Topic: Tauranga Library (est. 1871)

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On 8 April 1871 a meeting was held to establish the Tauranga Library and Mechanic's Institute. Since then the library has undergone many transformations.

The first suggestion of a public library for Tauranga took place in 1867, just three years after the Battle of Gate Pa at Pukehinahina.

On 9 April 1871 a meeting was held in the Masonic Hotel to establish the Tauranga Library and Mechanic's Institute. A subsciption was charged and books were only allowed out for one week. On 13 May another meeting was held and a reading room in the home of James Bodell's home on Cameron Road established. Money was also set aside to purchase periodicals and newspapers. A President, Mr E. M. Edgcumbe was elected on 7 June 1871.

During the first year the library had twenty members, the following year 106 people subscribed. Mr Sisley was elected librarian and secretary.

In April 1872 the library committee asked Sir Donald McLean for permission to build a temporary building on Lot 259 (Section1) near the corner of Harington and Willow Streets. By July 1873 the reading room and library were completed. In 1878 the space was extended to 16 square feet.

A proclamation in the New Zealand Gazette on 16 October 1879 saw land set aside for the Mechanic's Institute. Unfortunately a fire on 31 May 1881 destroyed much of central Tauranga including the Tauranga Hotel, the Library and Mechanic's Institute. Quick thinking onlookers saved the library books by piling them under a tree by the Union Boarding House. Luckily the building was insured. A new building was erected and opened in November 1881.

In 1901 the reading room was opened free to the public with 25 different newspapers available. By 19 January 1906 the Mechanic's Institute had been handed over to the Tauranga Borough Council and the name changed to  the Tauranga Public Library. In May 1921 the library was temporarily closed so that the committee could arrange the books alphabetically and a catalogue started. In 1923 a filing cabinet for author cards was purchased.

On 3 December 1930 a new Art Deco style library building was opened by mayoress Mrs B. C. Robbins, designed by Mr F. N. Hornibrook and built by C.F.J. Biggs. It also housed the Borough Electricity Department. The Bay of Plenty Times reported that, "A striking feature of the whole of the building is the beauty that has been introduced by the use of lead lights." 

After several earlier major financial worries, the library now began to flourish. In 1938 a telephone was installed and a new issuing system using enveloped implemented.

The first children's librarian, Miss Glenys Martin, was appointed in 1949.

Tauranga Library 1963 99-1205

Tauranga Municipal Electricity Department, Council Offices and Public Library on Willow Street in 1963. Opened on 3 December 1930. The building is a good example of Art Deco architecture in New Zealand. Pulled down in 1988 to make way for a new library building, shops and office space.

When the population of Tauranga reached 10,000 in 1959 the library was moved from the upper floor to the southern part of the ground floor of the building. 

In October 1964 the library moved to the shop next door (Bond and Bond Building / Hammond's Bakery) and then in 1970 across the road to Washer's old shop when the building was being demolished.

The new City Council offices opened in 1972 meaning the library was able to expand. In 1974 both the children's library and adult's library moved in together on the top floor of the Council building. In 1974 a young adult's section was added.

In 1976 and Archives and Local History section was opened in the Tauranga Town Hall. That same year fire destroyed the entire collection of back issues of the Bay of Plenty Times which highlighted just how important the library archives were. Fortunately the publisher had kept copies on microfilm which are are now held by the Alexander Turnbull Library. 

By 1984 the library facility was under stress and was only able to offer a basic book lending service. There was inadequate shelving for books which saw many stacked on the floor and a set of bookshelves collapsing. The archives, which were housed in the Town Hall, saw a major leak in late 1984 after an earthquake which saturated bound volumes of the Bay of Plenty Times spanning 30 years from 1902.

By 1981 councillors were calling for a report on the state of the library roof. In 1983 there were 97,000 items in the library collection.

Tauranga Library 1987 07-121

Tauranga Library in 1987 prior to demolition

The Edgecumbe Earthquake on 2 March 1987 was felt in Tauranga and may have affected the Tauranga Public Library. A downpour saw the Bay of Plenty Times publish an article on 4 March about 65 large books that received a soaking via a leak in the library through rusted guttering and windows. This resulted in damp library books being dried out in hot water cupboards all over Tauranga.  

During all this, on Tuesday 3 March 1987, the very first Toddler Time was held at Tauranga Library.

In August 1987 the Tauranga Municipal Children's Library moved temporarily to accommodation in Hamilton Street behind the city council building which freed up space in the crowded main library. That same month the Sladden library moved out of the Town Hall to the space left behind by the children's library.

After the Tauranga Town Hall Occupation by Ngai Tamarawaho, the Town Hall was demolished on 24 September 1987.

Library staff were busy during 1987 transferring the library catalogue to computer.

On 15 October 1987 the Kaimai Trades Council placed a green ban on the Town Hall site in support of Maori wishes that nothing be done on the land under the Waitangi Tribunal dealt with ownership issues.

In December 1987 work began on a new 8.5 million dollar civic complex (library, offices and shopping areas) bounded by Willow, Hamilton, Durham and Wharf Streets. The design was for three modules connected by skylight-covered arcades opening from Willow Street and Wharf Street. Module 2 which was earmarked for the library, included a 90 space rooftop carpark. The contract had been won by the Tauranga branch of Hawkins Construction Ltd. with a price of $4,147,613 for the building with architect Ian Carter as project manager. Ian Carter said that the library was designed to last 100 years (BOPT 21 April 1989).

In 1988 the library moved into temporary accommodation within the complex to allow the demolition of the old library which had roofing problems and the Tauranga Town Hall which was no longer structually sound.

By 30 March 1988 the new library foundations were being laid and work had begun on the first floor columns. Ngai Tamarawaho had withdrawn their High Court action and the green ban had been lifted.

In August 1988 demolition of the old library began.

In August 1988 the library closed for three months while the new library building was outfitted.

On 25 October 1988 four hundred wire bread baskets were used to start shifting the library books from the Tauranga Public Library to the new library on the corner of Wharf and Willow Streets. The move took at least eight days.

On 26 October 1988 Ngai Tamarawaho's restraining order preventing Tauranga City Council from further site development was unsuccessful in the Hamilton High Court.

On 27 October 1988, five men barricaded themselves into the new civic building. Hundreds of library books were damaged, two police dogs set alight and a handler struck on the head with a piece of wood. Police forcibly hauled the protestors out of the building and took them to the Tauranga Police Station. Several fires that had broken out were doused by firemen. Spray painted graffiti and splashed paint covered the building. 

Mayor Noel Pope was recorded in the Bay of Plenty Times on 28 October 1988 as saying; 'the Government had set up the Waitangi Tribunal but not given it the resources to resolve Maori land claims speedily' and 'the uprising was due to frustration of people who felt their grievances were not being heard and that they were not getting anywhere'.

Most damage occurred to carpet, shelving, books, and some building lining and other paint damage. The 2000 books lost were mainly adult non-fiction. Many other books were damaged but re-covered by Friends of the Library or cleaned. Library staff took four days to clean up the mess left behind. The estimated cost of the damage was $140,000.

On 3 November 1988 a Library Appeal Committe was formed to raise money for furnishings and fittings for the new library. The fund would eventually top $190,000.

Demolition of he 60-year-old Tauranga Public Library was started on 7 November 1988. The temporary library opened on 28 November 1988 with mayor Noel Pope being issued the first book.

On 21 April 1989 $30,000 worth of leadlighting and restored stained glass by designer and leadlighter Paula Dennison was installed in the civic Building. One work, designed to reflect the 'universal cosmos and ideals' of the building can be seen externally from the civic arcade and internally from the library. The work was designed to reflect the nature of the library. Vowels are splashed across the three sections of the work and the window passes through the poutamu (growth), intellect, and void then to a maze. A cut crystal has been placed in the centre of a sea of yellow to symbolise light outside a door at the start of the maze.

Tauranga City Library (2016)

Main entrance to the library through the Civic Arcade from Willow Street.

The new library also featured a mini conveyor belt as part of it's returns system. Three stained glass leadlight windows salvaged from the 1930s Art Deco library building were installed in the stairwell to the first floor of the new building as well as a Chinese tapestry presented in 1988 to the library by deputy Mayor Joy Drayton after a visit to sister city Yantai.

Tauranga Library Leadlight Windows (1930)

The library moved into it's final position and reopened on 8 May 1989. On the first two days of opening librarians issued around 6000 books.

The new building with it's internal guttering proved unsuccessful however. Staff had to run around with buckets and cover book stacks with plastic sheeting when it rained heavily.

In 2007 the library was refurbished after a new story replacing the rooftop carpark was added to the building which fixed many of the leaks.

December of 2014 saw Tauranga City Library's learning centre and reference area sealed off in the wake of a toxic black mould outbreak at Tauranga City Council's Willow Street premises following complaints of sickness by staff. On Christmas Eve library staff were given three hours' notice of closure before the whole library wing was shut. After being given the all-clear the learning centre re-opened on 30 January 2015 and non-fiction on 17 February 2015.

On 10 May 2016 air quality testing was carried out at the Tauranga City Library.

In 2016 an automatic returns system was installed. 

See also:

Joyce West Collection

Munro Collection

Sladden Collection

Tauranga Town Hall Occupation (1987)



Bay of Plenty Times (9 May 2016). Tauranga council to test air quality.

Bellamy. A. C. (ed) (1982). Tauranga 1882-1982: The Centennial of Gazetting Tauranga as a Borough (pp. 80-87).

Friends of the Library Scrapbooks x 5 (Tauranga City Library: Research Collections).

Sunlive (30 January 2015). City Library open to learning.

Sunlive (17 February 2015). Library reclaims non-fiction.

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Tauranga Library (est. 1871)

City:Tauranga, New Zealand