Thu 9 Nov 2017

Three decades of TLC at the LRC

It was October 30, 1987, and Michael Jackson’s Bad was top of the pops, Timothy B Schmidt of The Eagles turned 40 and in Japan, NEC released the first 16-bit video game console.

At the Taranaki Polytech, a new library was declared open by the Governor General Sir Paul Reeves.

A team of seven full-time staff were operating in a changing word – typewriters were on the way out, word processors were in vogue. But that was just the start.

Libraries were still about being very quiet while people read books and newspapers, and staff were guardians who waited for the public to come and ask a question. At WITT there were no windows looking out towards what is now Te Piere. The building was pretty much closed to the rest of the institute and the focus was on purchasing physical resources to support the courses being taught. 

It was much the same 10 years later when Bridget Knuckey joined the team.

It is immeasurably different a further 20 years on, and Bridget has watched all the changes with enthusiasm.

“Today we are outward looking, we go out to classes to discuss our services,” she said.  “This is now a social hub and as for noise, well we have our quiet areas, but within reason, anything goes.”

And it’s not called a library. It’s an LRC - WITT’s Learning Resource Centre, Te Whare Mātauranga.

The staff numbers have dropped from seven to 3.4 in 30 years, the shelves are still full and the library hums. The most significant change is thanks to the e-revolution.

The LRC’s 19,000 physical resources are dwarfed in number by its collection of 117,000 e-books and 18,500 e-journals. Its reach goes beyond the physical building – the LRC is focussed on ensuring that students can access resources from anywhere at any time, on and off campus. Students using the library website – http://libraryhome.witt.ac.nz - can also access databases.

The library team even provide a live chat service during opening hours – super useful for students who don’t want to leave home but need to submit an assignment.

A significant upgrade to the library building started around seven years ago has been done in stages. The space to the walkway has been opened up and there has been an upgrade of the furniture on the upper level. Rules have relaxed considerably, what was a library is now a social space where students come to study, relax and connect with others. There are bean bags, sofas and mattresses along with group and individual study spaces.

“We know if students come to the LRC they are more likely to engage in our library and learning centre services to support their learning. So while our primary focus is on purchasing resources to support the programmes at WITT, we have a small but growing graphic novel collection as well as general interest magazines such as Men’s Health and Mindfood,” Bridget said.

Bridget says that 20 years on she loves her job as much as ever, particularly being part of students’ journey in education.

“There is nothing quite like seeing a student arrive to study for a Certificate in Tertiary Studies, barely able to turn on a computer, and then being a supportive part of the journey as he or she progresses on to more advanced courses and eventually graduates with a qualification,” she says.

Picture: Bridget Knuckey has been part of The Learning Centre for 20 years.