lh_logo: mosaic:

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

From the 60's to today

From the end of World War II the city had expanded rapidly. Instead of being a primarily an agricultural and horticultural city, it diversified with an increase in population. Its economic base included educational, technological and manafacturing capabilities for regional and national use. With this diversification came growth also for the library and by the early 60's, the library had occupied the ground floor of the Fitzherbert Avenue buliding and the number of books had reached 80,000 by 1965. There were also collections of sound recordings and art prints. Local history photographs and manuscripts were added to the reference section and branch libraries had been established in the suburbs, such as in the Rossmont shopping centre of Roslyn.

By 1960 the council could see the library had outgrown the Fitzherbert Avenue building, and planned a new building on the corner of Main Street and The Square, in which the libary occupied three of five levels. In 1965 this library had opened. Two years later an innovative idea was put to the streets as the mobile library service opened in May. This mobile library, which planned to visit six different shopping centres, would help solve the many problems an over demand for the libraries services had caused, such as understaffing, unavalibility of buildings and lack of control of the central library after the establishment of branch libraries.

The Main Street location proved suitable for the next 30 years, then in May, 1996 an elaborate new buliding was opened between George Street and the Square. The buliding, renowned for it's architectural flair, was based on one of the library's original homes, the colonial bank, and won a major architectural award in 1998.

The library is now home to over 250,000 items and has increased in diversification to offer audio-visual materials, a vast number of art prints, large-print books, muliti-lingual books, Maori and Asian language materials and local archives. 850,000 visitors are attracted to the building a year and over a million books are issued in the central library alone in a year.

The importance of the public library thoughout it's history in Palmerston North is evident through it's consistent existence. From a rocky start, the reading room and library has grown from strength to strength and occupied more and more space as membership grew. The unique and historical reading room system, incorporated in the modern library through its name as the 'living room of the city'*, is a fascinating aspect of the library's history and a sure sign of a prosperous future to come.

Aust, J. (Producer). (1996). Livingroom of the city.  K&M Printers. Palmerston North.

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.