The Children's Library of Upper Riccarton

"Your Library has been an outstanding success"

During the middle 70s the library was placed on a more secure footing and given a more integrated standing within the Paparua County Council. The Council had always nominated a representative of the Council to be on the Children's Library Committee. Because several of the committee had husbands who at various times served on the Council or its bodies, or were associated in some way, these were usually men such as Will Ragg, Arthur Fazackerly (Joan's father-in-law) or Eddie Britnell. These men could maintain the necessary connection without usually attending meetings, apart from the occasional AGM.

When the fairly tiny Halswell County Council amalgamated with Paparua, in the late 60s one of the institutions that came with the area was a small voluntary library founded as far back as 1897. There were also small voluntary libraries at Tai Tapu and Ladbrookes. In 1972 Paparua opened a Council library at Hornby, giving it six libraries to some degree or other under its jurisdiction, most of them within what had now become distinctly urban areas. It seemed an appropriate time to formalise these relationships and place these libraries on a common footing.

Following discussions with representatives of the Council the Committee of Sir John McKenzie Children's Library received a formal letter setting out the basis of a proposal for the council to "become financially responsible for the running of your library." Stated the letter,

"The Council will provide an adequate annual sum for all book purchases and miscellaneous expenditure including the upkeep of the library complex, providing all subscription charges to your readers are terminated. A further proviso would be that your Committee continues to administer and operate the Library as in the past. I understand that you are well aware of the reasons that the Council would like to see your Library along with the Halswell Library and Hei Hei Children's Library become entirely on a free basis. It should be re-iterated that the Paparua County Council will not interfere with the "day to day" running of the Library nor will the County Librarian have any authority in its administration. Your Library has been an outstanding success within the Community since its inception 20 years ago and the council has no wish to interfere, apart from providing the necessary finance to meet all expectations".

As the amount the Council was intending to provide was well above that raised by annual subscriptions and the library relied greatly on annual grants from the J. R. McKenzie Trust fund to purchase books, it was an offer that could hardly be refused. The McKenzie Trust fund nonetheless continued its role as a generous benefactor, giving several hundred dollars a year towards book purchase.

In 1977 Riccarton Rotary re-visited their first major project and raised a considerable sum, to allow the library to be extended by moving the rear wall of the library back 11 feet [as had been allowed for in the original design] - an added alcove area that was excellent for the Older Children's books. A library is in some part a very safe place and a sanctuary for many quieter, more studious or sensitive children. Having a regular place after school where they could have time to themselves amongst the stimulation of books, but also become personally known to supportive mature adults other than their parents is an important building block of independence for many children. The smaller size and more intimate nature of the Sir John McKenzie Library, with its strong connections to the surrounding community, was admirably suited for playing such a role, for several generations of children.

The Paparua Council had long recognised that the library filled a vital role in the community. On the 30th anniversary year of the founding of the library tribute was paid to these enduring volunteers.

"In November 1984, the librarians attended a function organised by the Paparua County Council and they were proud indeed to receive a Community Service Award, sponsored by the Sockburn District Community Council. The Award was given in recognition of outstanding voluntary service in the field of Recreational and Educational services to children. This award in the form of a sizeable framed certificate, hangs in pride of place behind the librarians receiving desk."

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