The outdated stereotype of libraries - silent, musty, a single librarian hissing shhh from behind a pile of books - has been shelved for a long time.
Now when you head into an Auckland library it’s awash with activity: kids coding robots in makerspace zones, toddlers shimmying along to wriggle and rhyme sessions, the chatter of language lessons, students gathered in study groups and Aucklanders of all kinds using the free wi-fi.
Meanwhile, the reading itself goes beyond the walls with Aucklanders downloading free eBooks, eMagazines and eAudio everywhere, whether on their daily commute, on holiday or curled up at home.
We chat with Auckland Libraries General Manager, Mirla Edmundson about the future she and her team are building.
How have you seen libraries change over the years?
Libraries continue to evolve as our customers' needs evolve. For example, we see Aucklanders increasingly making use of digital information, with e-books and e-magazines now representing 18 per cent of our total lending. We continue to play a strong role in literacy, belonging, and ensuring a legacy for our future. In recent years we have committed to growing te reo Māori
What’s your vision for libraries in the future?
Libraries as a centre of exploration, experience, learning and connection in the city. It’s our mission to provide both a physical space for communities to come together; and a digital world to enjoy anywhere, anytime.”
How are you bringing that future about?
Growing the breadth of our services, resources and activities, specifically for what different communities need.
And that’s different for everyone. For youth a safe space to hang out with friends – and free wi-fi, for kid’s activities and games, among Māori communities a space that values and priorities te reo, for new Aucklanders it’s a place to learn about the city and meet other residents.
All of our libraries are about reaching people where they are and connecting them with what they need – our promise is to be welcoming to all. As Auckland changes, we change with it. Our local libraries and services reflect the distinct communities of our city.
On the digital side, a major focus is our online offerings and making them as easy as possible to access.
What role do you think libraries play in the city?
Libraries are unique as a space because they are a free space for any and every member of the public, open almost every day of the year. It’s a place people feel they belong and part of the rich life in Auckland.
How libraries are building this future
“Auckland Libraries isn’t just the building – it’s about the digital experience, making it accessible and innovative.”
eCollections and eReading: Auckland Libraries is growing it’s eCollection – already offering 200,000 eBook, eMagazine and eAudiobook titles and still growing.
eReading app: To make things even easier, libraries launched the Libby app for library members to access eBooks on their smartphone, tablet or iPods. In the future you’ll be able to sign-up and download the app instantly, without being a registered library user.
Accessing heritage online: This year Auckland Libraries launched Kura Heritage Collections Online, opening access to over 600,000 heritage documents, photographs, maps, manuscripts and more. Ultimately, the collection will house over 2 million items online, so keep an eye out.
“Our mission is to connect communities with what they need, and provide a place for them to explore, experience, learn and connect.”
Book a Librarian: Offering Aucklanders one-on-one help in a range of areas, including writing a CV, managing tech, researching family history and more.
Pop-up libraries: This year, Auckland Libraries expanded their mobile services, now running pop-up libraries at 39 aged-care facilities and retirement villages, plus visiting parks, beaches and events. The service also makes personal home visits for people unable to get to a library.
Events: Libraries across the city run a range of events for all ages, including crafts, games, classes, exhibitions and school holiday programmes.
Te Manawa: Just a few months ago, Auckland Libraries opened a new multi-purpose facility – the first of its' kind in Auckland, as both a community hub and library.
“Youth and children are vital to our city, and our work provides support, advice and a safe space to grow.”
Homework help: Multiple libraries offer free after-school homework help for students and kids; plus career and training advice for the teens.
Tupu Youth Library: Auckland is home to the only youth library in New Zealand,
Specialist Staff: Auckland Libraries are focusing on specialist staff to support vulnerable children.
Mobile libraries: Mobile buses and vans regularly visit schools all over the city with books, library cards and expert librarians.
“Libraries are about supporting and celebrating our Māori identity, and growing the Māori language.”
Māori specialists: Te reo speaking kaimahi Māori, who offer a range of expertise and assistance whether you need help with research, accessing rauemi or organising kaupapa Māori.
Te Reo books: Auckland Libraries is trialling publishing a children’s book in Te Reo
“We’re building a future where Auckland Libraries is a place to explore, experience, learn and connect. The library is something you can enjoy anywhere, anytime.”