Aotearoa New Zealand collectionThere’s nothing like opening a new library. There’s a lot of excitement round here at the moment as opening day for the brand-new Aranui Library draws near (this Saturday! 11am! woo!).

And we’re not jealous here at Tuam Street, not at all.  They have a beautiful, brand-new, architecturally designed, art- and light- filled facility, with water features, rolling parkland, and oh-so-shiny brand new books, movies, magazines …

It’s not a competition, we tell ourselves.  After all, we love our post-industrial, dystopian-chic-themed electrical warehouse makeover.  We love that the bus exchange is right next door.  We love that we are in the heart of the city, where big things are happening every day.  We love the Re:Start mall, and the Escarto coffee cart, and Ballantynes.

We love having so much of the old Central library’s stock here, and working in tandem with Central Library Peterborough library we provide access to family history, newspapers, magazines, motor manuals, the law collection and all the expertise that Central used to offer.  We love that our shelves are full, not just with the latest shiniest bestsellers, but also with Wodehouse and Woolf and Austen and Ballard, with Salinger and Verne and Kerouac.

We also love the Aotearoa New Zealand Collection. We tried really hard to fit it all in here, but even with the best of intentions we are only able to offer a ‘representative sample’.  The rest of it is safely stored off-site, but it’s only a hold request away.  What’s here, at Central Library Tuam, is distracting enough.

Stepping into the ANZC area is a bit like opening a packet of pineapple lumps.  You think to yourself, I’ll just have one.  Maybe two.  And then before you know it, you’ve eaten an entire packet spent a whole hour browsing the shelves, and people are wondering where on earth you’ve got to.

I went down the rabbit hole this morning, and in just a short 15 minute browse came up with these gems:

  • A 1963 edition of Just Cooking, Thanks (being a dissertation on New Zealand seafood), by Noel Holmes. Mmm, tentacles.
  • A 1942 book called Medical Advice from a Backblock Hospital (a bit afraid to read this one in case it involved biting on a bullet while someone sawed off a leg)
  • A delicious wee gem called Bits and Pieces by Gran, ZB Personality.  I LOVE this book!  A quick flick through offered everything from sage words – “Indulging in fits of bad temper shortens life”;  to recipes – mix equal parts minced ham, beetroot and gherkin to make a savoury spread for biscuits; to must-have outdoorsy advice – find here a “good mixture for waterproofing a tent” that you can mix up in the kitchen.
  • Rosemary Rees’ 1933 travel diary, called New Zealand Holiday, in which she notes the large numbers of “young, fine, splendid men pouring into the country.”

Also on the shelves, reference copies of Consumer magazine and the Listener, lots and lots of books by New Zealand novelists and poets, and the gripping, relentlessly paced Ocean Outfall Handbook (A Manual for the Planning, Investigation, Design and Monitoring of Ocean Outfalls to Comply with Water Quality Management Objectives).

There IS a fine print clause with ANZC material – none of it can be borrowed, and you can’t bring your tea and sandwiches in with you, but you can (and should) come and browse, sit for a while, and discover all the hidden treasure that awaits.

We may not be the newest shiniest library on the block, but just remember this:  sometimes, old stuff is good stuff.