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Living Heritage


The reading

The 20th

Carnegie and
considerable changes

From the
60s to today

A pictorial


St Peter's College

The History of the Public Library

The 'reading room'

The establishment of a public library in the young town of Palmerston North was considered a significant addition to the city. Though little more then a 'reading room', a place for gentlemen to meet and read newspapers or books, the enterprise grew in popularity, especially after the borough council became involved in 1879. The library evolved into a public lending library, funded by rate-payers and the number of books increased from 200 to approximatly 600, of which a large majority were donated by members of the public.

At the time, Palmerston North was a timber milling town set in an expanse of native forest, with a population of about 900, and the foresight of the community and the council impressed many. An article in the Manawatu Herald stated, 'Palmerston has every reason to be proud of its reading room and library ...' and '...evidently there is a long and useful career before it [the library] ...'

The article also described the arrangment of the library. It was situated on the corner of Fizherbert Avenue and the Square. It occupied the upstairs portion of a building shared with town clerk's and Highways Board offices. With a view of the Square the location was considered admirable. The room consisted of a number of tables with papers, magazines etc arranged upon them. The books were kept in three cases and at the time numbered at least 600.

Disaster struck in 1885 when the buliding housing the reading room and library was destroyed in a fire. The borough council, unable to gather sufficent funds to replace the buliding, withdrew its support of the library in 1886. The books were placed in the care of a group of library trustees, who established a 'user-pays' system, which was eventually unsuccessful. In 1890 the books were placed in the care of the Palmerston North Working Men's Club. In 1894, the books were moved to the care of the Palmerston North Volunteer Fire Brigade, and waited there for a time when a new public library and reading room might be established.

Home – A brief introduction and explanation with a timeline.

The 'reading room' – The beginning for the Palmerston North Public Library, from 1876.

The 20th century – The borough council's establishment of a new reading room and library.

Carnegie and considerable changes – A difficult period and significant changes.

From the 60's to today – Continual growth and two location changes.

A pictorial narrative – Photographs of the six buildings the library has occupied from 1876 to 1996.

Sources – A list of sources used for information, with my email address if you have any queries.