Update on the undermining of literacy – no honours for writers and the rundown of libraries

A pre-Christmas post headed New library boasts admirable resources – but don’t expect to find too many books raised concerns for Point of Order readers about New Zealanders’ reading habits and the rundown of public  libraries.

We quoted  Lloyd Jones, writing on The Spinoff news website about his first visit to the new library in Christchurch.  He said it has a “wonderful sound recording studio”, a sewing room and a  3D printer – but he found the books “herded into an area barely more generous than the space on the ground-floor allocated to teenagers and video games”.

Wellington’s central city library, closed as an earthquake risk in March last year, used to hold 380,000 books and have 3000 visitors, including 500 children, a day.

There is no schedule for reopening it or replacing it, but if that happens new mayor Andy Foster told the Dominion Post (Dec 4) he would like it to have “creative spots and activities such as Lego and 3D printing”.

Jones disagreed with Victoria University’s professor of library information and management studies, Anne Goulding, who said libraries were moving away from being storage places for books and “transactions to building relationships in the community”.

“A library is where people go to read,” Jones said. “A library is where they may borrow a book. A library is one of the most honourable and civic institutions that a community can accommodate and offer to its young.” Continue reading “Update on the undermining of literacy – no honours for writers and the rundown of libraries”

New library boasts admirable resources – but don’t expect to find too many books

by David Barber

“To read,” says Jim Flynn, Emeritus Professor of Politics at Otago University, “is to enter a magic realm in which people are more interesting, informed, amusing and intelligent than anyone you encounter in everyday life.”

It is a realm that half of New Zealand 15-year-olds never enter, according to the OECD’s latest Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa),  as reported by Radio NZ this week.

The survey reported that 52 per cent of students said they only read “if I have to””. Forty-three per cent said they do not read for enjoyment, 28 per cent never read non-fiction books and 18 per cent said they never read fiction.

It is not entirely a new situation.  Flynn made his bid to change it a decade ago with a book called The Torchlight List – Around the World in 200 Books. (Awa Press, 2010).

He wrote then that after more than half a century as a university lecturer one thing troubled him greatly. Continue reading “New library boasts admirable resources – but don’t expect to find too many books”