Which Auckland library has the best view?

After taking in 16 of 55 libraries on my bibliodyssey, I can report the library views from boring Glenfield and industrial Onehunga are surprisingly good and that the original Mangere Bridge has the best view of a hill (rather than from a hill).

Still, yawningly, predictably, Waiheke's stunning view of island cragginess was winning. Perhaps no longer! Sitting catty-corner across the city is "Fringe of Heaven" Titirangi where the village library's exquisite sea view lights up the kids' section. Sleepless parents can gaze upon the horizon and dream of far, far away.

So: Waitemata or Manukau? The best harbour view is now too close to call.


Titirangi is what my nan would have called a "dear little library": small and shy, tucked away in the War Memorial Hall complex down below the shops. It was opened in 1965 by Governor-General Sir Bernard Fergusson, a former British soldier whose murkier deeds for Empire included founding a squad (that became murderous) to suppress Jewish insurgents in Palestine in 1947 and developing (unused) propaganda to part Egyptians from the Suez Canal in 1956.

The New Zealand History website describes how two ancestors of the monocled Sir Bernard ruled here before him: "Governing New Zealand ran in the Fergusson blood." A birthright, what!

But there was also war down the Waitakere slopes at Glen Eden last week: Hand-made red poppies popped nicely against the neutral library exterior. Also blood-coloured: the RSA's electronic sign opposite, which solemnly read "Dawn Service" and then "KARAOKE".

The Glen Eden library moved to its light, airy and soothingly unobtrusive $2.8 million building in 2004. Visitor reviews give props to its "receptive and helpful" staff; the children's section is prettily decorated with butterflies, lanterns and delicate steampunk airships.

The yellow and red of old "extra fancy" apple ads punctuate a new, grey courtyard.

An attractive library window also offers apples, real apples and square paper apples on a purple tree inspired by Theo LeSieg's (aka Dr Seuss') Ten Apples Up on Top. The reason? In one small pocket of the West, orcharding is still a way of life - and under threat. "Glen Eden people - please support Oratia!" reads an urgent, desperate sign put up by a community group. According to this, Watercare may bulldoze an orchard and the homes of 30 families, some of whom "have lived in Oratia for six generations", for a water treatment plant.*

The display uses pop culture and heartfelt humour to generate interest. Oh Watercare, don't you know "you cannot stop our apple fun"? Just around the corner from the library's war poppies and apple battles, the Pecks Cottage Bakery's sign offers apples as escape: "Reality Sucks, Come Treat Yourself". And so we did, with a delicious $9 streusel tart that fed six people. How do you like them apples?

* Watercare responds: Two locations in Oratia are under consideration as a possible site to replace the aging Huia Water Treatment Plant. The Parker Road North option would potentially affect 12 homes, whilst the Parker Road South proposal would potentially affect 18 homes. They are two different proposals. Affect does not necessarily mean demolition.