Information Support: a Community Partnership -
The Missing link
Philip van Zijl
Whare Takiura/Waiariki Institute of Technology
This paper will focus on an area that is usually not given attention to by exponents of Information
Communications Technology (ICT). While greater uptake of ICT has the potential to increase
participation of people in the economic, social, cultural, educational and democratic
opportunities available in society, it is the development of information literate citizens, which will
deliver on the potential of ICT (Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa,
Information Literacy is what I will call the missing link to bridge this gap. I will define this and
give some practical examples of areas where collaboration is being implemented with mutual
benefits. The perspective will be in a New Zealand socio-economic setting in a provincial milieu
and more specifically, the distinct bicultural character of the Institute will be placed in context.
When looking at Information/Library Support, one has to address two main issues, namely,
information and support. Information is relatively easy as it merely implies the provision of a
commodity. Support implies a more active approach and this will be the emphasis of this paper.
New Zealand/Aotearoa background
Rotorua has a population of about 67,000 (Key Statistics November 2001) and is one of the top
three tourist destinations in New Zealand. The Māori cultural experience is one of the major
attractions for foreign as well as local tourists. More than 35.6% of the Rotorua population
claims Māori descent, as opposed to the national figure of 14.7% (Statistics New Zealand,
2001). In a New Zealand context this has socio–economic implications. Māori have lower
educational and economic profile than the rest of the population (Report to the Minister of Māori
Affairs, 1998). There are a number of community based NGOs, as well as Iwi (tribal)
organisations operating in Rotorua, addressing educational and related issues.
Whare Takiura/Waiariki Institute of Technology
The Waiariki region identifies its boundaries with the following Pepeha (a proverb relating to the
quot;Mai i Maketu ki Tongariro, Mai i Nga Kuri A Wharei ki Tihirau, me Te Kaokaoroa O Patetere”
“From Maketu to Tongariro, from Katikati to Whangaparaoa, and beyond the Mamaku ranges to
Tokoroaquot; (Kennedy, 2002)
Whare Takiura/Waiariki Institute of Technology (Waiariki) is situated in the North Island’s Bay of
Plenty. The main campus, Mokoia, is located in Rotorua and there are satellite campuses within
a 100 km radius at Whakatane, Tokoroa and Taupo.
In New Zealand, Polytechnics / Institutes of Technology are responsible for mostly vocational
programmes, but a growing number are also offering Degree level courses.
Programmes of study offered by Waiariki reflect the employment opportunities available in the
region, particularly in tourism, health, education and forestry. Waiariki offers a range of
qualifications at certificate and diploma level in areas including the visual arts, Māori studies,
business, computing, forestry, wood processing, tourism and travel, hospitality, teaching,
engineering and health. At degree level, Waiariki offers a Bachelor of Management Studies,
Bachelor of Nursing, Bachelor of Māori Studies, Bachelor of Applied Social Science, Bachelor of
Computer Systems and Bachelor of Tourism Management.
A Student Learning Centre was completed at the beginning of 2001. The aim of the Student
Learning Centre is to provide a student-focused environment that makes teaching and learning
facilities available under one roof. The learning centre concept has been identified – specifically
by a 1998 OECD report on education – as the preferred way of addressing learning and
information needs (OECD Experts’ Meeting on Libraries and Resource Centres for Tertiary
Education by the Programme on Educational Building and the Programme for Institutional
Management in Higher Education, 1998). In the context of the move to incorporate Information
Literacy as an integral part of teaching and learning at most tertiary Institutions, the Learning
Centre or a variation of it, presents a laboratory for the teaching of Information Literacy.
Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, Waikato Institute of
Technology, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, Auckland University of
Technology and the University of Otago have all established similar centres.
The three level Student Learning Centre at Waiariki, which covers an area 4,500m², includes:
Library and learning resource centre of 1,300m² with 200 study spaces
Three seminar rooms;
A Digital Library that doubles as a teaching area for Information Literacy classes
Open Access Room where students may email and do word processing
Video viewing rooms
Waiariki and the Community: an Institutional perspective
Waiariki is about people and their lifelong development. It brings educational, cultural and
economic benefits to the Waiariki community and region.
Waiariki maintains close liaison with community groups and industry. These relationships include
cooperative ventures with tertiary providers and secondary schools, and provision of
programmes on behalf of agencies to help ensure that the community is provided with a wide
range of educational opportunities. With Māori being such a high percentage of the population
of the Waiariki region, its indigenous language and culture have an obvious place at Waiariki
(Kennedy, 2002). About 45% of our student population is Māori and this has to be taken into
consideration in governing and operational structures (Waiariki Institute of Technology Ministry
of Education Single Data Return, 2002).
No institution can operate effectively in isolation from its community. How this community is
defined will determine the spectrum and focus of the services offered by the institution. For
instance, if the definition is narrow, for example if only students and staff are included, the
“wider“ community will be excluded.
The governing Council of Waiariki represents the community at large and consequently sets the
community goals and direction, in conjunction with the CEO and the Management Team.
The Waiariki community consists of several layers. Courses taught at Waiariki have technical or
professional community representation on the advisory boards. The business community has
been very supportive of the Institution over the years, recognising the financial contribution it
makes to the community. The broad community would be the actual bread and butter of the
Institute, as we have to compete with local as well as out of town educational providers.
There has also been a move back to grassroots, so to speak, at the Institute. Focusing on the
direct community, on a more fundamental level, could give Waiariki a competitive edge. Basic
community classes have been started and agreements with other Tertiary providers are being
negotiated to give students mobility to study more advanced courses at other Institutions, if they
should want to.
Biculturalism at Waiariki Institute of Technology
In a New Zealand context, biculturalism implies the unique relationship between Māori and
Pākeha (Europeans) as set out in the Treaty of Waitangi and acknowledges the status of Māori
as the Tangata Whenua (“people of the land”) (Szekely, 2000)
The Institute has a stated commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi (Waiariki Institute of Technology
Annual report, 2001).
At Waiariki, a Directorate was first established as the Māori Development Unit in October 1996
to advise Māori students and staff and to promote and represent Māori interests at Waiariki. The
Bicultural Development Division - Te Aro Haurua was re-established in 1999 “to fulfil Treaty of
Waitangi obligations and promote the establishment of bicultural practices throughout Waiariki.”
Considerable success can be claimed in this regard. Treaty principles and biculturalism are
widely evident in Waiariki’s governance and management structures and processes.
Waiariki’s Charter commits the institution to leadership in “innovative, quality education, provided
within a bicultural framework and developed in partnership with the community” (Waiariki
The Tangata Whenua Deed of Agreement established “the partnership role and obligations of
Te Mana Matauranga as the recognized Māori Education Authority” with regard to “the role of
Council [which] is one of Trusteeship and Governance” (Waiariki Institute of Technology Annual
Report, 2001). Consequently, Te Mana Matauranga is an integral part of the governance of the
Institute – the only tertiary institute in the country that is governed in this way, thus honouring the
Treaty of Waitangi.
Formal memoranda of understanding and agreements are being negotiated with several Iwi
based community organisations operating in the region that Waiariki serves.
Biculturalism in the Library
Practice as well as research reflect that Māori students, especially more mature students, prefer
to liaise with Māori staff when needing assistance (Szekely, 2000).
Most organisations in New Zealand have some variation of a bicultural policy in place. These
policies should ideally be translated into practice, as a Partnership policy has to be visible,
dynamic and proactive. It should be more than rhetoric, such as the token use of bilingual
names, as is the perception in some instances. This commitment should be taken a step further
with a proactive professional development plan for Māori staff in libraries (Lilley, 2000).
It is for this reason that our Library has written this commitment in policy and practice. We have
created a Partnership position with the objective of appropriate human resource development.
Five out of eleven of our staff members are Māori (3) or Pacific Islander (2), probably one of the
highest ratios, at a New Zealand tertiary institution, with the exception of the Wānanga. This
reflects our commitment to biculturalism and incorporates a multiculturalism component. Many
of the requirements pertaining to Māori students also apply to Pacific Island students. It is
important to note that Biculturalism as a philosophy, is about the special relationship between
Tangata Whenua and Pākeha, as reflected in the Treaty of Waitangi.
Information Literacy is a broad concept, open to wide-ranging and diverse interpretations. It is
often linked to, or used synonymously with other terms such as Information Technology (IT)
literacy, information skills, knowledge management, critical thinking, user education and literacy.
This implies the use of information and not merely acquisition and storage of information
Interpretations of the term Information Literacy depend partly on whether it is:
Seen as an umbrella term drawing together a range of literacies and skills or
As part of some larger concept (e.g. life-long learning).
There are also cultural contexts in which concepts such as knowledge may be understood
differently. For instance, Māori have a very strong oral tradition and Information Literacy
programmes should take cognisance of these (Szekely, 1997).
A simple definition of Information literacy is the ability of an individual to recognise when
information is needed and have the capacity to locate, evaluate, and effectively use the needed
information ethically. An information literate person is able to:
Recognise a need for information
Determine the extent of information needed
Access the needed information efficiently
Evaluate the information and its sources
Incorporate selected information into their knowledge base
Use information effectively to accomplish a purpose
Understand economic, legal, social and cultural issues in the use of information
Access and use information ethically and legally
Classify, store, manipulate and redraft information collected or generated (Information
Literacy standards, 2002).
The Information Age requires that literacy be expanded to include information literacies. This is
emerging as one of the most critical skills for an educated person who is living and working in
the twenty-first century. Information technology is often confused with information literacy.
Students need skills to find information from a variety of sources beyond digital ones such as
more traditional sources of information including libraries and other sources of information.
Alvin Toffler’s words, written more than thirty years ago, also apply to Information Literacy “The
illiterate of today is not the person that cannot read or write, but someone who has not learned
how to learn” (Toffler, 1970). The modern learning context is very different from the world of
Toffler in 1970, as are the tools to equip students today, but the principles are the same. To be
equipped for lifelong education, the principles of learning and evaluation have to include the
elements of Information Literacy.
The sum total of humankind's knowledge doubled from 1750 - 1900. It doubled again from 1900
- 1950. It has been established that the sum total of knowledge has doubled at least once every
5 years since then...it has been further projected that by the year 2020, knowledge will double
every 73 days! (Breivik, 1998). We then have to ask in the words of T.S. Eliot: “Where is the
knowledge we have lost in information?” – which was the same problem Winnie the Pooh
struggled with when he said: “There has been an alarming increase in the things I know nothing
Individuals are becoming less reliant on the librarian for executing searches and finding material.
The effect of this is that librarians will act more as navigators, teaching people where to find
information and equipping them with the skills to evaluate, organize and apply the information
located. Correspondingly, the library is placing a strong emphasis on assistance and instruction.
This is a move away from the traditional role of librarians where they were the keepers of the
information to a more active navigational role. The emphasis in the modern library is teaching
the users the skills to be self-sufficient.
Librarians have come into their own right over the last decade or so. The informal teaching of
user education as Information Literacy was known initially, has given librarians the insight and
teaching skills that now have become the foundation of Information Literacy programmes world
wide. They are now being recognised as having the appropriate skills to bridge the gap between
the information and the skills to utilise it. As Dr. Peter Underwood, Director of the Centre for
Information Literacy at the University of Cape Town, put it: “…we are being recognised at last as
having the essential knowledge and competencies to teach, and the importance of librarians has
shifted away from being an endangered species to an essential commodity” (Underwood, 2000).
It needs to be stressed that Information Literacy works best when offered by librarians in
partnership with teachers. The librarian sometimes lacks detailed subject knowledge, so
collaboration between teachers, educators and librarians are essential. (Booker, 1995) This
cooperation should also include student counsellors as they are often in a position to identify
areas where students lack skills (Bruce, 1995). This principle would apply to both schools and
James McKenzie, editor of From Now On, an educational technology journal in the United
States, makes the point that many schools in the United States have installed computers and
networks and have trained staff in the use of ICT, but few have followed up to ensure that their
efforts have benefited student learning. A recent New Zealand library list posting elicited a lot of
support from librarians when a school librarian complained that the use of extra ICT funding was
the cue for cutting the school librarian’s hours. Under current conditions, schools in New
Zealand are not funded and are not accountable for either the provision of school libraries or the
employment of qualified school library staff. (Chand, 2002) The New Zealand Ministry of
Education’s sole emphasis in research had been in ICT skills and not in Information Literacy
(LIANZA, 2001) and this could be the reason for the lack of understanding and status of
Information Literacy in school libraries in New Zealand.
McKenzie questions reliance on Internet based electronic sources of information, which he says
have many weaknesses, as opposed to commercial databases. He is also concerned by the
decline in the United States of schools’ support for libraries, where most information is stored, in
exchange for information technology hardware and software (Velde, 1999).
“The message I keep giving to American schools is that it is not about wires and networks. It is
about learning and literacy. There is a mystical notion that electronic text and the Internet has
replaced libraries. In fact only three per cent of world wisdom is stored electronically,” he says.
(As quoted by Velde, 1999) Long-term access to electronic information is a hotly debated topic,
due to the issues of archival stability, as well as the sheer volume of accumulated information.
Information Literacy courses for the Community at Waiariki
All our students, from certificate to degree level are being taught Information Literacy at the
appropriate level. This commitment to equipping our students for lifelong education is written
into our Academic Statute. (Waiariki Institute of Technology Academic Statute, 2001).
As more members of the community have become aware of our facilities and services, the
impact of the lack of skills to access the information has become apparent. Our staff will find it
difficult to cope if they have to address all queries from non-institutional users of the library. To
prevent this potential frustration to both staff and users, we have decided to proactively
introduce Information Literacy programmes to the wider community. About 61% of our students
are, in line with other tertiary providers (Ministry of Māori Development report, 1998), so-called
second chance learners who are more mature students (Waiariki Institute of Technology Ministry
of Education Single Data Return, 2002). Accessing information has typically not been part of
their experience and their transition to tertiary studies would be seriously impeded if no
intervention occurred. Consequently offering Information Literacy courses to the broader
community will benefit the Institution by empowering future students and promoting the
Institution in a potentially competitive market place.
Formal courses go through a rigorous academic process at Waiariki Institute of Technology:
They have to be ratified by the Academic Standards Committee and approved by the Academic
Board before final sanction by the New Zealand Ministry of Education. The Information Literacy
course consists of six modules, in line with the standards accepted by the Committee of
Australian University Libraries (CAUL) that also includes New Zealand Tertiary Institutions.
The six modules cover the following areas:
Introduction to the library and resources
Locating resources in the library – this would include both traditional and electronic
searching a well as electronic catalogue searching
Internet basics – an introduction to the mechanics of the Internet, URLs. Search engines
Full text data bases – these would be the appropriate databases relating to their fields of
study or interest
Searching or surfing? – This is a more advanced module, covering the academic
searching of the Internet. It teaches evaluation of search engines and search results and
equips students with search strategies to improve searching techniques
Information ethics and issues and covers referencing and plagiarism. We also cover
Māori resources and information in this module.
The Waiariki short course can be easily adapted to suit a specific audience. This is the reason
that we have embarked on this path – we intend taking up the challenge in this region and
ensure that the full potential of education is reached. This is in line with the Institutional and
national stated objectives.
Free Computer courses
Waiariki has been offering free basic computer courses after hours on campus, as well as at one
of the local High Schools. Some of the objectives for these courses are marketing and
promotion. The outcomes of the computer courses are basic computer skills and the ability to
be more confident with IT. A logical next step to these courses has been Information Literacy
skills as described elsewhere. Marketing and promotion for these courses are offered in
conjunction with the School of Business and Computer Studies.
Many community organisations are operating in Rotorua. As pointed out earlier in the paper,
that as a result of the demographics of the region, many of these target Māori as they often fit
the socio-economic profile requiring redress or support. Very few of the education programmes
operating outside the formal education sector have formal Information Literacy programmes in
place. Expensive modern information access that would do justice to modern education is often
not in place. Consequently the quality of their end product could be compromised, if people
graduating from these organisations enter the very competitive job market without skills to equip
them fully for life long education.
In the September 1999 report (Report Four to the Minister of Māori Affairs, 1999) the importance
of the application of ICT in closing the gaps between Māori and non-Māori is made, but no
specific attention is given to the integration of Information Literacy in the pursuit of this ideal. In
the LIANZA/Te Rōpū Whakahau recommendation to the National Information Strategy of the
New Zealand government, very strong recommendations to address both the digital divide and
the very specific Māori information needs are made (LIANZA, 2001).
Rūnanga are “places of learning” and are often Marae (Meeting house) based and have a
definite community focus. Closer links are being forged with one in particular, Te Rūnanga O
Ngati Pikiao. They have embarked on a community development project, focusing specifically
on at-risk youth. The objective of their programme is to provide training and access to the
Internet in an environment that is safe and conducive to cultural development.
There are four Wānanga or Māori universities operating in the region. These are Te Wānanga o
Raukawa, the Anglican Church’s Wānanga (Te Whare Wānanga o Te Pīhopatanga o Aotearoa),
Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and Te Whare Te Wānanga o Awanuiarangi. Some of these Wānanga
are in competition with Waiariki, but Waiariki’s management is establishing areas of cooperation.
The delivery of Information Literacy programmes is one such an area, as we have the
infrastructure to deliver these programmes off campus.
Library Community support
At Waiariki, Te Rutoi-A-Tini [Place of many learning(s)] Malcolm Murchie Library has taken the
Institution’s wider commitment to the community to heart. Members of the public may use the
library resources in-house. However, we have made provision to include Outside Membership in
cases where members of the public as well as community organisations want access to our
resources and facilities for home use.
This outreach function is written into our Information Literacy strategic plan as a pro-active
attempt to co-operate with local High Schools and community, and to share both human and
material resources with organisations, librarians and teachers.
Community support has to fit in with present staffing and budgetary constraints and some of this
support of the community has happened on a voluntary basis.
There are some areas where we have made progress regarding support:
Anglican Church’s Wānanga
An agreement to establish library support to the Anglican Church’s Wānanga is being set up.
Support could include assistance in managing their library, as well as Information Literacy to
staff and students. A small, cash-strapped institution will find it very difficult to establish full
library services that would pass the stringent quality criteria for delivering degree or post-
Te Rūnanga O Ngati Pikiao has set up a site about 25 km from Rotorua to facilitate some of
their community programmes. Computer skills and traditional therapeutic massage are to be
accommodated in the building. The state income support agency (WINZ) is also setting up a
satellite office at the centre. Ngati Pikiao is serving a community that cannot always afford to
commute to the city for courses and that is why the Rūnanga has set up the site here (Tamati,
2002). Waiariki library has offered to support these initiatives of Ngati Pikiao in line with formal
commitment by Waiariki Institute of Technology. This would include Information Literacy classes
as a follow up to the computer classes.
Rotorua Schools’ Trust
The above Trust has been set up through a grant by the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust
(RECT) and a number of science videos have been purchased and are to be placed in the
Waiariki library for local high schools to have access to.
The Rotorua Public Library has allocated responsibility to a staff member this year to investigate
Information Literacy programmes. Waiariki has offered to support these and has initiated visits
and basic orientation for Public Library staff, as Information Literacy is quite a new concept to
many of them. (Interview: Public Librarian, 2002) This liaison has also been extended to the
regional public libraries.
We have had several meetings with the local high schools and have regular liaison with the
National Library advisor for the region. Our facilities have been offered and are utilised for
workshops and meetings under the auspices of the National Library.
Literacy Aotearoa/New Zealand
Members and staff of this community based literacy project are full members of our library and
are making use of our resources.
The challenge that we are facing is to promote Information Literacy proactively as an additional
skill to equip both conventional and non-mainstream education. This would maximise resources
and expedite the process of education. The New Zealand government’s “Knowledge Society”
initiative and the resulting ICT support would see the inclusion of some form of Information
Literacy as an essential component of these initiatives. This is why the library profession is
passionate, not just about lobbying government, (LIANZA, 2001), but also creating various non-
traditional platforms where Information Literacy can be delivered. (Manukau City Council, 2002).
The New Zealand government is also actively encouraging cooperation between organisations
and Institutions and this is happening on a wide front. The delivery of Information Literacy is
another such area where collaboration by people with diverse skills can make a contribution.
The Institution sees community support as one of partnership, not just in the Treaty sense, but
also in the context of wide ranging reciprocal benefits. The library supporting the Institutional
goals is an area where short-term tangible results have been achieved.
There is potential to raise the profile of the Institution in the wider community. In the very
strongly competitive nature of education in New Zealand, this has far reaching marketing
potential, as greater numbers of potential students can be targeted. A more positive image of
the Institution can be presented to a wide audience.
The development of programmes to the community has also lead to innovation and staff
development of library personnel as they have had to think laterally and communicate with
organisations and people that they would not have had such contact with in a more traditional
milieu. The same would apply to staff in a wider context at the Institution. From a wider
community perspective there would be a sense of support and sharing and this collaboration has
obvious advantages to all involved.
The hallmark of the modern library is not the collections, the systems, the technology, the
staffing, the buildings, but its actions. This is what makes a real difference to the community it
serves (Todd, 2001). This is the philosophy that Waiariki Institute of Technology aspires to and
this is how we take cognisance of the diverse community that we serve.
How we translate the philosophy into action will determine our credibility in the community. The
dearth of Information Literacy is prevalent in the provinces when one looks at the innovation and
activity in this arena in bigger centres. We have set in motion the basic infrastructure to allow
expansion and development in this area and this will equip us to manage change and innovation
with reciprocal benefits.
The emphasis of libraries has shifted. Our contribution, over and above the social and cultural
support to our communities has to be educational. The technological society is demanding that
of us. The challenge to librarians is to go out to the broader community to address the needs as
reflected in various communities they serve.
At Waiariki we have been focusing predominantly on the Māori community support, but our
challenge for the future will be other community organisations, such as Women’s groups and
health and welfare organisations. A target with these organisations will be staff training in order
to demystify technology, creating the so-called barefoot librarians.
“The dawn of the information age is behind us. But don't get too excited: it's still morning, and
there's a long way to go before lunch”.---Stephen M. Scheider
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