If you're not lucky enough to live in Manurewa, I suggest you visit soon.

The Auckland Botanic Gardens are capacious, their gateway building is elegant and their biennial sculpture trail opens on November 11. And less than a mile away - past the Nathan Homestead art gallery, following Hill Rd's magnificent trees and surprisingly interesting houses - is the wonderful Manurewa Library, built in 1981.

The first time I visited the library, a year ago, I had the whanau in tow for a Star Wars afternoon. A stormtrooper, an ewok and a wookie entered a bar - no wait, a library. We ogled them. "Only one rule," said the librarian. "Please try to remember: do not hit our visitors, okay?" We took pictures with Chewbacca instead; his fur smelled a bit, which lent a nice authenticity to the whole thing.

That day was humid and the library's expansive roof - sloped as if it were an enormous tiled fale cut in half lengthways - steamed enthusiastically outside. Inside, you find yourself in a high-ceilinged, slightly-curved rectangle - enormous but warm and welcoming.


Nicely-placed bookshelves display front covers at eye level; this enhances the browsing experience. You're guaranteed to find something that will surprise you, such as a picture book by Kurt Vonnegut, a book of physiology infographics or a discussion of verse biographies (life stories in rhyme?).

The kids get a plywood mountain range topped with yellow, blue and green cushions, while glass walls look out on to yellow tulips. There is a Quiet Room - but quiet is in the ear of the be-hearer, and I'm sure all Quiet Room occupants at 1.37pm last Tuesday now know more about what Audrey's mother thinks of Audrey's mother's friend's 5am to 1pm shifts than we ever expected.

Manurewa has the Auckland library system's second-largest collection of Punjabi items and third-largest collection of Hindi items (Papatoetoe has the largest collection of both; Hindi items can also be found in most central-West Auckland libraries). Fun fact: Punjabi has the 10th highest number of native speakers in the world with 100 million and Hindi has the fourth highest with 180 million.

Looming over everything in the library is Tony Johnston's 1983 wall mural. From afar, it looks attractively folksy and vaguely abstract (there used to be a life-size old man painted at ground level, but he was got rid of after a year or two, apparently for being too scary). Close up, the mural turns out to be - I think - part environmental parable, part shrine to fertility, sporting sperm shapes, foliage and text such as "every star is a sun".

It's impressively, kookily, edgy for a library artwork, although its use of the phrase "final solution" as if it had no history is, er, odd. No matter: Manurewa Library is a local sun and a star in the Auckland library firmament.