Fun fact: Auckland Libraries is Australasia's largest library group. This shows we're brainy and also, deep in our hearts, we really do believe in looking after everyone. You may not have a house or food, but you do have region-wide access to books and free internet.
Thanks, Super City amalgamation. Now, just like every other city in the world, Auckland can say it contains more community libraries than volcanoes, at 55 to 50.
I'm on a mission to visit every single one of those 55 libraries, from southern Waiuku to northern Wellsford, westie Ranui to eastern Great Barrier Island. I'm very excited about this. At some point, dear reader, if you live anywhere in the greater Auckland area, I'll be visiting your library. Call me lucky, call me nerdy. Call me the Woman Who Read Auckland.
I started my bibliodyssey this week at my turangawaewae of tomes, the library of my childhood: Mt Roskill. This large open-plan library makes me proud of my old hood, even more than the neon cross atop Puketapapa at Easter. It's a beacon of learning beside the hulking shell of poor abandoned Three Kings Plaza - a mini Mont Saint-Michel beside a mini Detroit. Though I bet no monastery boasts paintings of books about painting on its carpark toilets.
My old Roskill Grammar schoolmate, Nalini Singh, gave up lawyering to work at this library and write - and now her abs-adorned romances have the double honour of sitting on both the New York Times bestseller lists and the Mt Roskill library's Staff Picks shelf.
Another venerable former schoolmate - my favourite essayist, Tze Ming Mok - once said she "was raised by the Mt Roskill public library". I imagine her as a tiny Roskill Matilda, except with way better parents.
The library was opened in 1977, when the exquisitely named Dick Fickling was mayor of Mt Roskill, and refurbished five years ago. Its entrance bridge crosses the Fickling Convention Centre below; the centre's not exactly a boggy moat, but pre-refurbishment, its swampy aroma of pea and ham soup did invade the library every Saturday.
Now, Mt Roskill collects points for its pretty kowhai door patterns and carpet that looks like lollies that someone should invent: mint caramel liquorice allsorts. It could do with some floor cushions and some of my favourite Poirot novels, but at least there was a David Suchet DVD. Less happily, a window display was entitled "Don't judge a book by it's colour". "It's"! The horror.
Half the people of Mt Roskill were born overseas, mostly in India and China. Books on display included How to Get Rid of Your Accent for Business, i.e., How to sound like white guys. One patron, a fan of Jim Al-Khalili's Life on the Edge, told me that as large as the library is, it needs extending. Hundreds of homes are to be built in the neighbouring quarry, and library seats are at a premium already.
So let's complement the Fickling name with a reflection of Roskill today: let's call the extension the Nalini Singh wing.