New Zealand’s first public library opened in Wellington in 1841. Around the country more followed, often run by organisations that saw them as a good cause. There were also libraries that operated as businesses.
From 1852 councils and later the government helped fund public libraries. That enabled the libraries to thrive. Some councils took their local libraries over altogether.
In 1938 the government set up the Country Library Service, which used vans to take books to isolated communities until the late 1980s.
The School Library Service was established in 1942 to circulate and loan book collections to schools and small public libraries, as well as to support librarians in meeting children’s needs.
The National Library
In 1945 the Country Library Service and the School Library Service joined to create the National Library Service. Twenty years on it also included the Alexander Turnbull Library, the National Newspaper Collection and the copyright collection and legal deposit services of the General Assembly Library.
New Zealand has three major research libraries, all based on private collections that were gifted to the public:
- the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington
- the Grey Collection in Auckland
- the Hocken Collection in Dunedin.
The Libraries Association of New Zealand was formed in 1910, the forerunner of the present day Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA). In 1992 a group for Māori librarians, Te Rōpū Whakahau, was set up within LIANZA. It became a stand-alone association in 1996.
Services to Māori
Māori OPAC, New Zealand’s first Māori-language online library catalogue, was launched at Kerikeri Library in 1995. In 2007 Ngā Ūpoko Tukutuku, a new bilingual Māori subject headings list, was promoted in libraries. This was the first collection of indigenous subject headings recognised by the Library of Congress, the national library of the United States.
Libraries in the 21st century
In 2013 there were 667 libraries in New Zealand. Over half were public libraries. Others were in universities, polytechnics, hospitals, research institutes, law firms and other businesses. There were also around 2,500 school libraries.