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PM: Funding for the National Library Speech

Tuesday 27 May 2008

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Address at
Announcement of Funding for the National Library of New Zealand Molesworth Street Development

Molesworth Street

12.00 noon

Tuesday 27 May 2008

I am pleased to be here in my roles as Prime Minister and Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage to make a very special announcement on the redevelopment of the National Library of New Zealand headquarters in Molesworth Street.

This building, designed in the 1970s, is to have an extensive makeover.

Our government has allocated $69 million over five financial years for the project – to create a 21st century library building, services, and experience.

The National Library of New Zealand is without doubt one of our premier cultural institutions. It is a repository for our taonga – and it is itself a taonga.

The National Library, which is also home to the Alexander Turnbull Library, is charged by statute with enriching the “cultural and economic life of New Zealand and its interchanges with other nations” (New Zealand Library Act 2003). In that role the Library collects, preserves, and provides access to collections worth an estimated one billion dollars. It also provides schools, young New Zealanders and their teachers alike with collections expertise and resources.

The Library’s collections include the most comprehensive range of New Zealand publications in existence, as well as photographs, sound and oral recordings; paintings, drawings, prints and cartoons; and maps and music collections. It has a highly diverse range of material, from the letters, journals, and notebooks of Katherine Mansfield; to Sir Apirana Ngata's papers, correspondence and whakapapa records; to New Zealand’s largest collection of early printed books – which date back to the 1470s.

The foresight and vision of the Alexander Turnbull Library has created inspired collections. They require our love, care and attention, and our investment in how they are presented to the world and are preserved and protected.

The Government believes that the collections need to be more visible and more accessible. They should be showcased in a way which gives New Zealanders and the international community a real sense of who and what we are, and of the influences on us and how we have developed as a nation.

In the information age where knowledge is king, our libraries need to be able to provide content, in both digital and physical form to all sectors of society and the economy.

To do that effectively in the digital age, the National Library needs to transform its services to respond to changing needs and requirements. Through its “New Generation” strategy, the Library is working to reshape its services internally to make the digital opportunities and its collections available to broader audiences. The redevelopment of the building is very much part of the project for a New Generation National Library.

But there are also other major reasons for the redevelopment.

● The existing building here on Molesworth is running out of
storage space. The plant and equipment are ageing.

● The deterioration of the building is now putting some
collections at risk.

● The Library has difficulty providing access to its collections for
all those who want it.

● The building is limited in the space it has for exhibitions.

● This is an inefficient building in terms of its energy and water

The redeveloped building will be a place for New Zealand and international visitors which is much more accessible, open, and engaging.

Long gone are the days when national libraries were viewed as exclusive warehouses of books and precious objects, made up of quiet places and storage vaults. Modern libraries are places for everyone to engage with, whether they be researchers, businesses, historians, school children, or families exploring their family/whanau history and whakapapa. Libraries connect citizens with their heritage.

The new exhibition spaces and more accessible collections are expected over time to increase visitor numbers from 115,000 annually to around 425,000.

The redevelopment will increase the quantity and quality of archival space. The large volumes of printed material produced today means that the National Library’s space here would be filled up by 2010. The redesigned building will increase the total space considerably, providing more exhibition and research space and public facilities, as well as more collection storage space.

It will also provide better facilities for protecting and preserving the Library’s collections. The redeveloped building will have new, controlled storage environments which meet international preservation standards.

The redesign will also more fully recognise New Zealand’s Maori and Pacific heritage, and reflect out outward looking, multicultural society.

Environmental sustainability has been incorporated into the redevelopment through use of natural ventilation, ground source heat exchange, rain water harvesting, and the use of bio or other alternative fuels.

The $69 million capital cost of the redevelopment reflects the fact that more than incremental change is needed to bring the National Library’s facilities up to 21st century standards.

The redevelopment is cost effective – to build anew was estimated to cost around four times as much.

The existing building has a good structure, around which the architects have been able to design a striking new exterior which will make it an architectural landmark in Wellington.

The design is all important, as the National Library stands here in the Parliamentary precinct – at the very heart of our democracy and of our judicial and executive government centre.

Hon Judith Tizard, Minister Responsible for the National Library has been a staunch advocate for this project. The Chief Executive and National Librarian Penny Carnaby and her team have worked hard to bring the project to this point and I wish them all the best as they see it through to completion.

I now ask Judith Tizard to say a few words about the project


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