The local Janets love Avondale Library. Acclaimed artist Janet Lilo (whose CV activities are "making art and raising good, solid, feminist men") once declared the library "a lovely lively place, with librarians reminding the youngsters they can't eat pies at the computers".
Acclaimed poet Janet Charman ("a feminist poet chronicling life in the suburbs in all its banal and joyous detail" — Auckland University Press) has been writing letters to the local paper, protesting "the short-sighted cost-cutting plans some have floated" to sell the library's land and move the library, presumably somewhere smaller.
Poets rock. (Sidenote: in her poem laundry, Charman uses a lovely bibliophile detail — "it has to go back/ it's a library book" — to demonstrate the inevitability of minor annoyances and also mortality).
The visiting Janet — to refer to myself as the third feminist Janet — also enjoyed her visit to Avondale Library. It's a tongue-twister: a beige, brick, bunker block, opened in 1973 by Mayor Dove-Myer Robinson. Before then, the library had been housed "temporarily" since 1931 at the Avondale Public Hall, now celebrating its sesquicentennial.
The current one-storey slab is spacious, colourful and attractive enough inside, and the beige outside is broken up by a sweet little garden of green things growing in painted tyres. Go tomorrow, at 2pm, to plant sunflowers and witness the new scarecrow.
But if you can't wait for library-related excitement, whizz up to Blockhouse Bay this morning for the suburb's Santa Parade and library book sale. Blockhouse Bay has a great little neighbourhood library: soaring, sloping ceilings, bold yet unobtrusive wall colours and a view to the Waitakeres between the shops; a nice place to hang out, even if the teen section is a little cramped.
A friend enjoys the craft activities and can vouch for the robustness of the returns trolley as her 6-year-old once gave his younger brother an unauthorised trolley ride.
For such a quiet and friendly backwater (if the top of a hill can be a backwater? A backspring?), Blockhouse Bay has an impressively torrid library history, as chronicled by Keith Rusden, Blockhouse Bay Historical Society president and author of Aerated Water Manufacturers Of Eden Crescent 1845-1964.
In the early 1990s, locals lobbied hard for their own library but "evil" Auckland City Council stalled mightily. So the Blockhouse Bay Protest Committee hired a yellow bendy bus and 140 supporters travelled all the way to town to "invade" a council meeting with a petition. In a cinematic climax, they received a rude reception, but after much flag waving (by protesters) and hot-savoury eating (by councillors), one councillor apparently said "let's give them their library and get the buggers out of here".
The library opened in 1995, and the Blockhouse Bay Protest Committee gets a seat in my prestigious Hall of Library-Loving Greats, along with the Otahuhu residents who marched for their library in 2009. I hope Janet Charman will sit with them soon.