27 Feb 2015

Library changes will hurt kids, say protesters

7:46 am on 27 February 2015

The National Library is defending its revamp after about 100 people joined a street protest in Wellington against the changes.

Under the new system, schools will no longer be able to request books on specific topics throughout the year, but will be limited to a bulk request at the beginning of the year.

Protesters outside the National Library in Wellington on Thursday.

Protesters outside the National Library in Wellington on Thursday. Photo: RNZ / Daniela Maoate-Cox

Opponents say the changes will hurt children from poorer schools, and maintain switching the emphasis to online resources will disadvantage children in areas without broadband.

Protest organiser, retired teacher and librarian Adaire Hannah, said it was a short-sighted cost-cutting move by the Government and the change would be devastating for some children in low decile schools who do not have books at home.

"We also have got schools where digital is actually clunky. These kids don't have access to digital at home.

"What are we saying to them? They don't have books and they don't have digital."

National Librarian Bill Macnaught said the library would continue to spend more than $1 million a year on books for schools while building a platform for digital services.

"Of course there are some schools that are not yet connected but the Ministry of Education is working fast on that.

"In the mean time we will provide targeted support with print materials for those schools until they are connected to fast broadband."

Mr Macnaught said even when every school has fast internet access, books would continue to be an important part of the National Library service.