LIANZA Conference 2017: be better, do better, do more.

This past week I was in Christchurch New Zealand attending the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa’s, LIANZA Conference 2017. This was my first LIANZA conference and it was as welcoming and friendly as my Australian colleagues advised me it would be. You see, LIANZA conferences have a reputation as being one of the best LIS events around!

I was very pleased to be part of Dr Matt Finch‘s dynamic keynote, The Future Sound of Libraries (watch here), on day one and present with my colleague Sally Turbitt, Open Sesame! OR how to embrace challenges, cultivate opportunities, be visible, and say no, on day four. (Watch here or read the Storify).

There were two sessions that really stood out to me during LIANZA Conference 2017. Both sessions highlighted the importance of libraries to our diverse communities and challenged us to be better, do better, do more.

How to support people with dyslexia to use your library: It’s more than Readers Advisory and Hi-Lo books

Presenter: Katie Lumsden (Watch here)

10% of the population is dyslexic. Libraries may not appear to be places that are open to people with dyslexia and it is difficult for staff to know what books to recommend, or what books in their collection might be suitable. However libraries do have items in their collections that are dyslexia friendly and e-book platforms that can be modified for people with dyslexia. This presentation seeks to share with librarians what dyslexia is, how to identify books in their own collections that are dyslexia friendly, how to modify e-books to suit the individual needs of these customers, and how to empower customers and their whanau to accomplish these activities themselves. 

Katie Lumsden is a Children’s Librarian from Christchurch City Libraries and she is dyslexic. Katie gives some really great examples of how to make library collections more friendly for dyslexic members and I think you will all agree that we can be better, do better, do more for these members. Well worth sixteen minutes of your day!

Migrant Voices Panel

Presenters: Maryam Husseini, Zeinab Husseini, Galawezh Noori and facilitated by Donna Miles-Mojab (Watch here)

Facilitated by Scottish born, Iranian New Zealander Donna Miles we will meet a few new New Zealanders who now call Christchurch home. The discussion will open our minds with their stories of how they came to be here in Christchurch, and what situation drove them to leave their own country. Refugees are people just like you. The difference is they have been forced to flee their homes.

I encourage you to watch this panel, well worth an hour of your time, and listen to the stories that these three amazing women shared with us. I found this session very powerful and couldn’t help but feel very white and privileged. I am not a refugee. I have not fled my home in fear of my life. I have not been forced to settle in an unfamiliar country and learn a new language. These women have.

What struck me loud and clear was that these women were highly intelligent professionals in their home country yet in their new country, they couldn’t get a job. An experience doctor and researcher with four degrees cannot get a decent job in their new country as their qualifications are seen as inferior and their experience not respected. I cannot imagine how frustrating and heartbreaking this is.

These educated refugees knew to look for a library, or were advised by local sponsors, when they arrived in their new country and made use of them, especially the print dictionaries. However, what about those refugees who don’t know what their local library can offer – how do they find out? And are we really doing everything we can to support this vulnerable and high need community? Surely refugees and migrants fall into the people who need libraries the most category?

We can be better, do better, do more.

I applaud the LIANZA Conference 2017 committee for including this in the program and challenging us all to be better librarians. Thank you.


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