Busy days for Porirua’s first li­brar­ian

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - KRIS DANDO

Cather­ine Mathews can re­call work­ing in Porirua’s first li­brary like it was yes­ter­day.

It was 1962 and the li­brary opened in the old so­cial hall in Mun­gavin Ave. It was below where the Welling­ton Free Am­bu­lance build­ing stands to­day, with the new mo­tor­way close by.

‘‘I re­mem­ber how close the mo­tor­way was, but it was handy for a lot of peo­ple and there was gen­uine ex­cite­ment about us open­ing.

‘‘Mun­gavin was a busy place and there was no ‘town cen­tre’ like we have [in Cob­ham Court] to­day.’’

A mem­ber of the Coun­try Li­brary Ser­vice in Manawatu, Cather­ine saw the ad­ver­tise­ment for a full­time li­brar­ian in Porirua and jumped at the chance.

Al­though she had no prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence run­ning a li­brary, she found later to her sur­prise that she had been the only ap­pli­cant.

Cather­ine had a hardy group of vol­un­teers in sup­port, and said Porirua’s first li­brary was bustling and sel­dom quiet.

It was a fun en­vi­ron­ment to be a part of, she said, and the li­brary ser­vice was well-sup­ported by Porirua’s first town clerk, Gor­don Walsh.

‘‘He was a lovely man and a great town clerk, very in tune with the li­brary and its part in the com­mu­nity.

‘‘We be­came a so­cial part of Porirua and you got to know ev­ery­one – and what they were read­ing.

‘‘The fab­u­lous thing about it is that I felt the li­brary grew around me and was a real fam­ily.’’

Cather­ine, now 91, strug­gled to re­call how many books the li­brary held and what the most pop­u­lar ti­tles were, but said she was given per­mis­sion by Walsh to get in new books reg­u­larly to boost stocks and en­cour­age read­ing.

Porirua Li­brary moved to the coun­cil mu­nic­i­pal build­ing in the city cen­tre in 1967, be­fore mov­ing to its cur­rent site in 1991. Cather­ine re­tired in the mid-1980s.

A Ranui res­i­dent most of her life, Cather­ine said she had en­joyed watch­ing the city grow.

‘‘I lived dur­ing the heady years of Porirua. They were good days.’’

Things have cer­tainly changed since Cather­ine’s day – about $300,000 is spent each year now by Porirua Li­brary on new books, mag­a­zines and DVDs, and there are more than 470,000 is­sues an­nu­ally through the mod­ern com­puter sys­tem.


Cather­ine Mathews in front of her first love at Sum­mer­set at Aotea – books.

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