When the two library assistants reflect on the past year they both note an increase in the lending of erotic paperbacks, attributing this to "bored, middle-aged women looking for a thrill" or "mere pop-culture curiosity".

Librarian A says the least popular books in her library are historical novels, while Librarian B (who works in an affluent Auckland suburb) says the most frequently loaned books in her library are those on yachting, setting up family trusts and finding the best hotels. Books left on the shelves are those about feminism, Maori culture, the environment and anything Noam-Chomsky-like.

There are often a few strange characters lurking amidst the less popular shelves.

"There is one guy who comes in every day, takes a magazine, sits down and talks to it for hours at a time.


"He is completely harmless ... just looking for a place to shelter during the day. I don't know if he has a home to go back to," says Librarian A.

Both agree their favourite customers are those who get carried away with the joy of reading and research like the 7-year-old girl who gets obsessed with a subject and directs library assistants to find books on everything from spiders to fairies.