Round-up for January 2013

Thumbs DownSo what’s the outcome for this topic for January 2013?

Unlikely to happen.

One card for use in all New Zealand public libraries won’t happen without significant buy-in across New Zealand.

A significant commitment of time & resources from all local government/authorities would need to happen before this project would become a reality. And not all public libraries are overseen by their local government authority, some are run as trusts (Horowhenua Library Trust) and other are run in partnership with other local institutions (Puke Ariki).

Despite significant cost savings, advocacy ‘wins’ with greater collection of useful and usable data, and an improved, synchronised debt collection process, I don’t see this type of project happening before I retire.

Some interesting conversations along the way …

CycleThis month has seen several interesting, sort of related, conversations happening on Twitter.

The concept of a continuum of customers – from public to school to tertiary to special libraries. We often focus only on our customer base – those people who are currently using our systems & resources – instead of seeing a much bigger picture, where the customer base we currently have is actually part of a much bigger library customer base. And our interactions with them form only a small part of their overall experience with libraries.

Often people start out using libraries as kids (public), then they move into education (school) and maybe onto post-secondary education (tertiary), and then sometimes they come back as adult users of the (public) library, and depending on their workplaces, they may encounter a workplace library (special).

How and when they use the library in their life is somewhat irrelevant, because the point is that for them, each of these types of libraries is part of their continuum of library interactions. And how we as librarians represent the industry and profession impacts of their potential future use of libraries.

So instead of competing against other parts of the library & information industry for customers, why aren’t we looking for ways to collaborate? We share the same customers/members/users/patrons, so why aren’t we approaching this collaboratively? Instead of thinking as these people as distinct entities, they are one and the same.

The other notion which came up was a lifetime library card. The point is that you only get one card. Ever. You treat it as valuable, important, useful and just as critical to your adult existence as a bank card or a driver’s license or bus card.

You could make it so you can choose one design as a kid, and you get two free replacements in your lifetime, so when you decide as a teenager that you want a slightly less childlike design, then you can use one of your free upgrades. And then as an adult, you get to choose again. Or, like some banks have done, you can actually make up your own design. Yes it would cost a small amount to do so, but you can choose to personalise your card.

Some folks out there in the Twitterverse are thinking along similar lines to me, so it was nice to have some back & forth about possible applications & implications of these kinds of ideas.

Shifting to a collaborative model

Dollar SignI think that this topic came about for me because I currently have two public library cards, and if I move somewhere else, then I would acquire another. If I paid rates in another local government area, such as for a holiday home (oh if only I could afford a bach!), then I would likely have another library card as well.

So I am counted more than once in “library statistics”, which skews the usage of public libraries.

And I can’t keep track of my completed reading, favourites or reading wishlists without employing a separate platform across multiple library systems.

Instead of having to prove myself at yet another library, why can’t I just sign up locally for the use of multiple library systems, with my data held securely & centrally? I could prove where I pay rates, and where I live, and I could review this data annually for localised funding allocation as needed.

Many public libraries across New Zealand also subscribe to the same e-resources, which entails negotiating with the same vendors but often for very different discounts, and different levels of service. Why not band together nationally and have a much stronger  collective bargaining power?

I know this moves away from a “one card” discussion but I see this as being one of the outcomes of freeing up resources currently used to set up multiple accounts for the same customer (aka me) across different systems.

It would be a case of making a commitment now, and it would cost us, to create a ‘one card for everyone system’, but we could then free up resources & staff time in the long term to create a better public library system for all New Zealanders.

With ultrafast broadband (UFB) on the way … eventually … then this ‘centralised’ system wouldn’t mean that all the staffing needs to be in one centralised physical space, but it could employ staff throughout the country and they could use the tools such as Skype, Wikis and webinars to work as a virtual team.

We’re a small country, and I feel that we should be working together collaboratively more often. Why not lead the way and show the world how it can be done? We’re already modelling national collaborations with Kōtui & APNK, so why not take it one step further with an integrated public library system across the board?

So who do I need to lobby to make it happen?

So who are the people that *could* make one card across NZ happen?

  • APLM
  • Pub-Sig
  • National Library of New Zealand

And the most important advocate for this to actually happen … ?

  • the people who actually work in public libraries!

But how likely is it to happen?

I haven’t found any instances of anywhere else in the the world where there is one public library card across a whole country, or even a whole state within a country.

It seems that public libraries started out small, relied on the local government/funding authority boundaries and stuck to that.

But that said, Auckland Libraries made it happen, merging 7 former city councils into one super city council. It didn’t happen overnight, and the work on a shared library system to support a shared card (My Card) actually started out with a shared catalogue (ELGAR) many years earlier, but it shows that it can happen. It might just depend on proving the value achieved through having a shared card …

How to make the one card system work across NZ

Computer Image So, what would it take to make the one card happen across NZ?

  • commitment by all libraries to clean up their existing customer databases
  • consistent collection of customer data
  • consistent debt collection measures
  • agreement about who holds the centralised database & maintains back-ups and provides tech support.
  • agreement of what types of ID is needed to join a library

So how likely is this to happen?

We’d need some serious commitment for folks to make this happen.

Commitment of time. Commitment of future collaboration. Commitment to work together.

Well, if someone came up with the proposed information, circulated it, got agreement, and then set a deadline, it could happen.

But how likely is it?

What are the benefits?

Why would people agree to it?

I figure it is like anything collaborative, you have to reach a point that you are all happy to work towards.

Some of the benefits 

  • Reduction of inefficiency & duplication = Cost savings.
  • Increased data collection on library patron usage = Advocacy.
  • Free up staff time for more interesting initiatives = Skills utilisation.
  • Freedom for customers, to be able one and many libraries to their hearts content = Growth.


  • Resistance from staff.
  • Resistance from local authorities.
  • Need to reach agreement to one set of core data collection standards.
  • Time.