Overdue: The stories of rural Otago & Southland librarians and volunteers
Research Problem: Rural librarians and library volunteers may be viewed as isolated and almost on the geographical fringes of the knowledge information profession. In New Zealand, rural librarians’ stories have not been heard and continue to be underrepresented. Therefore, in this report I have sought to answer the question: “What are the experiences of Otago and Southland rural librarians and library volunteers?” Methodology: I used an arts-based approach that utilised both textual and visual narrative methodologies. I recruited four rural Southland & Otago librarians and two rural Southland & Otago library volunteers through both previously established networks including closed community Facebook pages, and the LIANZA Otago/Southland committee representative. Results: The findings in this report are presented as stories. They explore the everyday experience of Zoe Heriot, The Volunteers, Alicia Hull, & Barbara Gordon (not their real names). Woven throughout are a series of collages representing the photo documentation of rural Southland and Otago libraries. These findings are then viewed through the key themes of connections, collections, and conditions. Implications: The methodology of narrative inquiry could have a big impact on LIS scholarship as the telling of stories have provided new understandings of the role that rural librarians and library volunteers play in their communities. Their stories can become vehicles of change. The evolution of librarians and volunteers can be seen through the promotion of inclusion and valuing diversity within rural communities including what may be perceived as sensitive topics like mental health and the LGBTQI+ community. This is critical if rural librarians and volunteers are to cater to their changing and evolving communities. Ultimately, the stories of librarians and library volunteers highlight the way the institutions of libraries are experienced by those who work in them.