150 Celebrating Christchurch City Libraries 1859-2009 RSS feed

Halswell Library / Te Kete Wānanga o Otamatua

The journey from a cupboard to a stand-alone building is a not uncommon in the development of country libraries. Halswell Library began life in a rural district with just a few farms and its' history reflects the development of the area it serves. Halswell Library now serves one of the fastest-growing areas of Christchurch.


The library began its life as a cupboard at the Halswell School. On 11 December, 1897, a library committee was formed following a meeting at the school and Mr Alfred Ainsworth was elected librarian. Money was raised by subscription and on 8 February 1898, five pounds was authorised from subscriptions for the purchase of books.

The library remained at the school for over 50 years, still housed in cupboards. The Christchurch Star reported:

"The library's shakiest period was during World War 2. The annual meeting of subscribers in 1939 recorded more than eight pounds in the kitty. At the meeting in 1940 - "there were three members present" - the balance had dropped to two pounds 14 shillings. The library survived and by 1956 the local magazine the Halswell Courier reported the number of library subscribers had grown to 40." 1

Moving to the Halswell Public Hall

In 1955 the Halswell Courier reported on the Annual General Meeting of the Halswell Public Library held on May 5.

"New members would be very welcome and, for their information, the annual subscription is now 10/- per annum and entitles the subscriber to two books and two periodicals weekly, and also to request books free from the Country Library Service.

The travelling van from the Country Library Service visits Halswell every four months when the local librarian makes a varied selection of new books. At present the library is temporarily housed inside the Hall and opens from 7 pm to 8 pm on Tuesdays. Lack of timber has delayed the completion of the addition to the Hall, part of which is to be our permanent abode.

This project, first mooted by the Library and Hall Committees, has been supported by all the committees of the district and the money was raised last year in a true community spirit by the whole neighbourhood. A few stalwarts have given cheerfully of their time and labour and the work proceeds apace. Subscribers held fetes, fairs and get-togethers to add to the community spirit" 2

In 1957 the library moved to the room off the Halswell Public Hall.

The tea house of the August moon

After the amalgamation of the Halswell and Paparua county councils in 1968 the library moved to the current site on the corner of Halswell and Sparks Road using the former Halswell County Offices. The county office was a pagoda style building designed by Peter Beaven and locals had nicknamed it "the tea-house of the August moon".

Halswell Library continued to be run by volunteers until 1975 when the first paid librarian, Mrs Joyce Turner, was employed. Volunteers continued to help out until 1990 when following local body amalgamations of 1989, Halswell joined the Canterbury Public Library network.

Friends of Halswell Library

Mrs Turner established a Friends of Halswell Library group which by 1988 had 60 people who volunteered at the library and helped to raise funds. An annual fundraising event was the book sale at the Lions County Fair at the Halswell Domain.

The Friends organised and paid for the restoration of the seven ornate chairs which originally seated the Halswell County Council before it was incorporated into the Paparua County Council. These chairs can still be seen in the Halswell Library today and were restored by A1 Upholsterers of Addington in 1986. At this time the oak and leather chairs were about 65 years old.

A growing library

To illustrate library growth - in 1969 two volunteers served 20 families. By 1972 seven volunteers served 200 families. By the time Mrs Turner was employed there was a membership of 700 adults and 600 children and issue figures of 450 books a week. By 1988 it was reported that membership had grown to 3800 out of a population in the Halswell district of 5381 and an average of 1250 books a week issued. Hours were extended in late 1987 so the library was open from 10am to 5.15pm daily with a late night on Friday until 8.15pm.

Halswell Library celebrated 90 years of service on December 11, 1987.

Following local body amalgamation in 1989, Paparua County became part of Christchurch City and Halswell Library joined the Canterbury Public Libraries network.

Halswell LibraryThe library continued to grow in popularity and in 1995 the building was enlarged and refurbished. On January 8, 1996 the extended Halswell Library re-opened presenting customers with a library tripled in size and allowing for the first time a children's section adequate for holding story times and other activities. The extension was designed by architect Chris Hadlee and built by W and J Jamieson. Halswell's collections expanded to include audio books, compact discs and videos. On February 10, 1996 the library celebrated the start of a regular Saturday service from 10am to 1pm by holding a gala children's day.

Today Halswell Library is a bustling community library in a rapidly growing area of Christchurch. The "pagoda" can still be seen and the handsome wooden chairs remain as a reminder of the library's long history in the community.


1Christchurch Star 27.11.82
2 Halswell Library scrapbook


Library travels with my Father

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