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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

Carnegie and considerable changes

The Carnegie affair was a somewhat embarassing incident for the council which provided much debate for the community. Andrew Carnegie was an American muliti-millionare who had donated money to other New Zealand towns for libraries, such as Dunedin, 1907. There was some debate over whether or not Palmerston North should appeal to Canegie for money as he was known for his ill treatment of striking workers. An editorial in the Manawatu Evening Standard nicknamed the affair the 'Carnegie Crawl'. Despite the concerns of some of the community, the council appealed to Carnegie in 1906 and were refused. Another request was made in 1907 and another 1909, both were firmly denied, much to the embarrasment of the town. The library would stay put for the time being.

In 1928 the council decided the library needed more space. A two-storied stucture was built on the corner of Fitzherbert Avenue and the Square, in which the library occupied the first floor. Again there was much public interest in the opening ceremony and much admiration of the splendid interior of the library and reading room.

An important action was taken by the council in 1938 when the subscription system was abolished. Membership became free and the benefits of this system were obvious as membership numbers rose from 1,200 to 15,000 from 1938 to 1943. The professional standard of the library was also raised with the reorganisation of the staff and reclassification and recatalouging of the books. A childrens' and reference library were now included

The importance of these changes must not be overlooked. They proved, especially with the vast increase in memberships, that the community as a whole was interested in the library as a source of leisure and education. The actions of the council and the library also proved their willingness to provide an up-to-date service for the community.

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.