Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

The Critical Success Factors for School and Community Joint Use Libraries in New Zealand

Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

The Critical Success Factors for School and Community Joint Use Libraries in New Zealand

Article excerpt

Joint use libraries in New Zealand are generally found in the form of school and community (public) libraries, primarily in rural areas. There has been little information available about their effectiveness or success. Research to address this need was undertaken by surveying all identified joint use libraries in New Zealand and following the survey with detailed ease studies of three selected libraries. As these joint use libraries continue to be established in rural and urban areas, the research aimed to establish the critical success factors for school and community joint use libraries in New Zealand. A comparison of these factors with those found in the international literature on joint use libraries yielded guidelines to enable present and future manifestations of joint use libraries in New Zealand to be effective and successful.

A joint use library is one in which two or more separate library service providers cooperate to serve their user groups equitably in a shared facility. Joint use libraries (also known as dual use, combined use, school and community, school/public, university/ public, or polytechnic/public libraries) have existed for nearly one hundred years. They have been established or are being considered in a number of countries including Australia, Canada, the US, the UK and New Zealand. In the past they were often established to provide public library services in rural areas where a lack of funding made normal public library provision difficult if not impossible. Sharing facilities with existing school libraries was a viable solution to the problem. In these cases they succeeded best when there were strong links between the school and the community.

In more recent times these library partnerships have continued to be developed for economic reasons. However they are also developed to

* encourage lifelong learning by allowing general public access to large tertiary education collections and professional reference staff

* make larger public collections, superior information technology, and better staffing numbers available to school teachers and students.

Numerous failures of these partnerships have been documented. The chief reasons for negative results have been

* a lack of perceived savings or economic advantage

* irreconcilable differences in philosophies between the partners

* insufficient growth in funding for collections and information technology

* low staffing levels

* staff resistance to the concept

* an inconvenient location and poor car parking facilities

* poor marketing and insufficient signage

* the reluctance of the public to use a library situated within a school.

Better outcomes for current and future joint use libraries are entirely possible. Considerable research and study has been undertaken world wide to identify the factors required to ensure the survival and success of these library partnerships. Those factors are

* extensive planning and consultation must occur before any implementation begins

* there must be considerable effort made to secure commitment to the concept from all stakeholders

* a number of critical success factors must be accepted, understood and incorporated into their management.

There is very little information to be found about the success of this form of library service delivery in New Zealand. In the past these libraries seem to have been established to fill a need in a fairly arbitrary fashion, without much consideration being given to the ongoing support which would be required and the important factors necessary for their success. Joint use school and community libraries are still being established in both rural and urban areas. An insight into the factors that make them a success is thus increasingly important.

Literature review

A review of the literature leads to the conclusion that joint use libraries remain popular but can be controversial, and will probably always have degrees of success and failure which require careful planning to control. …

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