundamental purpose of libraries and values of librarianship. What's our purpose, how do we add value to tools like Google, etc? We value life-long learning; equality of access; intellectual freedom; rights of users to access and publish information; linguistic diversity and cultural heritage. None of these depend on organising information and can't be replaced by algorithms.

  • Unstructured data - metadata is essential; but it's mostly developed automatically. Should we develop capability to do this or focus on specialised data?
  • Users always connected to information online
  • Free! or at least affordable access to libraries. How does this remain viable? Subscription vs owned?
  • How do we collaborate national to improve stakeholders perspective of our value?
Can't just morph as we move with the times - transitional change isn't enough. Need transformational change. Will build relationships - can't do this alone.

Together we turn knowledge into value.
(Speech supported by waiata Tutira Mai Nga Iwi