A group that has organised countless cultural events, and kept a close eye on library-related matters in Kāpiti for more than 40 years, has wound down.
Friends of Kāpiti District Libraries disbanded late last month with its last event being a talk by novelist Sharron Came.
“In the end, it was falling numbers at events, fatigue by the committee and not being able to recruit successors that led to the decision to wind down,” chairman Anthony Dreaver said.
Another reason included a willingness by the library’s outreach staff to “take on this type of programme”.
“This is a very suitable role for the library and we know that our members would enthusiastically support it.”
There had also been fewer calls to advocate on behalf of library readers as the library had grown in strength and responsiveness.
“We have kept up a keen interest in the issue of finding a replacement library for Waikanae, and libraries and cultural services manager Ian Littleworth has been a frequent attendee at committee meetings to tell us of how this process is going.
He said the group had two purposes.
“One was cultural enrichment for members and guests, and the other was advocacy on behalf of the library system.”
Friends’ origins date back to the 1980s when library budgets were lean and members gave a lot of voluntary effort to support the paid workers.
“That earlier version went into recess in the early 1990s, but was revived in 1996 at the urging of then library manager Hilary Wooding.
“Alan Tristram chaired a committee that was strong on advocacy when the library was confined to a meagre space in the council building and it was clear that a new building and approach were essential.
“It took several years of struggle to convince Kāpiti Coast District Council to make this commitment, but what a triumph it was.
“One struggle was to oppose a plan to introduce borrowing fees and in 1999 Friends joined forces with Kāpiti Chamber Choir to sing a protest song during public speaking time. Apparently, this worked.
“On her retirement as library manager Hilary Wooding chaired the Friends group as Alan Tristram had himself been elected to the council.
“When Hilary joined him in this role, Janet Secker took over until five years ago when I was elected.
The Friends’ programme had been varied.
“We have made regular donations to special projects for the library, especially the children’s Summer Reading Programme.
“There has been support for the ‘book bag’ scheme for book groups and the purchase of artworks.
“At the same time, there have been increasingly active cultural events.
“Janet gave a strong lead with literary festivals based around a theme such as journalism or drama, author talks and book launches.
“In recent years we have brought in a monthly speaker, whether poet, novelist, historian or children’s writer, as well as publishers, editors, booksellers or designers.
“These attracted a usual attendance of 30 or 40 people, although, for some events, such as for Vincent O’Malley, Jock Phillips or Gaylene Preston, numbers have risen to over 80.
“We have also organised writing competitions and published the results.
“Book quizzes were another successful venture.”
Libraries and cultural services manager Ian Littleworth said it was very sad to see the group close down.
“They have been a support and advocate for our libraries for a very long time — over 40 years — and a strong voice for readers, writers, libraries and all things literature.
“We are very grateful to have received not only the general support from the Friends but also the financial contribution they’ve made to various reading programmes.
“The wonderful programme of speakers the Friends delivered has been a real highlight for me and I am pleased to say that we will be looking to continue that legacy in some form.
“Thank you to all the committee members over the years, we appreciate all the hard work that goes in behind the scenes to keep groups like the Friends going.”