Six hundred thousand overseas-published books, housed in Wellington and Whanganui, are set to be redistributed in a National Library initiative to make way for New Zealand, Māori and Pacific titles.
Nearly a third of the titles are currently stored at Wairere House in Whanganui, with the majority being more than 20 years old. Few have been issued during that time.
National Library content services director Rachel Esson says a year-long process, called the Overseas Published Collection Management project, is under way to make sure the books find new homes.
"The first step is to make lists of books available to public libraries across the country, as they will have first preference.
"After our librarians have made sure we've kept any relevant books, community groups such as Lions and Rotary will have access to them for book sales and other events like that."
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Esson said the National Library is also in discussions with local Iwi about redistribution of the books, and she is confident the Whanganui community will have access to the collection soon.
"We absolutely want to make sure that the people of Whanganui have a chance to come and check out all these books, and see if there are any that they'd like to give homes to.
"I'm quietly confident that even the most obscure books will be snapped up."
Esson said the model of a modern library has gone from giant warehouses of books to a much more focused approach.
"In this day and age, libraries use more of a 'we can get it for you' way of thinking.
"This could mean tracking down a title from overseas, or finding a digitised version of the book you're after."
Despite the rehousing of these older books, the National Library still intends to collect titles from overseas, with family history, music, and the Services to Schools Collection three areas which will continue to grow.
Esson said the Overseas Published Collection Project is completely necessary.
"We have to make way for 90,000 new books each year, and the cost of maintaining these older overseas titles is massive.
"Our job as the National Library of New Zealand is to maintain books from our own country.
"The British National Library or the Australian National Library won't be storing these books from Aotearoa, so it's up to us to collect them."
Another facility is being sought for the Wairere House collection as it awaits redistribution.
"Wairere House has served us well," Esson said.
"It does need a bit of work. We are looking at another location, one that isn't right next to a large river."
For more information on the project, go to natlib.govt.nz/about-us/strategy-and-policy/collections-policy/overseas-published-collection-management