Communicating an organisation’s identity to library users : a case study within the New Zealand community library sector

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Owens, Coralie
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Master of International Communication
Unitec Institute of Technology
Henson, Donna
Papoutsaki, Evangelia
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
community libraries
public libraries
organisational identity
organisational mission
customer perceptions
branch operations
Owens, C. (2013). Communicating an organisation’s identity to library users : a case study within the New Zealand community library sector. (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of International Communication). Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved from
The purpose of this thesis is to explore the identity of a community library from the perspectives of the organisation’s management and customers, and then to determine whether the perceived identity aligns with the projected identity of the organisation. Qualitative methodology was utilised by means of a case study on a New Zealand community library organisation with seven branches. Interviews and focus groups were conducted to gather data over the course of six weeks. Semi-structured interviews occurred with management personnel while three focus groups were conducted with library customers. A secondary source of documentary data collection was also used for the triangulation of data collection methods in order to increase credibility. Key findings, grouped around three themes of image and identity, customer service and technology, have indicated that the internal organisational identity as communicated by managers differed to various extents between branches, depending on external perceptions held by respondents. Greater organisational identity alignment appeared to exist in branches where individuals felt there was a higher degree of social inclusion with their community library. This research, supported by the literature, found that the organisation’s identity has sustained significant changes as society has changed, from its inception by early settler volunteers as an unstructured community run entity, to the present centralised local governance model which provides services for citizens to meet their social, cultural and information needs. There appears to be a disjuncture between organisational level and branch level. However, the ethos to help build stronger communities has endured. Participants view branches as comfortable community spaces that provide excellent customer service and resources. However, the findings also revealed that participants were often unaware or uninspired by the array of services offered, for instance, the Maori culture book section, electronic resources and guest speaker events. Participants were mystified as to how they could use many of the library’s online resources. The accessibility of the electronic library interface was considered important, but as the library environment becomes more sophisticated and offers more services, it is evident that communities want to preserve face-to-face customer service in future community library models.Another key finding that has emerged from this research is the effect of technology. As the library organisation has become technologically advanced, especially in the virtual sense, more focus needs to be placed on educating the customer in order to keep abreast of technology. Participants indicated that the basic role of the library as a provider of information and a public space has remained constant; however, transformations are occurring such as the change in form of the traditional book to the electronic book. Therefore, to avoid becoming obsolete in the future, the library must change along with customer needs.
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