The History of Public Libraries in New Zealand

The History of Public Libraries in New Zealand
Hilary Beaton
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The History of Public Libraries in New Zealand

Ever wondered when and where the first library was built in New Zealand?

New Zealand’s first public library

In 1842, due to a combination of defaulting subscribers and competitors, it closed and offered its contents to the Mechanics' Institute that was about to be established. The Institute and other groups continued to provide library services to the city until 1893, when Wellington City Council established a council-owned public library on the corner of Mercer and Wakefield Streets, not far from what is now the central branch of Wellington City Libraries.The foundations for the Port Nicholson Exchange and Public Library were laid long before settlers even began arriving in the New Zealand Company settlement in 1840. Prior to the departure of the first ships, a committee had been established to ‘make provision for the Literary, Scientific and Philanthropic Institutions of the new Colony'. This ensured that the first settlers arrived laden with donations of books.

In the early 20th century a number of New Zealand communities established ‘free' libraries with the assistance of Scottish-born American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

ILibrary fashion slideshow

In New Zealand, the ubiquitous smock has defined the perception of librarians. The wearing of smocks continued in libraries through the 1980s as they protected clothing when undertaking the less than glamorous roles of checking and dusting library shelves. Other library fashion accoutrements include plastic sleeves, offering even greater protection to clothing. Read more about some of these fashions.

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