Hop aboard! We're on a whistle-stop tour of the notable northeast before we head into town to wrap up this entire bibliodyssey like a withdrawn-book birthday present.
Warkworth War Memorial Library, circa 1994: notable for its view of Mahurangi River ducks, its beautiful wrought-iron facade of kowhai and ducks, and its impressive ability to cram a whole busy, active, well-tended library into a space with no room to swing a duckling. On the shelf: Keeping a Family Cow.
Meanwhile, unless you've retired to Snells Beach because Orewa's too fast, you're unlikely to know of the stunning wall quilts of small, child-friendly Mahurangi East Library. The Aotearoa New Zealand map quilt wins national bingo, having collected the Beehive, the Warkworth satellite station, an oil rig, police headgear, a tiki, a rescue helicopter, a live volcano, a tractor, Whina Cooper and the wooden Buzzy Bee. Thanks for the delight, Mahurangi East Creative Craft and Arts Club 2000.
The last, loneliest stop on my grand tour of Auckland Libraries was hidden in Auckland Council's Claris service centre on Great Barrier (Aotea) Island. It's a bread-and-butter operation, with a fine view of the recycling station opposite and it's been a full member of the Auckland Libraries network since 2011. (Tryphena and Port Fitzroy also have volunteer libraries as do Leigh, Clevedon, Drury, Maraetai and other semi-rural Supercity locales.)
The Aotea shelves hold only 5000 items, so librarian Lynn Dunstan's major challenge is regularly refreshing those shelves with stock from the mainland, in addition to the astounding 150 to 200 books that islanders request from the city every week. The library makes 14,000 loans a year and has about 450 regular borrowers.
Dunstan's rightly assessed me for the townie I am. I even count the Central Library as my current tome home.
It's a fantastic place. Browse the zine section or figure out who's who on Frances Cooper's Library contributors silhouette mural, or ride upstairs to the literature nook or the maps drawer or the music scores (Lorde next to Douglas Lilburn and Gareth Farr) or my favourite shelves: outsize.
I love borrowing coffee-table books: they're expensive to buy and you're only going to read them once. So give me four weeks communing with life-size pictures of the Flora of the Silk Road or the infographics of The Atlas of Economic Complexity or the pure decadence of Vogue: The Shoe.
I like Central's ethos too: smart, compassionate, inclusive, cheeky. At the top of a 2016 US presidential campaign display they put rapper Kanye West. A recent pop-up exhibition was a maze of scrawls from those sleeping rough, describing their lives. The library has been rightly lauded for a homeless book club and other outreach. Meanwhile, I'll be attending the clothes swap next Saturday; the librarians cater for us neo-hippies, too.
Top floor is the Auckland reference collections, the whare wananga event space and the George Grey special collections and exhibitions. If you haven't been up there, please go, it's yours. Go see Helene Wong's and artist Ant Sang's fantastic comic strips of Aotearoa Chinese achievements.
And thus ends my bibliodyssey in Supercity Central after beginning at Mt Roskill, my turangawaewae of tomes. For 18 months, seven kinds of transport — bicycle, train, bus, car, ferry, plane and shanks' pony — got me to 55 public Auckland libraries, discovering different suburb flavours along the way: Clendon Park's backwater, Botany's bustle, Te Atatu's near-island.
We're incredibly fortunate to have such lovely, varied assets; they're not valued enough. More libraries need to be open on Sundays and, although children's books are fine-free, charging $1 a day on overdue adults books can turn the library into a place of dread.
The libraries' mandate has become more challenging: impressively, they're now virtual repositories, event organisers and Wi-Fi hosts, all at once. Yet one of the benefits remains the same: they're a place for young and old to go and enjoy for free. That's priceless. Now I've visited them all, I'm close to home, wherever I go.
SIMPLY THE BEST
Devonport. A treehouse of Bertie Wooster's jazz-age furniture and a round Playschool window to lie in and look at the beach.
ALSO WORTH DETOURING FOR
Manurewa's curved wooden warmth, generous height and crackpot 1980s mural; and Mangere East, a Pacific Rosslyn Chapel, its exterior covered in tiny exquisite details.
IF YOU'RE ALREADY PASSING THROUGH
Pop in to hippie, brick, fairy tale castle East Coast Bays; glassy courtyard Waiheke; stately lady Remuera; Italianate jewel box Grey Lynn; elegant Edwardian Leys Institute; muralled Otara (seriously, the art is fantastic. Thanks Hillary, Mangere and Otahuhu Colleges, circa 1979.)
TAKE THE KIDS TO
Waiheke's winding staircase; Central's cushioned tunnels; Leys' cosy solidity; Whangaparaoa's jigsaw cushions; Titirangi's views; Tupu Youth's ping-pong table; Glenfield's 3D printer.
LOVELY NEIGHBOURHOOD FEELS
Welcoming Wisteria'd Northcote, happy-humming Glen Innes. Clendon Park isn't cosy but its busy public programme is very supportive.
The whole of Blockhouse Bay hired a bus, went to town and took the council hostage until they ran out of sausage rolls and said yes to a library.
SOME NOTABLE MAORI SECTIONS
Papakura, Mangere Town Centre, Otara, Northcote. Warkworth has a prominent Maori section for children also.
BEST ON A RAINY HOLIDAY ON THE SUPERCITY FRINGE
Soothing hotel lobby Whangaparaoa; glass whare Wellsford; warehouse Pukekohe.
Panmure, a cavernous hibernation home for bookworm yeti.
Epsom is still an ugly colour but it always has excellent coffee-table books.
Massey for the city. Waiheke for the sea.