They're terribly twee and white-bread but I do like visiting Auckland's seaside villages. I bike to St Heliers to pop into its Home Cookery and library. Ferrying to Devonport inspires not so much popping as lingering over op shops, Corelli's cakes and, of course, books at Te Pataka Korero o Te Hau Kapua, aka one of the world's five best new public libraries in 2015, according to the Danish.
Meanwhile, St Heliers' Remuera-by-Sea vibe is fortified by its mini-me version of Remuera's 1920s red-brick library and its hosting of a dementia information session (2pm, September 18).
Yet from the outside (and this is mostly a point about the high standard of our public conveniences) St Heliers' library looks like a toilet. One of those ones of a certain age, disguised as something grand.
Inside, well, I've seen better toilets. I made myself stay longer than my habitual 10-minute book-swap to work out what the problem is. Given the staff seem nice and the decor's okay, I think the hostility is due to the lighting. The fluorescence is both gloomy and garish, ensuring an atmosphere of 4pm on a rainy Sunday when you're suffering family roast lunch indigestion and apprehension about work on Monday.
Still, the three tiers of Matchbox toys, courtesy of someone called Richard, are impressive (a 1950s Matchbox Milkmaid!), the book bingo is a great idea and the children's rocking lion is a magnificent beast.
But I'm being unfair; any library compared with Devonport's will come off second best. I can't not gush any longer: as architecture critic Chris Barton says, the northern Pataka Korero is magical.
Athfield Architects has created the antithesis of a cramped cavern; it's open and airy yet also cosy, sculptural and fun to explore, staircases winding up around a central core. It's saturated in delight, unexpected thrills await around every corner and, by golly, there's a nook and cranny for every book and canny reader.
The library has a contemporary feel but it's warm and soft enough to honour its Devonport-borough antique curios. Walls sport Brickell bricks of boats, aka potter Barry's ferries. You'll find two armchairs covered in oversize houndstooth, with matching footstools; a curved crimson-cushioned love seat, carved with a heart; and a glorious huge Play School-style round window you can sit in, facing the fun seaside playground. Display shelves proffer gorgeous coffee table confectionary: this tree house library contains a book of tree houses.
The significant entrance pare (lintel) is carved by Nga Whao Tapu (Sacred Chisels), carvers from Tamaki Makaurau's many mana whenua iwi all worked on the same piece apparently for the first time in generations.
I lured sceptical friends away from a second drink at The Esplanade to drink it all in ("who wants to gawk at a library?"). They became instant converts to bibliotourism. It's an Auckland must-visit, I reckon, third only to the museum and Auckland Art Gallery. It's a marvel, a masterpiece that makes me proud of the Land of Aucks.