“We’re LIANZA” – Tomo reports from LIANZA Conference 2019

Va is the space between, the betweenness, not empty space, not space that separates but space that relates, that holds separate entities and things together in the Unity-that-is-All, the space that is context, giving meaning to things. (Albert Wendt, a Samoan poet and writer who lives in New Zealand, retrieved from nzpec)

 When I applied this profound concept, a lot of things shared at the LIANZA Conference 2019, held under the theme of ‘Our families, our communities, our libraries’, suddenly all made sense to me. “We’re LIANZA” – the conference began with a passionate cry of LIANZA president Rachel Esson. Behind her was a map of New Zealand and Pacific Islands. When seen from Va perspective, the oceans become thoroughfares connecting countries, instead of something that divides them. In a smaller scale, Va connects families with communities, and communities with libraries.

LIANZA president Rachel Esson
LIANZA president Rachel Esson

I could not help thinking this holistic approach of Pasifika is something that reinforces what we do in the libraries, and whether libraries can stay relevant in the future hinges on this. It was interesting to hear the keynote speech by Dr Monique Faleafa from Le Va, sharing the success of Auntie Dee – a free online tool for anyone who needs some help working through a problem, which was specifically designed for Pasifika youths. However, it turned out that the online tool was used more by non-Pasifika people, implying that there is a potential in adopting the holistic values in the libraries.

The topics presented at the conference echoed with the concept of Va, from which I identified three emerging themes:

  • Co-design
  • Diversity
  • Dialogue

Each of the theme is integral to each other and I’d like to share my thoughts on them.


Mark Buntzen’s statement “It’s not about buy-in, it’s all-in” expresses the idea of co-design well. He facilitated co-design workshops at Christchurch City Libraries recently which brought lots of disruptions, in a good sense. My take on the whole idea of co-design is that it’s about flipping the conventional thinking of ‘libraries exist for the community’ to ‘libraries exist in the community’. In other words, we do not exist without the community – libraries are communities, and communities are libraries. If so, why are we not talking to them and finding out what they would like to see in the libraries, rather than providing what we think they want.

Hamilton City Libraries’ success with their ‘Kit’ collection was one excellent example of libraries evolving based on the changing needs of the community. The Kit collection includes, but not limited to, sewing machine, electric guitar, impact driver, telescope, coding robots etc. They have become their second highest turnover and highest performing pay collection.

Nelson Seed Library  is another good example of library finding its place in the community, by accommodating the community resources within Nelson Public Libraries, which became the first of such initiatives. A mantra of ‘that’s what we have always done’ will put us in danger of being left behind by our communities.


Our community is diverse. To embrace them, we have to be inclusive. The term diversity is often discussed around different races or cultures. At least for me, that was the case. The conference went beyond that. Rhion Munro in his Trans*and Gender Diversity 101 session taught the audience all the different terms used to describe LGBTIQ community. It was profound to learn the revered position held by Takatāpui within both the takatāpui community and wider Māori community as holders and transmitters of ancestral knowledge. Auckland Libraries have well-established LGBTIQ community among the staff, who are proactive in increasing the awareness and promoting related events.

South Taranaki Libraries are leading the way by organising Rainbow Storytime despite criticism. Cath Sheard, the Libraries and Cultural Services Manager, shared how the event helped her and the library team to go back to their whys – which was to provide a safe and welcoming space for people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, religions and walks of life; to provide all who come through our doors without prejudice, free access to information and help, and a warm welcome.

Age diversity is another hot topic for me at the conference. I’m so proud of our own Steffi Marshall sharing about Gen Connect, a unique programme for a unique community at Upper Riccarton Library. More than half of the students at Riccarton High School are not New Zealand-born, suggesting that the majority of them do not live close to their grandparents. The programme presents them an opportunity to develop their empathy and connect with senior citizens, who are also feeling isolated. Recently the programme has been rolled out to another library.


Everything starts with dialogue. Talanoa is a Tongan/Samoan/Fijian translation of dialogue, and is considered a precursor to establishing effective and ongoing reciprocal relationships. Vaoiva Matagi from Manukau Institute of Technology shared how she and her staff used Talanoa to make Pasifika youth library users feel comfortable, so that they can approach staff and make enquiries.

Without that relationship, the youth customers would feel ‘out of their comfort zone’, as asking questions to a stranger is equal to admitting they are not smart enough. So they would avoid the interaction as much as possible by, for example, Googling their questions first. To overcome this, the staff embraced the concept of Teu le Vā  – cherishing for the Vā, the relationships. Library staff are no longer strangers as they got to know the customers better by talking to them casually and maintaining the relationship.

“We can only travel at the speed of trust”, a quote shared by Dr Monique Faleafa resonates powerfully here – the speed of our improvement in library services is in proportion to the level of community engagement.

We all know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and the same applies to our fellow human beings. The theme of dialogue was also incorporated in the conference through the Human Library. Participants can ‘check out’ a book for 20 minutes. The book I borrowed was titled A Colourful Life, and I was totally immersed in the richness of his life stories through dialogue. Read the full report.

Tomo Shibata
Acting Team Leader
Spreydon Library

More about LIANZA Conference

Read conference tweets #LIANZA19

More about LIANZA


A selector’s view of the LIANZA Conference

I am excited about going to the LIANZA conference on Tuesday. I will be focusing on three strands that are important to me as a selector for Christchurch City Libraries. Broadly speaking they are:

  • Customer experience
  • eBook usage and licensing agreements
  • Being open to indigenous knowledge.
Kim Tairi keynote
Kim Tairi keynote. LIANZA Conference 2015. Flickr LIANZA-2015-IMG_0843

The way we present the library content we select with great care is all important. I would like to explore new ideas of presentation and customer interaction at the conference.

I will be wearing my e-hat when going to the session on eBook usage and licensing agreements. Will this help me in the future to better explain to self-publishing authors why I can’t buy their eBook from them direct?

As the selector for New Zealand nonfiction I also make the decision which books will be shelved in our Ngā Pounamu collections. I hope to get a lot out of the paper that gives an overview of how other non-Māori librarians are making sense of Māori knowledge.

  • Visit the LIANZA Conference page for more information.
  • Follow the #open17 hashtag on Twitter for conference-related tweets.

Cornelia Oehler
Selection & Access Librarian

Robyn Lees: NDF 2015 highlights

Robyn Lees, library assistant at New Brighton, shares the highlights of her first ever visit to a National Digital Forum, held in Wellington in November last year.

Attending NDF

NDF2015 conference slide

The Digital Forum has many facets and the areas of interest for me at the forum were learning and digital literacy, and how we can encompass it in to our programmes and general abilities of staff. As a part of going to the forum I was able to meet learned colleagues for whom a surprise collaboration with a very real result was achieved (more on that later).

Fun and…

Raspberry Pi computer
Raspberry Pi is an inexpensive computing tool great for learning about programming and coding.

Firstly I attended a pre-conference workshop that was about a very cheap system of computing called Raspberry Pi- to explain, Raspberry Pi is basically a miniature operating system that you can hold in your hand. It is like a motherboard of a computer about 5cms square. It has an operating system and can be plugged in to any existing system or operate independently as needed.

Raspberry Pi
Playing with Raspberry Pi

The trick is that you can learn basic programming and coding with it and it’s cheap. These would be great little tools for our learning spaces as the users can make lights work, make alarms or programme it to make actions. After we were shown some demos we got hands-on with Raspberry Pi and we were allowed to fiddle with them and put some basic programming in to them to make lights flash and set off alarms and other trickery. You can plug anything in to them like keyboards and USBs and screens so they are an appealing way of introducing some fun and coding to people with limited resources.


Screenshot of #OneThread tweet
A Twitter clue in the #OneThread game

I was interested to learn about how organisations other than Libraries are engaging with new technology and using it to engage with their customers. Auckland Museum did a presentation about a Twitter campaign they ran where they used objects from their collection to convey clues accompanied by questions for users to answer. They ran a new quiz each week to keep users interested and tied it in with displays and events they were holding. It was hugely successful. This has inspired the team on to new ideas and new social media plans.

Baruk Fedderborn

Here is a clip from Auckland’s outreach librarian – Baruk Fedderborn. In general he is talking about Digital Literacy or as he terms it Post Literacy and engaging with Makerspaces in terms of Māori and Pasifika communities and how we can use our technologies to cross the digital divide and provide useful collaboration with these communities by way of language. It is best to let him explain.

Free Range

Slide from Claire Amos' keynote

In line with my interest in ways of learning I saw a keynote address that began with Disrupt, Connect and Co-Construct. These are the go words of Clare Amos who is deputy principal at Hobsonville Point School where the style of learning is much different than how we were educated. The focus is on how to work with digital natives and support their different ways of learning. Recently I had a customer whose 2 year old son was fidgeting while I was signing him up. I gave him a toy plane to play with and he was not interested in it. So what does this mean for us?

The end bits

Some of my key notes are that there was a lot of conversation around how we get all our colleagues to invest and engage in the new technologies as we dive deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole. You don’t need to be 5 to understand it all –but it helps as our “digital natives” way of life changes how we offer our services. This leads on to us running programmes and designing our physical and digital spaces to fit what is happening now for customer needs and looking to build quickly in response to the fast paced changes in our society. Mostly it’s about being relevant and timely with our actions and training for Digital Literacy.

Which leads on to our most important function of customer service and making sure we are actually responding to what is needed and a small example of that is helping with CVs – it may not be glamorous but it’s important to the customers and we can use those sessions to promote all our fabulous services!

Glams 101

Baruk Fedderborn from the earlier conversation about Makerspaces and I found out that a lot of the forum attendees were keen to be able to communicate professionally with each other across the organisations there. These were Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums. We discussed planned and collaborated to create a platform for colleagues to do this and settled on Facebook as a suitable platform after discovering that it is frequently used by professional groups. We started a closed group called GLAMS 101 and have since grown the membership to over 120 colleagues and counting. They are located throughout NZ and range from management to customer facing colleagues. It has proved to be a very worthwhile and unexpected learning opportunity from the NDF 2015 Forum event.

The future

The two biggest stand outs for me for the future from the forum were:

  1. That people in these organisations want to share information and collaborate.  Sharing of project information, expertise, resources etc are very possible for the future using social media platforms in addition to traditional methods.
  2. Everybody at the Forum was really excited about what will be coming in the future technology wise and how we can start to shift our mindsets to fully engage with such technologies like 3D printing and Robots which we have started to do, and think about the new ones coming like Virtual Reality and Nano Technology among many others.

Attending the Forum was a valuable experience and I recommend it to others for helping colleagues to learn and grow.

You can’t say that: Reading Matters

There were a number of panels at the Reading Matters conference. They provided much discussion and lively argument between the panelists and also from the audience. The panelists had obviously all read each others books and so had useful comments to make during the discussions.

There were two that I particularly enjoyed:

Gender less

The panelists were Libba Bray (an American author), Myke Bartlett and Fiona Wood (both Australian authors). This panel discussed the issue of gender in Young Adult novels. The discussion started with a passionate discourse from Libba Bray who feels very strongly about this issue. She attempts to be very inclusive in her writing and feels that anyone can read her books, whether they have a male or female protagonist. All the authors agreed that story is about connection, understanding and empathy and that this shouldn’t be limited to a particular gender.

There appears to be an advantage for publishers and booksellers having a marketing drive linked to a particular gender. They are able to sell more books and therefore covers are often produced in such a way that they seem to appeal to a particular reader. Covers do have a strong influence on readers and peer pressure can make it difficult for a boy to pick up a “girly” looking book. The reverse doesn’t seem to apply in the same way. These three authors agree that they don’t write with a reader of a particular gender in mind.

Keith Gray did have a  different approach that he mentioned in his talk. He has an image of his ideal reader – a boy of about 13 who doesn’t enjoy reading but just needs a book to trigger the love of reading.

The other panel I want to mention was:

 “You can’t say that”

The panelists were Libba Bray, Vikki Wakefield and Gabrielle Williams. Swearing and sex were discussed with the general consensus that gritty realism is more likely to attract attention whereas humour seemed to diffuse criticism. Often the problem appears to be the tone not the actual subject.

Search catalogueGabrielle Williams’ book The reluctant hallelujah was initially rejected by her American publisher as the main plot revolved around teenagers finding the body of Jesus in the basement. The suggestion was made by the publishers that they could publish it if she changed Jesus to Elvis Presley.

They also spoke of the “tyranny of the happy hopeful ending” which was a pressure sometimes felt when writing a novel with a somewhat sad ending.

Overall the conference was a time for listening and discussion. Although the highlight was hearing the authors, the discussions at lunchtime between librarians, booksellers and many other people passionate about YA literature were also invaluable.


Books are for life, not homework: Reading Matters

Search the catalogueI have just spent two days immersed in Young Adult literature at the Reading Matters Conference in Melbourne. It has been a fascinating and stimulating time.

The author I found most interesting was Keith Gray. He is an Edinburgh based author who has won several awards for  his YA books. He came from a non-reading family and didn’t read a book until he was 12 (The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall).

He spoke passionately about the best books being those that allow the reader to think. Fiction should give the reader the freedom to explore ideas and thoughts. He used the example of the instructions on his new ladder as patronising writing that implied that you couldn’t think for yourself. Two examples (he did read out most of the 18 instructions!) “Do not walk or jog your ladder” and “Do not use your ladder as a shelf”.

He feels that “gatekeepers” prevent young adults from having access to much writing that would give them the chance to experience empathy with other people and cultures.

He does receive a few complaints about his novels. All are from people concerned about other adult reactions – such as parents and school boards. These gatekeepers do not allow young adults the chance to explore issues and make their own decisions. His overall message was:


The other part of his presentation dealt with enjoyment of reading. The Machine Gunners was the trigger for his continued enjoyment of reading and for his career as a writer. He feels that teachers hinder the development of this enjoyment of reading by requiring all reading to be followed up by questioning. His quote was:

Books are for life not homework.

I can imagine the talks he does in school would be well received by teenagers as his presentation is a very well prepared, funny and passionate performance.