150 Celebrating Christchurch City Libraries 1859-2009 RSS feed

Friends of the Library

Everybody needs a friend and Christchurch City Libraries has a dedicated group of Friends of the Library who support and promote its services and host a lively programme of local author events.

How the Friends of the Library Began

Friends of the Library displayRuby Fowler, a long-standing library supporter, has been involved in the Friends of the Library since the group’s beginning in 1988. She remembers how the threat of funding cuts to the library led to the formation of The Friends. When some city councillors questioned the continued funding of libraries and suggested implementing a “user-pays” system for the libraries as a cost-cutting measure there was considerable unhappiness among library customers. Ruby and Judge Bill Brown approached the then libraries manager, Mrs Dorothea Brown, to see whether there was something they could do to retain freely available library services.

The result was a public meeting, chaired by Judge Brown and the formation of a committee to establish a support group for the library. Members of the committee comprised Hugh Atkinson, Guy Bliss, Jean Burton, Helena White, Eric Pawson (Treasurer), Trevor Agnew, Stanley Richards (Secretary), Ruby Fowler, Bill Brown (Chair) and Dorothea Brown (Libraries Manager). They established The Friends of the Library to advocate for the value of public library services in Christchurch and provide practical and financial support.

Members of the group were charged a subscription of $5 per year to belong. At this time it was stipulated that their role was to provide moral assistance to the library, and fundraise for equipment not provided by the Christchurch City Council. The group also aimed to provide a programme of book talks, music appreciation evenings and author visits and to help with annual book sales.

In 1989, the new City Council drew up a budget based on charging customers for every book taken out, and reducing expenditure on new book stock. The Friends organised a petition opposing the proposal and 7500 people signed the petition. The organised opposition and strength of feeling over the issue resulted in the councillors withdrawing their proposal to charge for books. In 1990 the new budget removed the book vote. Another petition was organised by the Friends. This resulted in the councillors restoring a reduced book vote.

Achievements of the Friends of the Library

In the 20 years since its establishment The Friends of the Library has provided wheelchairs, get well bags, sofas, chairs, artwork, a smart reader and book trolleys for customers to use in libraries all over the city.

The annual programme of Book talks has seen over 200 local identities and authors including Joe Bennett, Gavin Bishop, Fiona Farrell, Margaret Mahy, Edmund Bohan and Frieda Looser. The Library Book sales have seen Friends rolling up their sleeves in various locations from the King Edwards Barracks, the Horticultural Hall and more recently Pioneer Stadium. Friends have helped in customer testing of the computerised cataloguing system and since 1990 they have been involved in delivering the Books for Babies programme. Each week one of the Friends visits Christchurch Women’s Hospital to deliver a special book and library membership pack for each new born baby.

The current membership is 342 members.

This is a group of people who are passionate about the role of public libraries in our community and who realise libraries are not something that should be taken for granted.

Ruby is still involved in the Friends today and says, “We, the Friends can look ahead with anticipation and follow the advances in technology as applies to the library in the next 150 years”.

Find out more about the Friends of the Library.

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