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CHANNEL FEATURE

New chapter for Takapuna library

 After seven weeks of extensive work, the newly refurbished Takapuna library opened its doors last month. At a quarter of a century old, the library was well overdue a revamp to replace worn fixtures and fittings, upgrade old wiring and modernise the layout of library items. Channel spoke to Takapuna Community Library Manager Helen Woodhouse to find out what’s new to discover.

Safety issues were a major factor in the decision to renovate, Helen says: “The lighting was reaching the stage where it was becoming dangerous,” she explains. “Aside from that, the shelving hadn’t been replaced in 25 years and was beginning to creak and groan. We had carpet that had worn very badly, and run-down old furniture. Basically everything has been replaced – we are walking on air!”

Planning for the refit had been in the pipeline for about two years before building work commenced. The bulk of the plans were done by Roy Tebbutt from SGA Architects - not a local firm, but one that was used by Auckland Council in a successful overhaul of the Mount Roskill library. In a bid to keep costs at a minimum, the Takapuna team found a very useful resource much closer to home. “One of our staff members, Marion Weatherley, has a Masters in Architecture, so we were thrilled to be able to utilise her skills, and save money at the same time,” Helen says.

The renewals budget for the library’s refurbishment was $815,500, and the entire project came in under budget. “Quite economical really, considering what has been achieved,” says Helen.

The library closed its doors to the public in the middle of this year, and seven weeks later, on Monday 18 August, reopened them to reveal a brand new interior. “It was all completely done when we moved back in. The transformation has been absolutely amazing,” enthuses Helen. “The Monday we opened was so busy. We had a wonderful blessing early in the morning, which set us off on a fantastic foot. We had so many people through the doors, including Maggie Barry and other local politicians. It made us feel as though what has been achieved here is really something special.”

Devonport-Takapuna Local board member Jan O’Connor is thrilled with the restoration. “More space is now available to the public; it’s light and airy and the wider views to the water and courtyard area show off our uniquely-Takapuna setting,” she said. “The internet was a thing of the future when this library was built so the refurbishment has offered the opportunity to re-wire the building for the digital age and provide Wi-Fi seating areas.”

The makeover also created the perfect opportunity to move collections around to better suit library users. The fiction collection can now be found on the ground floor, as can the bright and vibrant new children’s area. A large print lounge for older people has been created at the front of the library near a window. “There is a lovely filtered light that flows into that area,” says Helen. 

Upstairs now houses all non-fiction books as well as the research collection and Computer Hub. There is a new public meeting room, which can seat up to 20 people, or be divided to create two separate rooms. The Angela Morton Art Collection is also beautifully showcased upstairs, and Community Languages has a special nook in a corner window there. Judging by feedback so far, which has been without exception excellent, everyone is really enjoying the new areas. “Everything fits so well together now,” explains Helen. “We have a much better use of shelving and a great match of collections.” The delivery of new bicultural library signage in the next month will be the icing on the cake.

Takapuna Library staffers saw the renovations as a great opportunity to introduce a couple of new services and ideas to their environment. “We’ve been wanting to set up a Seed Exchange,” explains Helen. “We knew North Shore people were fantastic gardeners and we wanted to capitalise on that. Basically, people come in with their envelope of seeds, and swap it for something else that’s there. Or you can just come and take an envelope. It’s a simple thing to organise, but just wonderful.” 

The library is also in the process of setting up a Safe Spaces for Teens zone, a welcoming area specifically designed for teenagers. The concept is being realised following recent evidence that many teenagers identify libraries as safe places to be, and will be yet another incentive for different members of the community to come together in this fantastic new hub.

With school holidays upon us, Helen is excited about the library’s great holiday programme line-up, which includes a pirate theme, the Creation Station, a treasure hunt and Minecraft Madness. She is very much looking forward to being able to show off the new library to the anticipated hordes of children. “It will be so wonderful with all the space we have,” she says. “The place is absolutely sparkling. The whole project really has been a huge success!”

To find out more, visit the Takapuna Library at 9 The Strand, Takapuna, or go online to www.aucklandlibraries.govt.nz 

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