Librarian tires of tale of two cities

22:54, Aug 25 2014
Robyn Stewart
QUAKES "AMAZING FOR ART": Librarian Robyn Stewart loves the sight of a new hoarding in the CBD, seeing it as the promise of something new, whereas broken buildings remain in the eastern suburbs.

Librarian Robyn Stewart has moved house five times since the February 2011 earthquake.

Professionally, she has moved three times.

Stewart knows a lot about upheaval and uncertainty. She knows about adapting to change and about waiting for decisions and resolutions.

She also knows how to fight, and has recently reached an agreement with her insurer over her quake-damaged Huntsbury house. Right now she is living in yet another house for six weeks, while her temporary rental house is being repaired.

Stewart is a Cantabrian through and through. Her passion is her job, which she loves and wishes she found sooner.

She said goodbye to the Central Christchurch Library and now works at the library's central customer hub in Smith St.


Vivace on Tuam St, where we meet, is her favourite and her local.

"I feel sad about the CBD," she says, over a cup of tea in the sun.

"I loved working there."

Stewart loves to see a hoarding go up. It's the promise of something new, and something actually happening. She is loving the promised performing arts precinct and the Avon River precinct.

The contrast is what she sees in the eastern suburbs, where she spends a lot of her time. Here, she sees broken buildings still not torn down. She sees areas in a state of suspension and a community dragged down by years of inaction and uncertainty.

"I feel sorry for the east. It makes you feel quite tired. It's definitely a tale of two cities."

Not one to be sad for long, Stewart is quick to notice things that lift her mood.

"I would never say the earthquakes were a good thing but for art, it has been amazing."

She hopes the public art, murals and sculptures will stay on in the rebuilt city and become a proper part of the landscape. Long may creativity continue.

She is looking forward to the new library in Cathedral Square, and is immensely proud of how the libraries boxed on post-quake.

Many were open quickly and provided a much-needed central hub for the communities they served. Stewart is proud of the staff, of their resilience and willingness to battle on in cramped and limited conditions.

While parts of the rebuild get her down, she says it is important to remember and notice the positive.


Lives in: All over the place

Lived in Christchurch: 59 years

Where: Vivace, 474 Tuam St

The Press