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Digitalisation of the National Collections

May 27, 2009

An open letter from Penny Carnaby, Chief Executive and National Librarian of the National Library of New Zealand

As you may be aware the media spotlight has been on library and museum donations over the last week. It’s unfortunate to see how fast incorrect facts can spread, so I’d like to take this opportunity to set the record straight.

The National Library is working to ensure that our New Zealand heritage remains available and accessible for all of us to use, learn from, share and enjoy.

That’s why we’re digitising our collections, to preserve them so everyone can continue to access them. Digitising content does not replace the real thing, but it does complement it. It means more people can access our heritage, wherever they live. From a child in Invercargill to a business in Kaitaia or a researcher in the UK, our heritage material should be accessible to everyone – and all of it will be.

There’s the background, now here are the facts about donations.  The National Library does not destroy items after they have been digitised.

Our legislation requires the collections to be preserved, protected, developed and made accessible in perpetuity.  But it’s more than that; our whole philosophy, our people, our reason for being is about the collections; their safety, access and preservation.

How do we preserve and protect it?  One way is to digitise it. Then we safely store the original material for those who still need access to the real thing.

Donations are a major means of building our collections, and this will not change during the period of redevelopment – nor will the original terms and conditions of any existing donor agreements. Our building in Wellington is being redeveloped to restore its ailing plant function and infrastructure and to solve our storage issues to 2026. This means we will be moving out of the building during the redevelopment. While we cannot guarantee that all donations will be immediately accessible during this time, they will certainly be appropriately stored and cared for.

I trust this makes our position clear.  The National Library of New Zealand, and its people within it have a major responsibility to take care of our heritage. We take this very seriously and while we’re always happy to debate the role and place of this institution, we needed to take this opportunity to set the record straight.

Thanks to those who keep supporting us, we really appreciate it.

Penny Carnaby

CEO and National Librarian, National Library of New Zealand

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