Bookshelves and Bollywood: Delivering on Diversity
Library services reflect the city’s growing diversity and tomorrow’s information needs
Auckland City Council’s 30 year Plan to become the world’s ‘most liveable city’ includes city services like Auckland Libraries, the largest library service in the southern hemisphere. With 40% of its population born outside of New Zealand, and over half of these newcomers arrived in the past decade, Auckland Libraries must work hard to keep pace with the diversity of the people it serves. This means catering to a young city – the median age is 34 – and developing library programs that include meaningful interaction with children and young people.
Typical of Auckland Libraries is its annual community programming for Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights. In 2011, activities included Diwali exhibits, “sari wrapping” workshops, Bollywood dance performances, Diwali ukulele, family histories and Indian food traditions, and Diwali storytelling across the city. Special Q&A sessions about library services were promoted to the South Asian community and conducted by Hindi speakers.
Auckland Libraries is working to keep pace with the diversity of the people it serves. Re-constituted in November 2010 as part of the newly formed Auckland Council, Auckland Libraries merged seven public library systems to create one new regional library service. Specialist roles ensure a focus on the development of approaches to serving diverse communities effectively.
Internal staff networks, specialist collections and digital service units and a service development unit assist Auckland Libraries to serve the information needs of its diverse clientele by establishing activities in languages other than English and promoting the wealth of ethnic and cultural material on offer (e.g. Press Display’s 2200 online newspapers in 54 languages from around the world, books, DVDs and magazines in over 40 different languages in community language collections). The Libraries have even developed a special website, the Chinese Digital Community, with the New Zealand Chinese Association (Auckland) to preserve the country’s Chinese heritage.
Abigael Vogt, Team Leader of Multicultural Service Development, explains that the key is to deliver services which are “accessible, inclusive and responsive to the needs of the residents and community groups.” To do this, her team works with local libraries to identify and respond to the specific needs of their local residents and community groups. School groups and community organizations are engaged to contribute to library programming through visits and performances.
“There is always a balance we have to manage in selecting our activities,” explains Vogt. “Libraries seek to deliver outstanding customer services and make a difference in the lives of individuals at the same time as building a sense of belonging for everyone and all communities in the library space.”
Other than Diwali, Auckland Libraries’ annual events calendar include Chinese (Lunar) New Year, Samoan and Maori Language Weeks, World Refugee Day, Matariki (Maori new year), Waitangi Day (celebrating the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document) and Pasifika festival (Pacific Island nations cultural festival). Regular community and learning programs and activities include Mandarin and Samoan Storytimes and computer classes in Mandarin. Auckland Libraries develops programs with partner organizations to engage particular communities, e.g. the Talanoa Pasifika participatory educational sessions for school children which introduce them to Auckland Museum’s Pacific treasures, library resources and wider Pacific concepts and knowledge paradigms.
Auckland Libraries was awarded a New Zealand Diversity Award 2011 by the Human Rights Commission in recognition of its contribution to the national diversity action program.
Making it Work for You:
- Establish an internal advocate or team with a specialist focus on access and inclusion to deliver outcomes for newcomers and diverse communities.
- Develop projects that ensure consistency across all libraries, yet are flexible enough to recognize local issues and community-specific realities.
- Take a lead role in engaging communities and advocating for resource and service development.
- Provide opportunities and encouragement for staff networking to share best practice and build your institutional capacity for effective service delivery.
For this Good Idea contact:
Abigael Vogt, Auckland Libraries
Private Bag 92300