Tākaka's First Library


On 7th June 1869 the Nelson Evening Mail carried a notice that the ship Icon from London was carrying one case bound for the Tākaka Public Library(1). Where this library was located is not known but it is thought to have been at the Lower Tākaka School. In 1869 the school committee of the one-roomed schoolhouse was granted permission to erect a reading room on school grounds, now the site of Golden Bay High School. As the committee, 17 years later, in 1886, requested permission to move ‘the library building’ to a new location it is fairly safe to say that this original reading room was the first Tākaka Public Library and it was to here that the shipped box of books was destined. 

Takaka Library

1. The building that housed the first library about to be moved from the corner of Reilly and Commercial St. Photo courtesy of Julie Reilly.

In the early days the library, though public, would not have been free to access. It would have been set up and funded by interested subscribers who would pay an annual subscription out of which books would be bought and the library managed. In 1884 the committee of those subscribers were: W Page, J Reilly, J Cann, J Walker, A Robertson, A Sinclair, J A Haldane, G B Hurst and J Haldane Jnr - all names associated with the town and the early settlers. By this time grants from the government were allocated to each of the ‘public’ libraries in a district.(2)

Although permission to move the library was granted in 1886 this does not appear to have happened for many years, for in September 1891 there was yet another request to move the building. The move finally took place sometime between 1891 and 1900 and the small library building was established on the corner of Reilly and Commercial Streets next to the Oddfellows Hall on land that now houses the Pioneer Memorial. When the new Post Office was built nearby in 1900, both the Oddfellows Hall and the library appeared so shabby in comparison that they were both repainted and improved, subscribers to the library putting their hands into their pockets for the occasion.

In 1905 plans were laid to put up a bigger building to include a public reading room but in 1911 this had still not been done. The Colonist of 12 June 1911 recorded that:“a scheme was on foot to provide an entertainment in the evening to find funds for a new library and reading room….if the scheme succeeds it will supply a long felt want in Tākaka. The present library is quite inadequate to the requirements of the place in every way.” (3).

The Tākaka library remained on this portion of land until the mid 1930s but it began to seriously struggle with funding. The Town Board was repeatedly asked for assistance and in July 1938 the Board was asked to take control of the library completely. Nothing appears to have been done bout this until 1947.

Takaka Library Clipping

2. Takaka Library Clipping. Golden Bay News, 14 June 1937.

In the mid 1930s the small building was bought by the Catholic Church, given the name The Hibernian Hall, and remained on the corner of Commercial St and Reilly St for many years. Residents remember that the building had two small rooms and was painted white with green facing. Above the door the word "LIBRARY" was painted in black. There was a ditch, where the footpath is now, with a small wooden bridge with hand railings leading from the road to the library. In later years Alf Hoare had a hairdressing salon in there and it was also used as a meeting room and a place for Girl Guides to gather. There was also a telephone surreptitiously installed in the back room and here an illicit bookmaking business was carried on in secret!

On 14 June 1937 an advertisement appeared in the Golden Bay Times. Daisy Goodwin, who had a small book-selling and stationery shop next door to the chemist on Commercial St, invited readers to ‘Join our circulating library.’ It would appear that Miss Goodwin stepped into the gap left by the ailing library. Unfortunately, the shop burned down in 1944 leaving the town with no book service at all.

Three years later, in 1947 the matter was raised once more with the Town Board and public meetings were held to discuss the formation of a free public library for Tākaka.

Panel 3 Tākaka's First Library : From Heritage Golden Bay, 2018

Sources used in this story

  1. Port of Nelson (1869, June 7). Nelson Evening Mail, p. 2 https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NEM18690607.2.3.1
  2. Takaka (Election of Takaka Library Committee) (1884, January 22).  Colonist, p.3. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/TC18840122.2.9
  3. Takaka (1911, June 12). Colonist, p.4 https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/TC19110612.2.85.2


  1. Photograph courtesy of Julie Reilly.
  2.  Join our circulating library. (1937, June 14 ). Golden Bay News

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