• June 1, 2017
Library staff have the opportunity to have their say. Photo: Aasha-Samara Nimo
A petition to protect Auckland librarians’ jobs is underway with more than 4300 signatures.
The Action Station petition, ‘Save Our Super City Librarians’, launched by the group Love Our Librarians (LOL), is protesting against the ‘Fit for the Future’ programme launched by Auckland Council. The programme promotes the digitisation of library services to keep up with technology developments, with job losses threatened.
Greg Morgan, Auckland Council’s acting general manager of libraries and information said in a statement:
“Fit for the Future is designed to match staffing with changing expectations from library users, and to ensure that libraries can respond to community expectations and local board priorities.”
The petition, addressed to Mayor Phil Goff and the Auckland Council, demands public consultation before any more staffing changes take place, and refers to the 2013 libraries consultation document Te Kauroa.
It also requests that all staff remain in their current roles.
Julia Schiller, founding member of LOL, launched the petition on April 11, one day after the staffing changes were made public.
“Librarians have been operating in a climate of fear and have been told not to talk to the public…some have been reaching out to me so long as I keep their identity confidential.
“They tell me they are heartened that Love Our Libraries arose as they felt no one was advocating effectively for them before then.”
Ms Schiller said it was hard to perceive plans to digitise the library service as anything but an opportunity to save $1.8 million of a $65 million budget.
An Auckland librarian who wished to remain anonymous said Auckland Libraries’ focus was only to meet the digital needs of the future while cutting costs.
She said there needed to be more moral and mental support for the workers.
“A lot of us are like ‘if you want to start chopping people, start looking at the heads’. But no, they look at the people at the bottom first.”
Karn Muller, a supporter of the petition, said there was a need for librarians as each library was unique and served its own distinctive community.
“…making so many librarians redundant and having the remainder rostered arbitrarily over different libraries means we could lose vital institutional knowledge…that can’t be found online.”
Onehunga Library regular, Lee Stjames, said she was hospitalised recently and was unable to return her loaned books.
“They said ‘do not even worry about that, we'll figure everything out and you just get well’!”
Their “humanity” had bought her support, she added.
Mr Morgan said staff were involved in the development of Fit for the Future and the New Zealand Public Service Association had been working closely with them.
The petition was officially released to the council last month.