150 Celebrating Christchurch City Libraries 1859-2009 RSS feed

Hornby Library / Te Kete Wānanga o Te Urumanu

Hornby LibraryHornby Library has been serving the people of Hornby since January 1972 when it opened in rooms made available by the Central Canterbury Power Board in the Clock Tower building. Hornby was part of Paparua County Council until local government amalgamation in 1989.

Paparua County days

The library opened with a stock of 8000 items. Mrs Judy Walsh was the first Paparua County Librarian. Other libraries in the system included Halswell Public Library and a children’s library at Hei Hei.

Within three years the library had outgrown its’ first home and in 1975 moved to temporary accommodation in Goulding Avenue, pending construction of the planned Council Library and Community Care Centre. Ken Ocock, who began as Paparua County Librarian in December 1977, remembers the temporary accommodation consisted of the original bungalow that was on the site plus a relocatable classroom which was joined to the house.

The library filled every corner and the librarian’s “office” was in what had been the rather small bathroom of the house. At that time Paparua County had a population of about 40,000 and was split between urban and rural areas. Many people came in to Hornby to do their shopping. The library was open two late nights and on Saturday mornings. Ken was supported by 3 fulltime and 4 part-time staff. Halswell and HeiHei had mainly volunteer staffing.

The library received assistance from the National Library Service. The Country Library Service van called with books, extra stock could be borrowed from the Country Library centre in Christchurch and the centre also provided help with requests. They also provided advice and support in library design and layout.

A new library

A co-operative agreement between the Paparua County Council and the Community Care Centre Trust resulted in the present Library and Community Care Centre being built in 1979. During Show Week in 1979 the Library moved into its new building. The official opening was held on 22 February 1980.

The complex was known as the Cultural Centre. Original plans had included building a community hall and a sports centre around a central courtyard but finances did not permit this to go ahead. The Community Care Centre included a second-hand clothing shop, meeting rooms and offices for various community support groups including the Citizens Advice Bureau. The new library offered customers and staff reasonable space for the first time and there was a grant to increase the stock.


Arsonists struck twice in 1984. Early in the year following a break-in, the Co-ordinators office was gutted and there was considerable smoke damage throughout the rest of the Community Care Centre.

At the end of the year it was the library’s turn. Disaster struck on the evening of December 8 1984, when the library was severely damaged by a fire started when newspapers soaked in petrol were pushed through the after hours returns bin and ignited. A group of young people were implicated and a 14-year-old-girl who was a runaway State ward was found guilty of starting the fire.

The library was badly damaged by fire and smoke. The heat was so intense that two glass doors melted into a large lump. Ken was photographed in front of a fire damaged wall where the tinsel lettering of a Happy Christmas sign had been baked on by the heat. Most of the book stock was written off due to the smoke damage and the insurance company authorised a fire sale of books which was held in the shell of the building. Ken remembers the queues of people lining up to get a bargain. The library was closed for 8 months, reopening in August 1985. The refit was an opportunity for some interior alterations which gave the library a bit more space.

During this time the neighbouring Waimairi District and Canterbury Public Library offered Paparua library customers free use of their libraries. Many Paparua customers were used to using Christchurch libraries as subscriber members. The library staff was able to work in the Community Care Centre, the hours at Halswell Library were extended and a collection of adult books was added to the HeiHei Children’s Library to help customers.

Joining Canterbury Public Libraries

In November 1989 following local government amalgamation, Hornby Library became one of the nine community libraries in the Canterbury Public Library network. Ken Ocock continued to work at Hornby until 1999.

Hornby Library automation, February 1990Amalgamation meant customers could benefit from free access to the whole Christchurch network. Prior to amalgamation Hornby had used a card based issue system but once amalgamation was decided planning began for joining the new system and an automated library system was installed which operated smoothly from the changeover.

Being part of a larger system meant bigger book funds and moving stock around to refresh the collection. Being no longer stand alone meant some older stock could be disposed of.

The library also benefited from new initiatives at Canterbury Public Library. In May 1995 Hornby was refurbished with new carpet, paint and layout. Further refurbishments in 2003 included furniture, wiring and shelving to take into account the changing needs for study spaces and computers. More changes in 2009 have seen the exterior of the building repainted and some internal rearrangement which allows more flexible use of library spaces.


Library travels with my Father