Busy days for Porirua’s first librarian
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.