Maungaraki School serves a diverse community and strongly values its school/community links. The school has been fast-growing over the last few years. As a result, the old library space was converted into two classrooms and the library was set up in a Portacom. This did a disservice to the students who wanted a quiet space, those who wanted to read, and the books.
The ability of the Ministry of Education to build school libraries has been declining, says Shane. “We had to fight very hard to get this library here and it was the only one built over the last year.”
The school lobbied over three years for a new library and community space, which was made possible by joint support from the school board, the community, and staff persistence. The school worked closely with the Ministry of Education to show that the resource was needed.
The building was already well underway when Shane reached out to Hutt City Libraries, hoping to gain support to open the library to the community outside of school hours.
Liz Castle, Collections Services Manager at Hutt City Libraries, says that the library jumped at the opportunity.
“We came for an initial meetup and to talk about what we could do, thinking it was anything from providing deleted book stock to running a full public library, and I was blown away. They (the school) didn’t want anything for themselves but for the community. And they already had the building.”
“It was a gift for us,” says Liz. The building was already here (this was December 2022) and there was no library presence in the area. Hutt City Libraries has eight library sites, all on the Hutt Valley floor area, yet around 20% of the Hutt Valley population live in the hills.”
Shane says, “I didn’t expect too much –and so when we had the initial conversation and asked if we could have public library books here – I was blown away with their response”.
“We did a lot of community surveys and consultation, and libraries and shared spaces were high on the list for the community.” There had been a space in front of the school earmarked for a library for years – but was never built.
When Hutt City Libraries suggested that they supply the books and provide staff to enable the library to open after school hours and six days a week, Shane and the school board jumped at it saying, “Let’s just make this happen.” Within three months the school library was opened, in March 2023.
“We value the professionalism of librarianship, so we wanted to make sure our staff were involved, with two staff members available after school hours and Saturday,” says Liz. Volunteers now assist the public library staff member.
“Everyone was so excited about the library opening – the children, the Hutt City Council, the community. Yesterday I had 80-90 children in this space, and they just love it. But the librarian input here has been crucial,” says Shane.
A very elderly lady came in when Jacqui Arnot was working in the library. The lady looked around in awe and commented, “I’ve lived in Maungaraki for years and years and I always wished this would happen – and here it is finally”.
“It works for us too – it gives us a direct foothold into this community, and it allows us to provide professional library skills where they are needed,” says Jacquie, who is currently acting Neighbourhood Hubs Manager for Hutt City Libraries.
“While there is a boutique collection of books here, whatever you get on the valley floor you can get at the Maungaraki library.”
The school can keep the library well stocked with books and e-resources from the collections of Hutt City Libraries. SMART Libraries, a public and tertiary collaboration is available, and the school can now get the reference books that previously would be sourced from the National Library of New Zealand.
“We had no idea what the shelving would look like or what books would be here. Many of the school’s existing book stock was unusable after being in the Portacom. The adult library books were put on portable shelves and are kept in a separate room during school time,” says Liz.
Two days a week the school library space is used for Māori storytelling and classes come through other times to use the library. There are Māori whānau nights held after school hours and other community use of the space is currently being looked at.
“It’s been a fantastic thing to be part of,” says Jacquie.
“I was really impressed by the support we got,” says Liz. “We had a new manager who came on board last year. She took this to council senior management, and they made the call to just let the library get on with it.”
Shane says, “There was a real need and a real solution, so it was hard to argue against. I’ve seen the joy it gives the community, but we can do much more with this space. I feel like it’s only the first step. The more community collaboration we can get the better.”
Check out the enthusiasm of Maungaraki School students on Facebook:
- Video made by the students about the opening of the library https://fb.watch/ks6nuRNjVX/
- Lunchtime library vibes made by students at Maungaraki school/public library May 8, 2023, https://fb.watch/ks60rA8OyT/