Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Guanxi in the library world

Rosalie Blake - recently retired Library Manager of the Horowhenua Library Trust. Photo used with permission.

Rosalie Blake was the guest speaker at the Ikaroa Region of LIANZA's AGM held at the Palmerston North City Library on 12 August, 2009. Her talk entitled Blake's Blasphemies included some of her axioms for managing libraries, but she also covered some of her achievements most notably the development of the Koha and Kete open source software programs.
Speaking about the early genesis and the development decisions, Rosalie noted that her library staff did not like many of the ILSs on offer, and couldn't afford the ones they did like. She therefore talked with a family member who was working in IT who said that he thought 'something' could be developed quite easily along the lines of what Horowhenua wanted.
This posed a problem for Rosalie with possible accusations of nepotism and best use of money. She consulted with the Chair of the Library Trust who happened to be Chinese - he responded by using the traditional Chinese apporach of 'guanxi'. Understanding guanxi is critical to the international trade professional working in China. 'Deep guanxi is a strong feeling of interpersonal relationship, loyalty and trust, and moral obligation to maintain the relationship from both parties'. From "Navigating China for New Zealand businesses" p.43
He said: 'Do you trust x and believe that they will deliver on their promises?' From that agreement based on guanxi, the development of Koha progressed until it has become a vital part of the library world. It is used worldwide including all the Parliamentary Libraries in Africa. However Rosalie did note that uptake in Australia and New Zealand has not been as enthusiastic. The New Zealand School of Export Library and Information Service uses it and Rosalie was part of the consultation process we undertook.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Underpants and other products

This is the cover of Joe Bennett's recent book "Where underpants come from" in which he traces a pair of underpants from the retailer back to the manufacturer and to the sources of the materials used. In this case from a New Zealand retailer to a Chinese manufacturer and to sources in Thailand and Xinjiang, China's western-most province. It was a fascinating read - does anyone know of any other similar books? It would be good to know about them for trade and business libraries and information services.

As a side benefit this book described the situation of the Uighur people, the indigenous majority of Xinjiang. As it happened I had just finished Joe Bennett's book before the July 5 riots in Urumqi.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Got the numbers...

Photo: Marie-Louise Siddle
Reflections at Chaffers Bay, Wellington Harbour
July 25, 2009
It goes without saying that statistics are an invaluable source for the information professional. They are also the most frustrating area to deal with, which is probably why many people working in international trade are happy to take any sets of figures they can find. Three points illustrate some of the difficulties faced.
1. I was checking all my links yesterday on the New Zealand School of Export website and discovered that the freely available Trade and Banking statistics that I had had for Russia no longer were available. In fact the Russian government doesn’t appear to provide any free statistical service. There are statistics available in other compilations and I will be using those.
2. Statistics New Zealand has just given its website a makeover and as a result has caused mayhem among New Zealand libraries with links to Statistics New Zealand pages. Even the Library at Statistics New Zealand has over 900 links to fix! Our website had only one – a measure perhaps of the fact that we haven’t come to terms with all the information that is offered there.
3. Today I had an information enquiry about exports from the Manawatu-Wanganui region. Locally we don’t have a port from which goods are exported so that has proved difficult. A report from BERL economics entitled: Economic Profile and Projections for the wider Manawatu Region:

has digested a lot of statistics and provides some help. Statistics New Zealand may have some way of tracking these figures but neither Table Builder or Infoshare on the revamped website have helped.

All in a day for the information trade professional I guess!

Monday, August 3, 2009


A young information trade professional! But it did get your attention... LIBRARY WEEK 2009 runs from 10th to the 16th August in New Zealand.
The theme this year is ESCAPE, EXPLORE, DISCOVER Ki te whai ao, ki te ao marama. ESCAPE from your office - EXPLORE this blog and some of the international trade libraries and information services that have been featured. and DISCOVER all the information that is available through these services for the trade professional.

If you are interested in Library Week and what happens go to: But here are some ideas youcould try in your organisation:

1. Run a quiz based on your catalogue (with prizes of course - fair trade products for example)
2. Suggest some useful YouTube links for your colleagues
3. Get your colleagues to nominate their best international trade book giving 5 reasons. Make these into a short bibliography for everyone in the export section.

Enjoy Library Week 2009!