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National Library makes more room for NZ and Pacific stories

The National Library holds millions of books stored carefully beneath the road under Molesworth St in Wellington and in storehouses outside Wellington. 600,000 books make up a portion of the overseas published collections stretching across 24,544 metres of shelving. Most of these haven’t been issued for 20-30 years. The National Library is looking to rehome these books to make more room for its New Zealand, Māori and Pacific collection.

National Librarian Bill Macnaught says, “A significant part of our role as stewards of Aotearoa’s documentary heritage is to preserve the memory of New Zealand and our place in the Pacific. No library elsewhere in the world is going to collect and preserve our stories, that's our job. We now need to make more room for these stories.”

In 2015 following extensive consultation the National Library updated its Collections Policy to focus on New Zealand and Pacific material. Part of the driver for this change is that the National Library’s storage facilities are expected to reach full capacity by 2030.

National Library Content Services Director Rachel Esson says, “Space issues are ongoing, libraries around the world are facing the same issue because there is only a finite amount of library space. We are following the standard library practice of freeing up space and actively managing our collections.

“We are still investing in our collections. The Alexander Turnbull collection continues to grow, and we invest heavily in our print collections, particularly our school’s collection. We need to ensure that our collections and services are managed well for the benefit of all New Zealanders.”

In October the National Library put out a call to Libraries across New Zealand and the Pacific for registrations of interest to rehome these overseas published books.

Macnaught says, “We are giving libraries the first option of refusal and we will continue to do this throughout this process, but we have also approached community organisations to help us redistribute this large number of books and they have so far been incredibly receptive.”
The first of those organisations is Rotary New Zealand. A trial in early 2020 is planned to start in Rotary’s lower North Island District with a view of expanding the programme across New Zealand. The pilot will see more than 50,000 books from the overseas published collection, donated to Rotary for their annual charity book sale fund raisers.

Funds raised from book sales will go towards helping literacy programmes in New Zealand and across the Pacific.

Librarians have been asked to register their interest in any of these overseas published books by emailing

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