Westland District Library
We are delighted to feature Westland District Library in this issue of Library Life. The library supports a community from Hokitika to Haast, on the lovely West Coast.
Library manager, Natasha Morris shares what they do and how the New Zealand Libraries Partnership Funding is making a difference to library services on the Coast.
Westland District Library serves a population of 8,640. Half live within commutable distance of the library, and usually (weather permitting, bridges and roads intact, no pandemics etc.), there are a significant number of tourists utilising library services too. Seven volunteer community libraries support rural population centres.
Recently, telecommunications infrastructure along the coast from Hokitika to Haast has improved (weather permitting etc.) and this will enable these geographically isolated communities’ to access our digital services.
The New Zealand Libraries Partnership Programme funding (huge thank you) has enabled our team to expand from 4.0 FTE to 6.0 FTE and to adapt our services to the ever changing ‘new normal’, which includes a new plan to move the library from its existing leased premises into a newly-purchased building (with architects working on the concept designs now and move in dates of 18 months, 2, 5 – and I’m pretending I did not hear this, 10 years, from now). It is an exciting and constantly evolving situation and I feel fortunate to be leading such a wonderfully flexible, innovative, skilled and dedicated team (shout-out to Lorelle Yorke, Krystel Woodcock, Rauhine Coakley, Mike Dickison, Pauline Le Clerc-Hills).
‘As a person who needs to keep learning, and someone who just loves ‘words’, helping with the West Coast Stories Online project is great for me. I love the proofreading and editing and this is teaching me new ways of doing this, using different editing tools etc.
Two extra skilled professional staff has a significant impact on the services we can provide, our ability to network and collaborate, and to implement improvements to our internal culture and processes. (Step 1: fit everyone in the office.)
Tackling digital exclusion has been at the top of our agenda for some time, lockdown serving to highlight how much more isolated and vulnerable our digitally- excluded citizens are. Our new Digital Discovery Librarian has engaged new audiences with a range of local art, history and heritagebased Wikimedia workshops and volunteering activities, encouraging upskilling and the sharing of information online. Plans are underway to deliver workshops for small businesses, particularly in the communities that have been hardest hit by the cessation of international tourism.
Our Community Engagement Librarian has been focussed on establishing a new community library at the Arahura Marae, improving our Māori Collection and developing programmes rooted in Mātauranga Māori. These programmes have been well received and word of mouth is spreading. Another side to this work is the introduction of kaupapa Māori and tikanga into our internal planning and processes. For many larger organisations, this will already be standard practice, we have some way to go and this mahi will help us to honour our commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
Westland, Buller and Grey District Library teams have met to share knowledge, information and discuss potential West Coast projects. Collaborations with other organisations have been successful, e.g. joined the Hokitika Wellbeing Network promoting well-being information and events in the community, hosted a job and career planning event with Connected NZ, participated in the Westland Mayors Taskforce For Jobs ‘Inspire to Aspire’ event (holding conversations with 150+ school pupils, none were aware of careers in libraries and information services or that some of their favourite books are banned in other countries. I know right?).
With all these initiatives, it’s a good thing our Youth and Children’s Librarian is undertaking the LIANZA Impact and Evaluation initiative. As she shares her learning, we are improving the way we plan and evaluate our programmes. Lastly, even positive experiences can be stressful. We are undertaking a six-month ‘Resilience at Work’ programme to improve our individual and team resilience. The latter could be another article, personally, I’ve learnt that ‘zest’ is not one of my strengths and using screens before bedtime is not a good thing. So, I’ll just reach for a book then…….
‘The librarian excelled with her clear, personable and informative presentation delivering her knowledge of the historical timing and Pūrākau (cultural events) that were constructive in the naming of Mawhera (Greymouth) and Poutini Ngāi Tahu. Oral history is a fundamental element of Maori knowledge and the presentations give honour to their topics.’