Goodbye old friend

Librarians house has goneRecently I went into the central City and took a series of photographs of the Library Chambers which are now being demolished.  Many people will know the Library Chambers as the old Canterbury Public Library which closed in 1981 when the Central Library moved to its new building across the river on Gloucester Street.

As I walked around snapping pictures of the damaged building memories came flooding back. When I first came to Christchurch I ‘went native’. That is to say, I brought a bicycle to get around. I cycled round to the library and joined up. As well as books I was soon hauling away treasures like LPs  and prints to brighten up my inner city flat.

Then a bit later I worked there briefly in a very part-time capacity. It was the sort of city library I was used to from Wellington. Lots of dark polished wood, a cool refuge on a hot day, a magnificent bank of wooden catalogue drawers in the heart of the library, lots of nooks and crannies with their own special character – the newspaper reading room, the children’s library, the New Zealand room and so on.

We have photos of the old library in our digital collection.

For the library 150th celebrations in 2009 we collected a number of fond memories of the old library both as a physical place and as a lively institution adding much life and richness to our city. Read about the original art that could be borrowed, Mollie Tobeck’s memories of joining the library or Brian Gilberthorpe’s experience of his first job at the Canterbury Public Library.

So goodbye old friend – thanks for all the memories.

7 thoughts on “Goodbye old friend

  1. Robyn 7 October 2011 / 10:13 am

    After I’d heard it had to come down I made a pilgrimage to stand beside the fence and remember, and to shed a tear I must admit. Silly to be invested in bricks and mortar but the library was really special to me. Christchurch born and bred I wasn’t a member until the advanced age of 15 when my best friend told me you didn’t have to be limited to the school library where you’d read every single thing you wanted to read, and lots of things you didn’t. She said that in town there was a library with whole rooms of books to chose from. Who knew? Things got off to a shaky start when I chose Down all the days by Christy Brown and got to the issues desk to be told that this book could only be taken out on an adult card. I was so embarrassed I can’t think how I ever plucked up the courage to go back but I did, for years of happy borrowing. Even after the library moved to Gloucester Street just driving past that beautiful suite of buildings was always a pleasure; now it’s in the city of memories.

  2. Haneta Pierce 7 October 2011 / 11:06 am

    Ae there are many memories connected to the old Public Library, It holds a significant cultural memory for the city as well being the burial place (urupa) for older Puari pa. More information can be found on Ti Kouka Whenua

    • Marion 7 October 2011 / 3:39 pm

      Haneta I didn’t know that. Perhaps it could be become a special place for both cultures – a place of native plantings that also encourages reading and contemplation.

      • Mariana 15 May 2012 / 10:47 pm

        I do not wish to devalue anyone’s memories of the old library building but I really hope they never rebuild on the Puari urupa.
        Now that the site is cleared the sacredness of this burial place can be respected and remembered in the whakapapa of our city.

  3. Marilyn Slater 7 October 2011 / 6:20 pm

    The loss of these beautiful old buildings is one of the main reasons I am going to leave Chch. I can’t bear to see them go – it breaks my heart every time I hear of yet another demolition job. It makes me weep!

  4. Phil Saunders 14 October 2011 / 6:55 am

    Certainly an old friend! I spent years in that building reading and borrowing everything; it was like a second home. I live in Paris and I haven’t been to ChCh for years – breaks my heart to the see destruction wiping away not just buildings, but lives, dreams, hope and memories.

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