When Tūranga, Christchurch's new central library, was unveiled in late 2018, it quickly racked up the accolades and the visitor numbers. Its design reflects a global shift, in which libraries are being re-envisioned as multimedia social hubs, where patrons can experiment with 3D printing, kids can play interactive games, and parents can enjoy a coffee.
That's why it didn't take long before Tūranga found its way on the hit lists of library tourists worldwide.
Library tourism isn't new; as far back as the 18th century, it was a focus of the Grand Tour, a rite-of-passage trip through Europe for young men. But in recent years, it's had a resurgence, with architecturally stunning buildings such as Tūranga becoming tourist attractions in their own right.
Two years ago, Danish librarians Christian Lauersen and Marie Eiriksson co-founded Library Planet, a crowd-sourced guide to the world's best libraries. (Its name is a play on Lonely Planet.) When I last spoke with Lauersen, he told me libraries didn't just attract travellers looking for a reliable Wi-Fi connection. Instead, he believes they provide invaluable insight into the culture and everyday lives of a destination's people.
Including university libraries, private collections and public institutions, there are some 400 libraries across New Zealand, facilitating 35 million physical visits per year. Here are nine that library tourists can't miss.
1. Devonport Library
The only New Zealand library that made Library Planet's list, Te Pātaka Kōrero o Te Hau Kapua stirred up controversy when it was revealed that its silk curtain, by artist Judy Millar, came at a cost of $100,000.
But the Athfield Architects-designed building has since won both fans and awards for its sea views, central grand staircase and fireside living room.
2. Kaukapakapa Library
Featured in a BBC documentary about the tiniest libraries in New Zealand, Kaukapakapa Library (circa 1911) is one of the country's smallest, at just 21sq m.
Although the library no longer lends out books, you can see its collection every third Sunday of the month in conjunction with the Kaukapakapa Village Market.
3. Wellington's National Library of New Zealand
As far as public institutions go, this is one of the country's most important. It's home to three significant documents: Te Tiriti o Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi); He Whakaputanga (the Declaration of the Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand); and the Women's Suffrage Petition (Te Petihana Whakamana Pōti Wahine), which can be viewed daily, including on free tours.
However, its extensive collection also includes photographs, paintings and objects from New Zealand's history, such as the 19th-century notebooks of non-fiction author James Cowan, written in both English and te reo Māori.
4. Kawakawa's Te Hononga Hundertwasser Memorial Park Library
For years, the only place we've been able to fully immerse ourselves in the work of late Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser has been a set of public toilets.
In early October, that changed when Kawakawa's new library and service centre — inspired by the work of the late Hundertwasser— opened. Its toilet even rivals the original; when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern came to the opening ceremonies, she took to Instagram to describe its floor as "the most beautiful toilet floor you'll ever see".
5. Picton Library
Designed by the same architects responsible for Devonport's Library, Waitohi Whare Mātauranga in Picton draws on the town's nautical history; its beams and raking columns reference the ribs of a ship's hull, while large windows look out towards the Marlborough Sounds.
Shortly after opening, the library reported a 61 per cent increase in visitor numbers.
6. Balclutha Library
Back in the late 1800s, there were few public libraries in the world. Scottish-born American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie sought change, by helping to establish more than2500 libraries around the world, including 18 in New Zealand.
Although 12 of these early-20th century buildings still stand in towns across the country, Balclutha's is one of only two that continue to function as libraries.
7. Akaroa's Coronation Library
The Arts and Crafts exterior of this building has faced Akaroa's seaside since 1875, when it was the meeting place for the Akaroa Literary and Scientific Institute.
It's no longer the town's main library; instead, it now holds archival material and the interior is staged to look how it may have a century ago.
8. Naseby Athenaeum Library
If you cycle along the Otago Central Rail Trail, you'll find this corrugated-iron library in the historic mining village of Naseby.
Built in 1865 as the First Union church, it was converted to a library in 1870 during the gold rush. According to Heritage New Zealand, "Miners reading books from lending libraries seems to have been a popular alternative leisure activity to drinking in public houses, and nearly every small mining settlement had its athenaeum".
Today, in addition to books, games and sporting equipment are also available to borrow.
9. Redcliffs Village Library
This Christchurch library might not have the star power of Tūranga, but its simultaneously modest and modern building is representative of the community that uses it.
After the original 1914 library was destroyed by the 2011 earthquakes, the award-winning design — which references the spine, cover and pages of a book — took its place.