Across the world, libraries are changing, and so is the demand for library services. Where once you visited a sturdy old building full of books to browse and borrow in silence, we now expect a colourful array of items, from print to digital, anytime, and at speed.
Auckland’s 55 public libraries are no exception, and Auckland Council is standing up to move with the times.
Mirla Edmundson, General Manager of Libraries and Information for the council, leads the team responsible for more than 3.5 million items, from ebooks and DVDs to historic photographs and good old paperbacks.
Watch our interview with Mirla Edmundson, General Manager Libraries & Information
Growing demand for digital material
“Libraries of the future are still focused on equitable access to information for our communities and our customers; however, we now have a 10 per cent (and growing) shift in demand from printed material to the electronic world.
“We need to move to a more digital-led way of working and respond to the needs of our technology driven customers.
“Children today still learn to read using traditional paperback stories and novels but they’re also adept on an iPad, can Google just about anything and know their way around social media platforms from an early age.
“Libraries must be relevant to their growing minds, their expectations and thirst for knowledge – that’s why you’ll see young people experiencing storytelling through Minecraft sessions, learning how to use a 3D printer or studying robotics,” she says.
Libraries for a changing world
For those tapped in to global scaremongering on libraries shutting up shop and books being burned, Mirla provides reassurance.
“We’re not getting rid of books or closing libraries! Instead, we must work smartly to balance a growing range of offerings and make our libraries fit for purpose.”
“New libraries are being designed with this in mind – if you visit Tōia in Ōtāhuhu you’ll find a community hub that includes a pool and recreation centre, Citizens Advice Bureau, community meeting rooms and the library.
“Te Pātaka Kōrero o Te Hau Kapua in Devonport has dispensed with the austere ‘front desk’ and now has interactive stations where customers can work with librarians on their research or borrowing needs. It has become a community meeting place too, not simply a book repository!”
Libraries must adapt to stay relevant
Mirla says this is an exciting time for librarians, libraries and for our communities.
“We’ve created a ‘Fit for the Future’ programme to help us evolve and meet our customer’s changing needs.”
“We know people are making much more use of our digital resources so we must change the way we run the business to make sure we’re paying enough attention to those customers, compared to the ones that walk through the door.
“If we don’t adapt we’ll become less relevant, less appealing and redundant – we’ve seen this happen in other countries and don’t want to see it play out here.
“This means great opportunities for our staff, who have more exciting professional development paths and interesting areas to move into than ever before,” she says.
Reading on the agenda
We asked Mirla what she has planned for this summer and it’s no surprise that she has a stack of library items at the top of her ‘to do’ list.
“I’m looking forward to watching series five of The Good Wife, which I’ve reserved from Auckland Libraries; reading an amazing story of transformation by Gill Hicks called ‘One Unknown’ about a woman who lost both her legs in the London bombings in 2005; and a very interesting read by Vincent O’Malley on the Waikato wars and their impact,” she says.
Find out more
Read more about the council’s 10-year plan for libraries. ‘Fit for the Future’ is an output from this 10-year plan.