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Libraries are Us

The closure of the central library earlier this year was a shock to us all. The decision was made swiftly in the best interests of both Council’s staff and visiting public. It was a sudden and the grieving process is still underway, from disbelief, sadness, anger, acceptance through to hope.

The central library was not just somewhere with books and magazines. It was a meeting place, it was that warm, dry, and calm space welcoming everyone of all ages across our diverse communities. It has nurtured learning from young to old with a wide variety of different activities from baby rock ‘n’ rhyme through to photo booths celebrating the style of dress from the suffrage campaign.

Council staff have worked extremely hard in getting services back up and running. Some suburban library hours have been extended, more flexibility in where books can be returned has happened and new pop up spaces have been put in place - Arapaki Manners St and the National Library. It has also been an opportunity to try something different. The pop-up library in Manners St is combined with the Council service centre- a one-stop shop for Council.

There used to be service centres in main suburban libraries and as Mayor I want to see this happen again. We have a great branch library and community centre network and we need to utilise these spaces in helping Council stay better connected with all communities.

Council now has completed the deal on the third and final central library space which will be in the Harbour City Centre right in the heart of the golden mile - meaning easy access to everyone. This will be the biggest of the three central libraries with 1400 square metres, 20,000 books plus a café. It should be open early in the new year. The Council is also investing in a new warehouse space in Johnsonville to store the remaining books. We do not need to store them in expensive central city storage locations when they are only a click and collect away within 12- 24 hours. This is prudent use of ratepayers’ money.

So, what’s happening with the old library? Currently a group of construction and engineering industry experts are finding solutions for the right way forward and we should know more within the next month or two. It’s not that easy given its location. The building is essentially an iceberg. What you see above ground is only a fraction of what lies beneath in terms of services, foundations, storage, exposure to sea level rise and connections to the other buildings around Civic Square.

Whatever the solutions, we do need to think how we make our library space fit for the future whilst still providing that wonderful type of space and amenities that Wellingtonians have come to love.

As Mayor, I want Council to consider a public private partnership to enable an even more stunning yet affordable space to be created. We need to make our assets work for us especially when they are in prime locations and we want to keep rates affordable. In addition to a new library space, let’s look at opening some of the ground space facing into the square for hospitality and retail helping to activate the area even more. Let’s also look at bringing Capital E (the home of creative learning for young people) back into the square.

It will take strong pragmatic leadership, which I will bring as Mayor, so we can all make Te Ngākau Civic Square an even better civic, community and cultural hub that it once was.

Diane Calvert is standing for Mayor of Wellington and for Council in the Wharangi/Onslow-Western ward


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