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.

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