Libraries lend a hand to youth

By Danielle Wright

Far from becoming irrelevant in the digital age, libraries are adapting to become more like youth clubs, finds Danielle Wright

Get into the library this winter. Photo / Getty Images
Get into the library this winter. Photo / Getty Images

Fifty years ago, youth clubs hosted groups of young people, keeping them off the streets and developing their interests. Back then, the library was a quiet place for reading and research.

Today, libraries are filling the gap for communities, with storytime sessions and wriggle and rhyme classes for younger children, as well as tween and teen book clubs, homework support classes and niche events such as Lego-block parties and pretend zombie attacks.

As Katharine Hepburn said: "What in the world would we do without our libraries?" Here's our pick of community libraries meeting the needs of youth, bookworms or not.

Glen Innes Library
Address: 108 Line Rd, Glen Innes

Close to the shops, the community centre and the marae, the Glen Innes Library is an important link for locals. Recently, renowned storyteller Joe Harawira shared Maori language stories through the art of oral storytelling.

On the rainy school holiday morning we visit, it's packed. Some of the things people can do here are research family history, look at images of the past, work on assignments, visit a homework club (for Years 5 to 8, Monday through Friday, 3pm to 5.30pm) and search lists of website links including maths, English, science and health topics.

There's also a teen blog, with recommended reads on topics such as beauty, body image and careers, as well as teen fiction, including "adult books for teens". There's also the chance for children to write and share reviews on the library website, or to try a "lucky dip" book search.

Tupu Youth Library
Address: 102R Dawson Rd, Otara

"The library is a gateway for Auckland's youth to explore culture, learning and imagination through many activities - "not just books on shelves", says Dr Matt Finch, who organised a recent zombie siege for the library.

"It was a great opportunity for young people to enter the world of a story and explore the consequences of their actions through role play," he explains.

The library also has a homework club for children aged 7 to 12, which is held Tuesdays to Thursdays from 3.15pm to 4.30pm. There's also a Girls' Club every Tuesday from 5.30 to 7.30pm, which is an arena for young women to talk with female staff about issues affecting them and to learn the importance of being a "strong woman".

Tupu means "new growth" in many Polynesian hand to youth languages and it's incorporated into the library's name to reflect the area's youth and the knowledge the library will give them.

As well as books, there are music-listening posts, computers and internet access, and magazines with a focus on Polynesian cultures. Features such as a graffiti wall near the library entrance and a tapa cloth incorporated into the top of the issue desk make the local kids feel as if it's a place just for them.

East Coast Bays Library
Address: 8 Bute Rd, Browns Bay

The library in East Coast Bays is cosy in winter and a great alternative to the playground on a rainy day. There's a cement cylinder seat for children to climb into, with a glass window that lets them watch the rain as it waters the plants outside. It's a colourful, engaging environment with dedicated children's librarians who are genuinely excited about children's reading progress and enthusiastically recommend books.

The Wriggle & Rhyme and storytime sessions are always crowded, whatever the weather, and in summer many of the Dare to Explore events are held outside under the trees. There are also science experiments, dress-up evenings and gumboot-throwing competitions.

Research conducted as part of the library's Dare to Explore reading programme showed that children wanted more time just to browse in a library.

They're proud to have their own library cards, work the self-checkout machines and to experience the joy of discovery in the bookshelves.

So, don't rush them, let them explore the library at their leisure rather than directing them towards the books you want them to take out.

Mt Roskill Library
Address: 546 Mt Albert Rd, Three Kings

Mt Roskill is one of the busiest Auckland libraries, but community library manager Mary-Ann Wallis says online facilities are also growing in popularity.

"Children love our online library," she says. "They can look up things on our special children's pages, get recommendations on the blog and order the books themselves - [they're] often hard to find in the libraries when they are popular series."

"We have lots of young families in the area, so we make an effort to work with local schools, especially new-entrant classes," says Wallis. "Our storytime sessions have also been going for a very, very long time - most of the mums who bring their children now would have come as a child."

Mangere Bridge Library
Address: 5-7 Church Rd, Mangere Bridge

Books come to life at the Mangere Bridge Library, where children can even attend Lego-building block parties on the first Saturday of the month at 1.30pm. They're also given the opportunity to take out one of the many Lego books now available as DK Readers, such as the Friends, Hero Factory and Star Wars Lego series.

The library has a colourful blog for children's activities ( and there's a kids' book club on the first Friday of every month, for 5-12-year-olds from 3.30pm to 4.30pm. Themes have included Diwali, Angry Birds and poi-making.

There are Singalong Storytimes on Fridays at 10.30am. Recently pro-boxer David Tua read aloud in both Samoan and English.

Birkenhead Library
Address: Corner Rawene Rd and Hinemoa St, Birkenhead

It's hard to remember what the old Birkenhead Library looked like now the new, architecturally designed one sits on the corner so majestically. Inside, the reading initiatives are equally vibrant. There's a community room that can be booked for free for charitable organisations, which have been known to hold writing classes, author talks and even ukulele lessons during music week.

A homework club is on offer from Monday to Thursday from 3.30pm to 5.15pm, and Sunday 1pm to 3pm, where a librarian is on hand to help children with homework, research and free printing.

The recent school holidays also saw lessons given on an old 1860s printing press, where children could play around with fonts. There's a new theme and programme every school holidays.

Central City Library
Address: 44-46 Lorne St, Auckland City

The city library's new children's area has more light and space, and recently hosted the Shadow Puppet Theatre for a special storytime session.

There are also Wriggle & Rhyme sessions for younger kids and Fuse for teens, which recently ended with an extended library opening time party for participants.

This library has Sir George Grey's Special Collectionsand a wider range of DVDs, books and music compared to smaller libraries. The extensive newspaper collection is also a way for children to widen their outlook on the world. A TV playing music videos and an on-site cafe make this a great place to lose yourself on a rainy afternoon.

The doors of knowledge

The Auckland region has 55 libraries and four mobile libraries, with a total of 3.5 million items in the collections. About 37,000 people visit the libraries every day and around 47,500 items are lent daily. There are also 16,000 visits to the library website every day and approximately 38,000 people participate in information skills programmes every month.

Throughout the month of Matariki, Auckland libraries come to life with a range of free events, such as carving, weaving and poi-making workshops, special Matariki storytimes and Matariki games. For more information, visit

- NZ Herald

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