Optimistic about future of libraries

Mary Ronnie
Mary Ronnie
The words "irrepressible" and "librarian" seem, logically, to lead to two others - Mary Ronnie, the former Dunedin city and national librarian.

Ms Ronnie was Dunedin city librarian from 1968 to 1976 and national librarian from 1976 to 1982.

Something of a legend in New Zealand library circles, she recently wrote a history of the Dunedin Public Library.

Now, at 84, she shows few signs of slowing down.

Interviewed this week during the national conference of the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa in Dunedin, she conceded she had had a heart operation early this year but had since resumed her beloved Scottish country dancing.

The association was established at its first conference in Dunedin in 1910 and is back again this year to celebrate its centennial.

Ms Ronnie emphasised she was optimistic that public libraries - and books - would still be going strong in New Zealand in another 100 years.

A recent visit to a city public library had confirmed that it was filled with members of the public, and this was a good sign for the future.

Modern users of public libraries were a "lovely mixture" of people who wanted to read books for fun or for information, and others availing themselves of electronic sources of information.

The growth of digital technologies was opening up new challenges and opportunities.

Electronic books were already making it easier for people with sight problems, by enabling them to increase the size of the text they were reading.

However, Ms Ronnie believed traditional books also had many advantages and would continue to be part of the libraries in the future.

And her verdict on the latest library conference?

"I think it's excellent. It's going very well and is well organised."

On Monday, at St Margaret's College, she gave a historical talk on "Pioneers, revolutionaries and the new guard" within New Zealand's library leadership.

• Fifteen people attended the association's first conference in 1910.

More than 600 people are attending its latest conference, which ends today.