The Children's Library of Upper Riccarton

County and City Amalgamate

The anomaly of a major metropolitan area being under several different administrations, with all the added complexities, waste of resources and loss of effectiveness, implicit in this arrangement came to an end in 1989. Under the massive New Zealand wide re-structuring of local Government Paparua and Waimairi County Councils (as well as Riccarton Borough) were joined with Christchurch City Council to form one council. Probably to minimise complexities, the Paparua County Council sent the J. R. McKenzie children's library a letter advising them they has $3,368 sitting in account which should be spent on books before the end of the financial year, even advising them to go $200 above this amount to use up funds in other library accounts.

Amalgamation of local authorities took place on 1 November 1989 and ownership of the building and the role formerly filled by the Paparua County Council was taken over by the Christchurch City Council, and in particularly by the Canterbury Public Library. The obvious loss was the fairly intimate and informal relationship which had long existed between those involved with the children's library and officers of the much smaller Paparua Council. Often just a quick phone call and a chat with an already well known member of the Paparua staff was enough to get a problem addressed. Connections between families in Upper Riccarton went back along way, to the days when Church Corner, Sockburn and Hornby had been more like linked villages than the sprawling urban area they had become.

The gain from amalgamation was being brought under the umbrella of a major metropolitan authority, with a level of resources and support far above that previously available. In particular the Canterbury Public Library had a whole department - Suburban Services [subsequently renamed Outreach and Special Needs] - devoted to the libraries scattered around the city. Whilst the main focus of this was its own community libraries, and special services to rest homes and sight handicapped persons, it also acted as a liaison service with the local voluntary libraries. Suburban Liaison and Development Officer, Erina Parks, was able to offer the children's library support and advice from a very large library organisation with many resources. In 1991 Erina Parks wrote to the committee offering the services of Bill Nagelkerke, Children's and Young Person's Librarian at Canterbury Public Library. "He is only too willing to help in whatever way he can, whether accompanying buyers to local suppliers or helping locate titles in particular areas which you may want to build up".

The City Council also had (and further developed) criteria for the supply of funding, services and books to such libraries, based on the number of issues each year. The service and support offered by Erina Parks and others was warm and friendly, not the faceless bureaucracy that had perhaps been feared at the time of amalgamation. Nonetheless the J. R. McKenzie children's library could not but be aware they were now just one small element in a much larger picture, involving more than two dozen libraries (of all sorts) scattered across Christchurch. In particular the City Council aimed to deliver a high level of modern sophisticated and full library services to all suburban areas, by steadily upgrading existing council libraries (their own or those "inherited") and, where none existed, building new libraries to create a comprehensive network across the whole city. The Council's obligation was city wide, the best service for the most people, at a level far beyond that which most of the voluntary libraries could match. Support for voluntary libraries, that had so long filled a gap in various areas, would need to be reviewed as each major new suburban library was opened. With the greater skill and expertise the larger city library system could offer the children's library revived slightly, with 114 new members recorded in 1991 but the problem of too few volunteers remained.

Next page