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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 20th century

The lack of a public lending library had been a long standing grievance in the eyes of the community and visitors to Palmerston North. So, when the borough council finally considered the establishment of a library in July 1899, it is hardly surprising a brand new public lending library and reading room was opened only a year later.

The opening itself was considered a very important occasion. The Manawatu Daily Evening Times reported a 'large attendance to witness the ceremony'. Speeches by the mayor and a number of councillors, spoke of 'how advantageous the reading room would be to visitors and country people coming to Palmerston North'*. There were also many reference to a need for 'substantial cheques'* and donations of the sort, in the hope they might be able to fill the empty shelves in the library. There was also a wish that parents might subscribe and 'encourage the children to develop a taste for literature'*. Country people were also expected to subscribe, as they would not have to pay rates, but would benefit from the institution.

The new public library occupied what had been the Colonial Bank, purchased for 'dirt cheap'* for Ã,£2400 by the borough council. The Manawatu Daily Evening Times considered the reading room 'warm and cosy'*. The library itself was prepared for the books that were expected with help of donations and subscriptions, with shelves and 'other conveniences'*.

The library only had five years to enjoy the suitablity of its location, though. In 1905 the borough council, cramped in its own quarters, swapped with the library. The reading room now occupied an unextendable wooden building on the corner of Main St and the Square.

*(1990). (Extract). Public Reading Room and Library. The Manawatu Daily Evening Times.  Sep, 6.

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.