Libraries mark 170-year milestone
Nelson Public Libraries has celebrated 170 years - or 171, depending on who you ask - of library service.
A panel was unveiled at the Elma Turner Library yesterday, depicting the history of the region's libraries.
The original library moved into its first building in Trafalgar St on September 27, 1842, but some argue its history goes back a year earlier.
Nelson libraries manager Ian Littleworth said the libraries' roots were in the Literary and Scientific Institute of Nelson.
The institute, or the "grandfather" of Nelson libraries, was formed by officers en route to New Zealand on board the Whitby in 1841.
The library was based in three other buildings after opening in Trafalgar St, before the Elma Turner Library opened in Halifax St in 1990.
Mr Littleworth said Nelson libraries "tactfully" claimed to run the longest "continually operating" library in New Zealand.
The Port Nicholson Exchange and Public Library opened in Wellington in 1841, but closed soon after.
The panel unveiled outside the Elma Turner Library yesterday "captured everything that has happened in that journey over the last 170 years".
Nelson Institute secretary Nigel Costley, who was dressed in Victorian costume yesterday, said Nelson's libraries were a legacy left by the "privileged gentlemen" who arrived under Captain Arthur Wakefield.
Mr Costley said their gift to the mostly working-class community was "the democratisation of knowledge". The library and museum opened by the institute were taken over by the Nelson City Council in 1965.
There are now two other libraries in Stoke and Tahunanui.
Nelson city councillor Pete Rainey said he had “very vivid memories” of visiting the children's library at the back of the Nelson Institute building as a child.
“It was a fantastic place, and that love of reading has never really gone away. As this digital age reveals itself bit by bit, I think the libraries' role becomes even more defined.”
- © Fairfax NZ News