The small Kaukapakapa library is one of the smallest in New Zealand. Photo / Provided.
When Tūranga, Christchurch’s new central library, was inaugurated in late 2018, it quickly garnered accolades and visitor numbers. Its design reflects a global shift, where the library is revised as multimedia
a social hub, where customers can experiment with 3D printing, children can play interactive games, and parents can enjoy coffee.
That’s why it didn’t take long before Tūranga found its way on the hit lists of library tourists around the world.
Library tours are nothing new; as far back as the 18th century, it was the focus of the Grand Tour, a rite of passage through Europe for young men. But in recent years, it has seen a revival, with architecturally stunning structures like Tūranga becoming a tourist spot in its own right.
Two years ago, Danish librarians Christian Lauersen and Marie Eiriksson co-founded Library Planet, a multi-sourced guide to the world’s best libraries. (The name is the Lonely Planet game.) The last time I spoke with Lauersen, he said that libraries don’t just attract tourists looking for reliable Wi-Fi connections. On the contrary, he believes that they provide invaluable insights into the culture and daily life of people in a destination.
Including university libraries, private collections and public institutions, there are approximately 400 libraries across New Zealand, which facilitate 35 million physical visits per year. Here are nine libraries that tourists should not miss.
New Zealand’s only library on the Library Planet list, Te Pātaka Kōrero o Te Hau Kapua, caused controversy when it was revealed that its silk curtain, by artist Judy Millar, cost $ 100,000.
But the building designed by Athfield Architects has since won fans and accolades for its ocean view, grand staircase in the center, and the fireplace living room.
Featured in a BBC documentary about New Zealand’s smallest library, the Kaukapakapa Library (circa 1911) is one of the smallest libraries in the country, measuring just 21 square meters.
Although the library no longer lends out books, you can view the collection every third Sunday of the month in relation to the Kaukapakapa Village Market.
As far as public institutions go, this is one of the most important in the country. It is home to three important documents: Te Tiriti o Waitangi (Treaty of Waitangi); He Whakaputanga (New Zealand’s Declaration of Independence); and the Women’s Suffrage Petition (Te Petihana Whakamana Pōti Wahine), which can be viewed daily, including free tours.
However, his extensive collection also includes photographs, paintings and objects from New Zealand history, such as the 19th century notebook by non-fiction writer James Cowan, written in English and te reo Māori.
For many years, the only place where we could fully immerse ourselves in the work of the late Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser was public restrooms.
In early October, that changed when Kawakawa’s new library and service center – inspired by the work of the late Hundertwasser – opened. The toilets even rival the real ones; when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern came to the opening ceremony, she used Instagram to describe the floor as “the most beautiful toilet floor you will ever see”.
Designed by the same architects in charge of the Devonport Libraries, Waitohi Whare Mātauranga in Picton draws on the city’s maritime history; The rake beam and column refer to the ribs of the hull, while the large windows face the Marlborough Sounds.
Shortly after opening, the library reported a 61 percent increase in visitor numbers.
In the late 1800’s, there were very few public libraries in the world. Scottish-born American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie seeks change, helping to establish more than 2,500 libraries around the world, including 18 in New Zealand.
Although 12 of these early 20th-century buildings still stand in cities across the country, Balclutha is one of only two that continues to function as a library.
The Arts and Crafts exterior of the building has been facing the Akaroa beach since 1875, when it was the meeting place of the Akaroa Institute of Literature and Science.
This is no longer the city’s main library; instead, it now keeps archival material and the interior is staged to see how it might have been a century ago.
If you cycle along the Otago Central Rail Trail, you’ll find this corrugated iron library in the historic mining village of Naseby.
Built in 1865 as the First Union church, it was converted into a library in 1870 during the gold rush. According to Heritage New Zealand, “Miners reading books from lending libraries appear to have become a popular alternative recreational activity to drinking in public homes, and nearly every small mining settlement has its athenaeum”.
Nowadays, besides books, games and sports equipment are also available for borrowing.
This Christchurch library may not have the star power of Tūranga, but its simple, modern buildings represent the community that uses them.
After the original 1914 library was destroyed by the 2011 earthquake, the award-winning design – which references the spine, cover, and pages of the book – took its place.