The bird that feeds on knowledge, its domain will be the world

Case study

Module

Module 2: Building your library association

Topic

Topic 4: Association stakeholder and members

Abstract

Library associations must often deal with the challenge of remaining relevant to both retain the current membership and to attract new members.  This case study examines how the Library and Information Association of New Zealand –Te Rau Herenga o Aotearoa (LIANZA) sought to reverse the trend of falling membership and reinvent itself for relevance in the 21st century. The goal was to alter the value equation for members from ‘what it costs to belong’ to ‘what it costs not to belong’.

Key Ideas

As you read the case study, think about the following issues:

  1. The role of library associations
  2. The challenges faced by library associations
  3. How associations stay relevant and meet member needs
  4. The factors that help make a dynamic library association

Profile

The Library and Information Association of New Zealand –Te Rau Herenga o Aotearoa (LIANZA) was founded in 1910 by 15 librarians representing seven public libraries who wished to establish a united interest in library work in New Zealand. Over the past century, LIANZA has evolved into an association that supports both personal and institutional members across the spectrum of library and information services. Significantly, the association ensures its relevance for the indigenous Maori people in the unique context of New Zealand: the bilingual name demonstrated this and the primary object for the association is the commitment to and implementation of the Treaty of Waitangi, which represents the agreement signed between the British Crown and the Maori rangatira (chiefs) in 1840. In 1994 a formal partnership was established with Te Roopu Whakahau (the Maori Library Workers Network). LIANZA currently has around 1800 personal members and around 400 institutional members.

Discussion

The last twenty years has seen LIANZA face a number of major challenges: particularly in terms of remaining relevant in changing times, delivering value to members and being a sustainable organisation. In the mid 1990s, the association was able to return to being a financially viable organisation through the generosity of its members, with the membership numbers and income remaining stable over the next six years. Operating costs increased however, with the professional journal absorbing 25% of is the association’s budget. Revenue from journal advertising and from fee-based activities had dropped, so that the dependency on the income from membership subscriptions rose from 48% in 1998 to 64% in 2003. The static nature of the membership base was a major concern. In 2003, the association commissioned a review to consider the future strategic direction, governance and operating structure.

Five key challenges were identified for LIANZA (Garraway, 2006):

  • Career movement out of the library profession, as training and transferable skills permitted people to develop their careers in other areas
  • The high proportion of ageing LIANZA members and the low level of participation by emerging professionals
  • The emergence of industry competitive and sector specific associations in New Zealand as alternatives to LIANZA
  • Non-members using institutional membership for member benefits of LIANZA
  • The cost of personal membership deterring recruitment of new members to LIANZA

Following the review, LIANZA appointed a business development manager on a three year contract to help introduce “a new sustainable business model that would redefine the value of the association to the library profession” (Garraway, 2006, p.79). The main principle was to alter the value equation from ‘what it costs to belong’ to ‘what it costs not to belong’. A cheaper flat fee structure for all personal members was introduced, with subsidies for new entrants and for those retiring from the profession. The LIANZA website was revamped, the journal Library Life moved from print to electronic, available through the members only area of the website, and the cost differential for non-members to attend conferences and professional activities was increased.

A three year business plan was developed with the following goals:

  • To lift the visibility and positioning of LIANZA as an industry organisation, through an effective advocacy program and through stronger relationships with stakeholders, allied organisations, government agencies and ministers
  • To develop new products and services to retain and to attract new members
  • To develop more effective communication with members
  • To double the individual membership numbers over 3 years (from 1,000 to 2,000)

It was found that these engagement strategies have successfully revitalised interest in LIANZA as the main association for New Zealand library and information professionals.

Professional registration

At the end of 2004 LIANZA convened a Taskforce on Professional Registration with the brief “to investigate the registration of New Zealand librarians and other information professionals and the associated accreditation of their training and professional practice; and make recommendations suitable for the New Zealand environment” (LIANZA Taskforce on Professional Registration, 2005). After considerable research and consultation, LIANZA introduced the Library and Information Management Profession Registration Scheme, with effect from 1 July 2007. The purpose of the registration scheme is to officially recognise library and information professionals who:

  • Have studied the body of library professional knowledge to a graduate level
  • Can show that they understand and can apply that body of knowledge, and professional ethics, to satisfactory standard
  • Adhere to the code of professional conduct
  • Continue to update their professional knowledge throughout their careers

The registration scheme is underpinned by the Body of Professional Knowledge (LIANZA, 2008). The scheme provides:

  • A goal for the ongoing professional development of individual practitioners
  • A framework for employers to coach and develop their library and information professional staff
  • An assurance for employers that a registered member meets the professional standards of competency
  • International benchmarking and recognition of professional library qualifications for New Zealanders wishing to work overseas

The names of all registered library professionals are included in a roll published on the LIANZA website. Every three years, registered professionals are required to renew their registration through the revalidation process. Revalidation demonstrates that the individual’s professional knowledge and skills remain current and ensures that the registration scheme is meaningful to employers. Members are asked to submit a journal which records the activities undertaken across the various domains of the body of professional knowledge: currency, practice, communication and leadership. The Revalidation Guidelines provide members with the information they require to meet the revalidation criteria. LIANZA believes that revalidation offers members a formal pathway to show their commitment to continuing professional development, thereby maintaining and developing their professional knowledge and expertise in a rapidly changing world.

Summary

Over the past few years, LIANZA has worked to increase the relevancy of the association to its members and to ensure that there is clear value in being a member of the association. Through the strategic planning process, the executive team were able to identify the association’s weaknesses and determine how to move forward and strengthen its role in the library sector. A commitment to professional knowledge is central to the association’s future, with both personal and institutional members benefitting from the philosophy of professional engagement.

Ko te manu i ka i te miro nōna te ngāhere,
ko te manu i ka i te mātauranga nōna te ao.

“The bird that feeds on the miro berry, its domain will be the forest,
The bird that feeds on knowledge, its domain will be the world.”

Questions

  1. What steps did LIANZA take to overcome some of the challenges it faced as an association?
  2. To what extent do you believe the focus on members will help LIANZA remain sustainable?
  3. Discuss any strategies that your association has in place to ensure there is a strong focus on members.
  4. In what ways might a ‘body of professional knowledge’ ensure that the association is relevant to its members?
  5. Can you outline how your association articulates the relationship between the value equations of ‘what it costs to belong’ and ‘what it costs not to belong’?
  6. What can your association do to ensure its relevancy to its members and society?
  7. Do you believe that there are any specific barriers to your association meeting the professional needs of your members?

Case Notes

Resource: Case study
Country: New Zealand
Region: Asia and Oceania
Agency: Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA)
Topic: Focusing on members’ needs
Keywords: members, registration, professional development, body of professional knowledge, value, relevance, strategic planning, membership fees

Source

Garraway, J. (2006). Te Wero: the challenge to reposition a library association. Library Management, 27(1/2), 77-82.

LIANZA Taskforce on Professional Registration (2005). Professional future for the New Zealand library and information profession. Available online: http://opac.lianza.org.nz/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?bib=19

LIANZA (2008). Body of Professional Knowledge. Available online: http://www.lianza.org.nz/sites/lianza.org.nz/files/Body of professional knowledge_0.pdf

Associations, New Zealand, registration, Building Strong Library Associations

Last update: 21 October 2012