The subject of one of the most bitter planning rows in the 20-year history of North Shore City opens for business today.

But its decade in the making brings benefits to users of the new Birkenhead library and civic centre.

"It's a state-of-the-art library and will be a valuable community heart," said city councillor Tony Holman, who fought to keep the two-level library, with its views across Auckland Harbour, on the priority list.

"I would not settle for a mediocre job - I said it would have to be something for 50 years."

Initially, it was thought that a good building could be done for $3 million.

By the time it came out of the planning stages, the cost was estimated at $6.5 million and the final bill was $9.4 million.

Despite the rising influence of computer technology, the library was still relevant to the community, said North Shore library services manager Geoff Chamberlain.

"People said the internet would replace libraries overnight, but if anything our libraries are stronger. The new library is designed to give the ability to bring along your laptop and plug in to data empowerment.

"It's also relevant because when the old library closed, the foot traffic in the CBD fell and shopowners could not wait for us to come back to the centre," said Mr Chamberlain.

"Also, we have positioned our libraries to be the heart of the community - a focal point to meet and greet. It used to be the post office, but now that's gone there is hardly anywhere like that. People go to libraries for reasons not all to do with books."

Eight computers, equipped with internet links, await use in the new library's learning centre, and the children's area has another four computers.

"Why would you need those on the North Shore, which has a high personal computer ownership?" said Mr Chamberlain.

"One reason is there may be one PC in the home and several people wanting to use it at the same time. As people become more tuned into laptops, people will still come to libraries - they will bring their PCs along because the atmosphere gets them into a study environment."

The building at the intersection of Hinemoa St and Rawene Rd will house council services, the Citizens' Advice Bureau and Plunket, which have been using temporary premises for five years.

Plunket will move in after the building is officially opened on February 27.