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Kaupapa Māori in New Zealand Public Libraries

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posted on 12.11.2021, 21:52 by Hayes, Luqman

It is nearly two decades since Tui MacDonald first studied the experience of Māori in New Zealand libraries. Since then libraries have seen many changes and embraced challenging initiatives in creating public spaces which reflect much of the biculturalism of New Zealand society. Bilingual signage has been erected, awareness and obligations to the Treaty are generally better accepted and understood, and Te Rōpū Whakahau has helped to ensure there is a growing professional Māori presence in our libraries. But is that enough? Should biculturalism not be aiming to integrate Māori values and concepts in the ideals of the organisation? Should biculturalism not reflect an equal representation of both the Pākehā (non-Māori) and the Māori worldview in the way information is organised, customers are greeted and activities are carried out in the library? This research project explores the deeper commitments to biculturalism by examining the extent to which kaupapa Māori, or Māori knowledge frameworks, value systems, and a Māori worldview form part of a wider bicultural strategy within public libraries in Aotearoa. The study highlights the bicultural achievements being made in public libraries as well as exploring the evolutionary and transformative challenges which lie ahead for the sector in striving towards an epistemological and cultural balance. Data for this research was collected using a qualitative approach involving semi-structured interviews with a selection of library leaders chosen from a purposive sample of public library services in New Zealand. The findings suggest a degree of inconsistency around the integration and understanding of kaupapa Māori concepts and practice, depending on location and demographic. They indicate that while there are personal, organisational and resource barriers to fully incorporating a kaupapa Māori, including a lack of Māori seniority within the industry, these limitations stem from political and historical roots which relate to colonialism in Aotearoa and the commitment to, and interpretation of, the Treaty of Waitangi. The results also reveal an aspiration for advancing the bicultural agenda and for exploring new paradigms for reshaping European designed public libraries in ways which integrate indigenous worldviews. As a contribution to the library and information sector body of knowledge, the subject has significance not only within New Zealand but globally, particularly in relation to the incorporation of indigenous worldviews in library design, development and delivery. Opportunities for further research include exploring Māori representation in public library management, options for altering library classification systems and collection arrangements to integrate indigenous worldviews and staff experiences of kaupapa Māori.


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Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

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Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Masters Research Paper



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Information Management