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New Library on the books

By Don Farmer

[email protected]

A new library for Masterton could be on the cards should Masterton District Council agrees at a meeting later today to join forces with Masterton Trust Lands Trust to establish a “collaborative project”.

If it comes to pass, the lands trust would contribute half the project cost which would also extend to exploring the option of building a combination facility incorporating a library, town hall and municipal building.

Costs for a new library have not yet been established, being largely dependent on capacity, design and the new building’s intended strength and life span.

A paper prepared by senior council staff mentions the existing town library built in 1982 has served the district well but no longer meets community needs.

It has 950sqm of floor space but needs 2500sqm.

The library does not have a lift even though it is built on three floors including a hard-to-access basement and has limited space for collection, storage and display.

There is no space for expansion, shelving heights exceed the recommended maximums for libraries, staff workspace is cramped and the basement is at risk of flooding.

The lack of space also impacts on the library’s ability to introduce new technology and several library services, particularly local history and genealogy services have been farmed out to Wairarapa Archive.

Because the archive is only open to the public in the afternoon, access to the Wairarapa Reference Collection, newspapers and birth, deaths and marriages on film is limited although they are clearly defined as public library functions.

A new library would aim to cater for Masterton and the wider Wairarapa community‘s needs for 50 years plus.

The council’s Long Term Plan has earmarked $1.2m for 2017/18 with a forecast to have a new library up and running by 2022.

According to the prepared paper which councillors will consider today, Masterton Library is visited almost 200,000 times a year.

That, combined with 2500 visits by researchers to Wairarapa Archive amounts to 10 visits a year for each and every person in the Masterton district.

Research has shown demand for library services is likely to increase between 20 per cent and 33 per cent when a new library is built.

Possible local government amalgamation has also to be considered and whereas free library membership is now only available to Masterton residents, it would likely be expanded to all Wairarapa residents if a merger goes ahead..

As far as building costs are concerned council would foot a significant amount of the cost but outside funders would need to be involved and, according to the prepared paper, could include Trust House, Masterton Trust Lands Trust, the Lotteries Commission and other government agencies and service providers.

Councillors have been provided with a sample of new library costs in other parts of the country.

In 2012, an existing building in Levin was converted into a new library and community centre to serve a population similar to Masterton’s, with about the same floor space required, at a cost of $7m.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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