I was surprised to hear on the radio recently that some public libraries in England have closed. Public libraries are very important for a community and it’s hard to believe that councils would close them. In New Zealand, we have many public libraries. Auckland, our biggest city, has 55 public libraries spread throughout the city. Auckland is a very spread-out city occupying a large land area. The cost of operating these libraries is $65m a year. Your rates pay for public libraries.
Wellington has 12 public libraries, Dunedin 5 and Christchurch 19. The new Sumner library opens next week. This is the third new library for Christchurch since the earthquake and each one includes a community centre. The new central city library building in the Christchurch Square is being constructed right now. Most cities have a book bus as well which stops at a different location each day of the week. Most people find a library not too far away from where they live.
Although libraries are changing, they are still extremely popular in New Zealand. Most offer free internet access, free book borrowing including electronic books. With an increasing number of migrants who speak different languages, libraries offer books in as many languages as they can within their budget. Most have newspapers and magazines from many countries. Staff in the libraries are trained so that they can offer help to find books or information you want. Some libraries use volunteers but usually for jobs like putting books on the shelves or repairing books.
We might feel annoyed to find tourists using our free services like computers or just sitting comfortably in a warm place, but many overseas public libraries also offer the same services. If you travel, try the local library for Wifi or for a comfortable place to rest a while.
• rates – property taxes, landlords include the cost of rates in rent so tenants pay rates too
• budget – the amount of money they have to spend in one year. “Keep within your budget” is a useful expression meaning don’t spend more than your budget.