New residents to town are being put off by rules at the Kaikoura District Library.
When Kay Mote, who has recently moved to the area, went to the library two weeks ago to join, she was told that unless she was a ratepayer she would incur a non-refundable subscription fee of $40.
"I was absolutely gobsmacked," she said. "I'm originally from Kaikoura, although I only came back to town six weeks ago. I've been a member of Picton and Blenheim [libraries] prior to coming here and they didn't charge me. Twenty dollars wouldn't be so bad, or even a refundable deposit. But $40?"
Mrs Mote said council should be encouraging new people to town rather than discriminating against them. Two forms of identification ought to be sufficient to become a library member, rather than having to pay a fee, she said.
She understood that the library was probably trying to cover its losses but felt the council ought to have liability insurance in place to cover losses.
Mrs Mote said the library staff member suggested she use a friend's or family member's card if she wanted to take out books, but she felt it was illegal to use someone else's identity.
Library manager Cheryl Barker said the fee was required to prevent the library losing money from missing books. She said the problem was worse in Kaikoura than other towns because of its transient nature. The rule had been introduced about two years ago, she said, and was the best solution, although it was being reassessed all the time.
Ratepayers were given automatic membership upon producing a rates bill, she said, but everyone else had to prove they had lived in Kaikoura for 12 months or more, or could produce a work or rental contract that would keep them in town for more than a year.
"The problem is bigger here because we can't absorb the costs like they can in larger centres," she said. "People are always going to be upset because they don't like paying for things, but this is the best we can do right now."
A lot of revenue was lost due to books going missing from the local library, she said, and many of the books were irreplaceable.
In many other libraries around the country, including in Christchurch, Marlborough, Wellington and Dunedin, membership was free to all residents and ratepayers, although some borrowing charges might apply. Some libraries also charged a refundable deposit for visitors to the area, but this had not worked in Kaikoura, Ms Barker said.
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