Libraries are doing brisk business and going through the biggest shift one Hawke's Bay manager has seen in three decades.

Napier City Council libraries manager Sheryl Reed said people were using libraries "in droves" for far more than just borrowing books.

"Libraries have become more like community hubs," she said. "Membership and total issues at our libraries have decreased slightly but we're still getting a huge amount of people through our doors.

"Libraries are no longer simply institutions that lend things. We've had a large increase in programmes for all ages that have more of an impact on the community than just borrowing material."


The Napier council operates the Napier and Taradale libraries. Ms Reed has worked in libraries for 30 years, including 20 years in management roles.

"People want to analyse information and they want digital literacy support.

"We've noticed a big uptake in people using computers, particularly for job searching. Staff are often asked for support with writing a CV."

E-book issues were increasing steadily but physical books were still very popular, she said.

"E-books are great for travel and convenience but books are great to read to a child. I contend we'll have 'tree books' in Hawke's Bay for another 30 years."

Hastings District Council libraries manager Paula Murdoch said people had started to use libraries like community halls.

"There's a shift from libraries being used as a place to borrow books to a place to come and do something," she said. "People come for solo activities such as using the internet and for group activities such as classes and interactive programmes.

"The library is seen as a place to learn new skills and discuss topics with others."


The Hastings council operates the Hastings War Memorial Library and the Flaxmere and Havelock North libraries.

Mrs Murdoch similarly said e-book use had risen steadily but she expected print books to remain popular for some time.

Nationwide, more than 300 public libraries and 110 community libraries are in operation.

In the last financial year, more than two million members made 48,000 issues across the country. The number of members and issues was down slightly on the previous financial year.

The number of new members - 206,734 - was also slightly fewer than the previous year, though the number of patron visits, total library expenditure and number of items added to collections was up on 2012/2013.

Meanwhile, more than twice as many e-books were available last financial year than the previous year, and almost 500,000 more e-books were downloaded by patrons.

Public Libraries of New Zealand executive director Tim Antric said New Zealanders still had a love affair with printed books.

"There's been a huge increase in e-book usage but it's still less than 4 per cent of total borrowing," he said. "European markets have peaked at about 20 to 25 per cent e-book borrowing.

"I think we'll continue to see a steady increase in e-book usage but the need for printed books won't go."

People were increasingly using libraries for more than just borrowing and reading books, he said.

"There's been a 77 per cent increase in Wi-Fi usage. That tells us New Zealanders need access to the internet when they're away from home or if they haven't got it home."

Public Libraries of New Zealand believed libraries were an important part of breaking the poverty cycle, he said.

"Libraries are run at a local level so they best meet the needs of locals.

"They're as important in the community as anything."