Readers see red as library switches fiction layout

"This is not about providing an inclusive, accessible service it is about cost effectiveness and popularising."  Jan ...
PHOTO: COLIN WILLIAMS/STUFF

"This is not about providing an inclusive, accessible service it is about cost effectiveness and popularising." Jan Andersen is battling change at the Upper Hutt city library.

It was a new chapter in the lives of Upper Hutt readers  when the local library closed for a week to revamp its presentation  -   but it didn't have the expected  happy ending. 

When the Upper Hutt City Library unveiled it's new look,  instead of readers searching for fiction by genre, the library had shifted to an A-Z approach. 

The move did not go down well with readers and since January has  resulted  in more than  51 complaints.

"We have to remain relevant to our customers," says Mike Ryan, UH city council community services director.
Colin Williams

"We have to remain relevant to our customers," says Mike Ryan, UH city council community services director.

    

Long-time customer Jan Andersen, 70, was immediately at odds with the change  and sent several Official Information requests to the Upper Hutt Council. 

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In a formal response to Anderson in August, city solicitor Andrea Hilton said 51 complaints on all the changes had been received, including 30 in the first two months.

"The library does not count or document the number of inquiries for help received by library patrons,"  Hilton said.

Anderson said not counting verbal responses had significantly under-estimated the problem  people were having and were continuing to have, in finding the books they wanted.

"I can't begin to describe how unprofessional and short of best practice this is," the Clouston Park resident said.

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"You would only not count critical user information if you didn't want a full picture."

She is continuing to battle the council and, based on the responses  from her information requests, is convinced there was a systemic lack of research before the changes were made.

"All the research completed prior to the library changes being implemented was not by way of formal written statistical date," she said.

"This is not about providing an inclusive, accessible service it is about cost effectiveness and popularising.

"I have now been effectively excluded from my public library by a philosophy which is not inclusive and that limits accessibility."

City community Services Director Mike Ryan said the library research was based on articles and studies around library usage and the library trends, nationally and internationally.

​"The library leadership team has also looked at a number of other libraries both in New Zealand and overseas that are increasing both visitor numbers and book issues."

Over the last two years the Upper Hutt library had experienced a 10 per cent drop in visitors and 5.5 per cent in issues, he said.

"Since the changes the numbers of issues for each month have been have been increasing on the  year previous.

"We have to remain relevant to our customers," Ryan said.

"The difficulty with community facilities, of which the library is one, is trying to meet all of the needs of all members of the community and some of the needs of community members and groups are in direct conflict."

Andersen has set up a Facebook page and an online petition about the changes and and is planning to speak to the  councillors at a committee meeting.

 - Stuff

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