The Children's Library of Upper Riccarton

The 70s & 80s

The following year issues passed 20,000 but the year after that, 1970, they began to slump, dropping by 3,302 on the previous year. One factor considered was the change of late nights from Friday to Thursday to bring the library into line with the new late night, introduced by the Riccarton Businessmen's Association in September 1969. The next two years issues regained some of the ground lost but in 1974 the president Gwen Mills reported issues had fallen to 14,936 "This is total disappointingly, is 3,769 less than last year's number. Why this is so it is hard to say, the opening of the Paparua County Council's library at Hornby, more than a year ago now, may have made a slight decrease in the number of borrowers using the library. A good percentage of our readers are in the younger group." She added it would be good to get more of the older group. During the 70s the solid and consistent turnover of around 15 - 20,000 issues per year which had been the norm for 21 years began to steadily fall away. Between 1973 and 1978 issues continued to fall by over a 1000 a year each year, finally stabilizing around the 7000 mark in the late 70s and early 80s. In light of this decline and increased pressure it placed on shelving, the book limit was increased to 2 books per child per visit for all children during 1975. Eventually in the 80s the library would find a baseline of about 5-6000 issues per year.

There were many possible factors for this decline - the spread of car ownership and even second cars, so that mothers too could now drive and drive further afield to bigger more sophisticated libraries where they could get books for themselves as well. Or the growth of school libraries; or the increasing transient nature of residential populations and the resulting general loss of sense of immediate community and loyalty to local community institutions that went with it; or older children staying home after school to watch children's television programmes; or the increased difficulty of access to the library for older children walking or on bicycles due to the amount of traffic on Riccarton Road. The volunteers had to adjust to a changed tempo but there was still plenty of children who did use and enjoy the library and, as always, plenty of work needed doing to maintain, repair and replace book stocks.

During the late 70s and 80s the number of librarians continued to shrink, as some left the district and others passed away and few came forward to fill the ranks. By the mid 80s attrition saw the committee that had once numbered 22 - for every librarian participated in committee decisions - down to just 7 ("seven community minded women" as Gwen Mills would later describe them in her 1988 report). Given the reduced issues matched the reduced number of volunteers, the work level for those involved remained the same. And of course, so too the satisfactions, of working with the many children still using the library.

Keeping an public facility open week after week, year after year, also places a great strain on a voluntary organisation and understandably members can become more conservative, less enthusiastic about promoting additional activities or actively promoting their cause. Understandably they begin to feel they are giving enough already, and a pattern of retrenchment can settle in. President Gwen Mills, in her 1978 Annual Report commented "We continue to enjoy our small social get-to-gethers, which gives us a chance to meet together and even hold an informal meeting or two, as we have dispensed with regular evening meetings. The grapevine system works better, or a note left on the library counter!".

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