Tutarawananga: the new Greerton Library

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Six hundred years ago your correspondent was not in Te Puna, but maybe she should have been hanging out in and around Tutarawananga, which as its name suggests was a centre of learning and wisdom. Its fine tradition was evoked at the opening of the Greerton Library on 15 July.

Opening crowd in front of the pou

Opening crowd in front of the pou

An elegant oblong slab of a building, designed with the simplicity and presence we have come to expect of its architects, Chow Hill, the library thronged with excited visitors, borrowers (and lenders – there were extra librarians on for the day), putting the lie to those who, over the twenty-year history of the institution, argued against providing a larger, better, more complete library of books and other resources at the southern end of town.

The pou in front on the new Greerton Library

The pou in front on the new Greerton Library

The extremely edited timeline presented in the Bay of Plenty Times the next day failed to indicate the sad compromises, near-misses, and outright (at times) opposition to libraries that bedevilled the development of a proper facility in Greerton. But your TPC remembers, and wants to acknowledge the unsung efforts of the Friends of the Library, and the stalwart courage of Kate Clerk and Vanessa Byrnes, and the charm and energy of Sir Bob Harvey, and the steady determination of Mayor Stewart Crosby, and, and, and…. Although there were supporters too many to list here, there were some powerful forces at work, arguing for a world where books were no longer needed or wanted, a community with fewer and fewer actual spaces for the exchange of ideas.

Pou detail

Pou detail

Perhaps the most cogent demonstration of the value of the actual alongside the virtual (and let’s note here that this was the week before Pokemon Go was released) was the fascination of the 3D printer in the Knowledge Centre, diligently pushing out real stuff that you can hold in your hand from melted plastic and a design programme. It really did look a bit like a microwave oven. But it was cooking a series of external shells rather than agitating molecules in the middle of whatever-was-in-there.

Greerton Library pou

Greerton Library pou

It occurred to your correspondent that the alternative realities of inside-out, outside-in, are what make books, still, such a satisfying technology, and libraries, still, such stimulating places to be. Within this system of knowledge transfer, you can start from anywhere.

Try it for yourself, in Greerton. You see a pou in the townscape. You can pause to admire its shape and power, or you can study its narrative and read its kupu. You can step closer, or you can step away. Either way, you know more than you did. A smart new building encourages you in. You wander (in this case) a single concourse of bright spaces dedicated to the joy of accessible knowledge, or you head straight to the catalogue and find the one thing you came in to find. This is not the same, it need hardly be said, as way the virtual world works. No browser (despite its name) can match the choices proposed to you by the sculpture or the building, and the sad truth of our Internet search behaviour is that we (usually) find only what we specify for. There’s no room for serendipity in an algorithm. If anything demonstrates that information technology should be our servant, not our master, it’s a library.

There was great, real, excitement (so different from that created within the Web) in the room that Friday morning. As well as those putting their books back via Smartblade, there was an old Te Puna friend in the issuing queue. He’d requested a book, a long time ago: the meditations of a Tibetan monk on the way of the warrior. Greatly relevant in these troubled times. Not available on-line (as far as I know). Through the work-horse ways of information management, he had been kept informed of

  1. The result of his request: the book was not in the collection, but would be ordered.

  2. The book was ordered, but would take some weeks to get to New Zealand.

  3. The book was here, but was being held in storage because the temporary Greerton Library could not cope with more books on its shelves.

  4. The book was unpacked! And being held at the issuing desk for him to pick up on 15 July!

One very excited reader was heading home with his prize, to meditate on, to involve himself in, and, we hope, to offer on to other library users. The system served him well. But the book will be, and do, far more than that.

The armour of the warrior and the warmth within. As your correspondent left the building, she found Spiderman and Princess Elsa, in human form, entertaining a group of happy kids and parents with feats of strength and charm. Wonderful to see the real stuff, happening outside our new library, with more wonders waiting to happen inside.

Featured imageThe Te Puna Correspondent. The Te Puna Correspondent: Your TPC is a rurally living, lifetime Tauranga resident. She has an eclectic cultural background She is a continuing participant, supporter and observer of all forms of the creative arts and community activities. Much travelled both nationally and internationally, the ARTbop contributions of Your TPC can be acerbic, witty and insightful. Their publication is looked forward to by an increasing readership following. Her alter ego Beth Bowden can be seen as a lead conversationalist on The ARTbopSHOW.

Your TPC can be contacted at info@artbop.co.nz

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