Held in Wellington, the Summit brought together one hundred decision makers and thought leaders, representing libraries (35% of attendees), local government (35%), central government (10%), and business, community, education, media and civil society (20%).
They came to discuss public libraries, debate, and deliver ideas for the future.
The big draw card was to be David Lammy, the UK Government’s Minister for Culture, but his leave was cancelled by the UK parliamentary whips, leading to lots of speculation as to whether a reshuffle was on the cards. This didn't eventuate.
In the event he still delivered his message, courtesy of an MP3 podcast. It was a great speech - lots of accolades for the key role public libraries play in the UK - with a very strong endorsement of their purpose - recreation - learning for life - building communities - capturing local heritage, and combating social exclusion.
The latter phrase isn't something we hear much of in New Zealand. Instead we have closing gaps, or arguing for, or against, the existence of underclasses.
The Brits, being at heart thwarted train drivers or engineers, with the odd philosopher and novelist for ballast, prefer action verbs, and hearty problems which they give new names - like social exclusion.
Me I prefer good old fashioned phrases like deprivation, inequality, inequity, sink estates, and the poverty of ignorance and discrimination.
Then you can get up a proper head of outrage, and a determination to do something about it, as well as keeping really close to what already works - like well resourced public libraries offering handholds out of the dustbin of deprivation!
I also have no problem with new phrases like life long learning, or learning for life, and think the publication of Learning to Be was one of the few moments of interest in the early 70's - and, yep, I've seen Life on Mars.
Believe me the real thing was far more scary, at least it was in the likes of Pilton in Edinburgh. So no worries from me - if that's what you need to call it to get the attention of Westminster policy wonks , who, in turn, can unbundle Treasury coffers, then combating "social exclusion' and "building social capital", will do it for me any day.
The other keynote speaker was Chris Batt, head of MLA. I have talked of Chris before. He is always a welcome visitor from the UK, especially given his leadership around the UK Peoples Network.
I also totally rate this mans focus - his passion for libraries - museums - archives - and his determination that MLA , under his watch, holds onto "the knowledge bit" i.e. building, protecting and creating what he calls, 'knowledge frameworks'. - i.e. community owned institutions where ideas, imagination, memory, and information are given a space where people can reflect on, and so re/create/make their common purpose/future.
I also admire his grasp of the detail on how to create institutional change inside government. But you also get an impression that when he stops making a difference, he will just step outside and find other ways of pursuing his agenda.
people - communities - digital
Two elements of this bigger agenda I share with him: that people and communities are at the heart of knowledge institutions/frameworks; and that digital pathways, or the opportunity to build new digital institutions as a parallel path to new kinds of community and cultural good, is one of the key challenges to knowledge institutions/frameworks everywhere, including New Zealand.
In this analysis, it goes without saying, that, for me, public libraries, are a part of this.
However, it needs to be a public library framework with the institutional , cultural and professional clout to pick up and run with this challenge. In short, saying it doesn't do it!
To start doing it we need to make sure that the momentum of this summit really does make a difference.
Do we have a roadmap? Not yet - but to get to highroad some paths/recommendations did appear at the summit that need attention at both national and local government level.
-The need for high quality bandwidth in schools and libraries - i.e. join the
KAREN network as a matter of right.
- Support for the Aotearoa New Zealand People’s Network - i.e. get the current pilot up to a national offer
- The need to address equality in services delivered by urban and rural libraries
- The urgent need for common tools and services across local, regional and
- The need for a national digital library which fits into a
bigger strategy to get New Zealand online.
More on this , of that you can be certain.