Story: Libraries

Page 5. Library associations and librarians

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The Libraries Association of New Zealand was formed in Dunedin in 1910 when the Dunedin City Council, at the suggestion of journalist and library advocate Mark Cohen, organised a conference of public libraries. This organisation was the forerunner of the present day Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA).

In 1992 a group for Māori librarians called Te Rōpū Whakahau (TRW) was set up within LIANZA. TRW became a stand-alone association in 1996. Special associations were also formed for school, law, university and music librarians.

On the road

Many graduate librarians wanted to work for the Country Library Service (CLS) because it offered travel, independence and good pay. Alan Smith, who graduated in 1967, said: ‘On the CLS you were on the road for six weeks and back at base for two: while away you got a daily allowance (on top of salary) of about $6.50 – at a time when you could still get dinner-bed-and-breakfast at a country pub for around $4. But as well I was keen to see more of New Zealand before heading off on the inevitable o.e.’1

Librarian training

In 1942 the New Zealand Library Association established a library certificate course for library assistants who held a school higher leaving certificate. Students received all communications by post and worked alone under the guidance of a senior librarian. Prior to this librarians could complete distance courses run by the Library Association of London but most had minimal school qualifications.

The New Zealand Library School opened in 1946. A one-year, paid, full-time diploma course for university graduates, it was administered by the National Library Service and financed by the Education Department.

From the 1960s most of the leaders of the library profession held the diploma. However, a number of certificate holders attained senior positions, particularly in public libraries. The two-tier system caused divisions within the profession.

In 1980, after years of debate, the certificate course was taken over by the Wellington College of Education and the diploma course by Victoria University of Wellington. Distance delivery of the diploma started in 1992, while delivery of the certificate was taken over by the Open Polytechnic in 1998. Victoria University offered a masters programme in 1997.

Training in the 2000s

The Open Polytechnic offered undergraduate diplomas, certificates and degrees in library and information studies. Te Wānanga o Raukawa offered an undergraduate course that incorporated information management. Postgraduate qualifications remained the province of Victoria University.


A librarian registration scheme was introduced in 2007. The purpose of this was to align New Zealand with professional librarians internationally and provide New Zealanders with better prospects in the global job market.

Unofficial uniform

In the 1950s and 1960s many women librarians had to wear floral smocks at work. These unflattering garments did little for librarians’ image and were later seen as demeaning. Male librarians did not have to wear smocks.

Women in libraries

Until the 1960s the librarian profession was mainly female (over 80%), but dominated by men at management level. The topic was raised at the 1968 New Zealand Library Association conference.

In 1976 Mary Ronnie was appointed national librarian. She was not only the first woman national librarian in New Zealand, but also in the world. Since 1980 women have made up over 50% of association presidents.

  1. Julia Millen, Te Rau Herenga: a century of library life in Aotearoa: The New Zealand Library Association & LIANZA 1910–2010. Wellington: LIANZA, 2010. Back
How to cite this page:

Julia Millen, 'Libraries - Library associations and librarians', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 20 June 2024)

Story by Julia Millen, published 22 Oct 2014