3 April 2013

A New Look, New Services, New Programmes – Re-opening of National Library of New Zealand in Wellington

By Bill Macnaught, National Librarian

A Message from the National Librarian of New Zealand

After a three-year closure, the National Library of New Zealand’s building in Wellington reopened to the public with all our services up and running on 27 November 2012. Staff had been looking forward to this day for some time, and the sense of excited anticipation was palpable, during the countdown to the big day.

I am proud that our refurbished building has a strong bicultural basis through the Te Kore ki te Ao Marama story which details the evolution of the universe from formless potential Te Kore, to the world of light, Te Ao Marama. Te Kore ki te Ao Marama is told in design features throughout the building with the takarangi pattern chosen as the graphic abstract.

The new services on offer are highly interactive, and create an environment where customers will be able to find out about their own stories and create new ones packed full of the knowledge and information we hold. The ground floor, known as Te Ahumairangi, includes net.work, a commons’ space, with information technology and other resources for social research, content development and exploration. Lifelines is a large interactive touch table to discover content that’s meaningful to visitors and their family and friends. The AV pods showcase the library’s audio-visual collections and those of partner agencies, and the galleries will have regular changing exhibitions to support our new Public Programmes. ‘Big Data’ is our first Public Programme offering. This is about how people gather and use data to survive, and how this is reflected in our surroundings and landscape. Big Data is the first of many programmes to explore our collections to makesense of how past and present knowledge can influence our future.

I extend a warm welcome to all IFLA members to visit us in New Zealand to experience our new look, new services and new programmes. Next year’s annual IFLA conference in Singapore may provide you with an opportunity.

The main building of the National Library of New Zealand, in Wellington viewed from Parliament grounds across the road

The National Library Molesworth Street Building Reopening


The history of the National Library, Te Puna Mätauranga o Aotearoa, can be traced back to 1858 when the General Assembly Library was formed to serve Members of Parliament. In 2007, the National Library of New Zealand (Te Puna Mätauranga o Aotearoa) developed the ‘New Generation Implementation Strategy Towards 2017’ as a strategic vision for the future, and the New Generation Implementation Programme (NGIP) was established to undertake this work. Coupled with this repositioning, the National Library building in Molesworth Street, Wellington, has been extensively refurbished to ensure collections are more readily available and safely stored for another 20 years.

Key Drivers of The New Generation Implementation Programme (Ngip)

The New Generation Implementation Programme set out to:

  • Address collection storage issues through to 2030
  • Renew ageing plant and infrastructure in the Molesworth Street Building
  • Improve access to the nation’s heritage collections, and
  • Transform library services onsite, online and through the new 0800 integrated telephone system.

The Molesworth Street Building

The Molesworth Street building, designed in the 1970s in new brutalist architectural style and built in the 1980s, was found to be ageing to an extent as to endanger the integrity and safety of the collections by 2008. After considering a few options, it was decided to increase the efficiency of space utilisation in the building.

This solution saw the consolidation of customer service and staff work areas, and importantly the reorganisation and reconfiguration of the Library’s collection storage space, adding a further 20 years of collections growth capacity within the facility.

The redevelopment tapped on the strong cultural basis provided by the story of Te Kore ki te Ao Marama from Maori mythology, about the evolution of the universe from formless potential (te kore) to the world of light, te ao marama. Te Kore ki te Ao Marama is told through the new design features of the Molesworth Street building, and the takarangi (‘evolving heavens’ or ‘evolving universe’) pattern was chosen as the graphic abstract used throughout the building design. In December 2009, the National Library building in Molesworth Street closed to the public. The relocation of all staff and most of the collections out of and back into the Molesworth Street building is, by all accounts (whether by volumes moved, value, time taken, skills required or breadth of material) in totality the most significant building move removal operation in New Zealand’s history, involving the wrapping and boxing of large numbers of collection items in various formats.

It reopened on 6 August, 2012, when all the research collections were again made available in the new reading rooms on the first floor. (NB: During the closure, some key collections were made available at a temporary reading room on Thorndon Quay, Wellington, and other Alexander Turnbull Library collections were available from the neighbouring Archives New Zealand building in Mulgrave Street, Wellington.) The National Library public areas including a new gallery, programme and exhibition spaces, café and rooms for hire, reopened in the building on November 27,  2012.


The refurbishment, while extensive, retained as much of the existing building elements as practical, thereby saving on cost, reducing waste and recycling elements, such as reusing the podium and exposing the existing structure. Sustainable initiatives, such as increased insulation for the roof and collections cool storage rooms, have helped reduce energy costs and helped the environment.

Now on Offer at the Molesworth Street Building

Since 27 November 2012, the National Library in Molesworth Street, open Monday to Saturday 10am – 5pm, hosts a range of activities and resources that enable the public to interact
and access knowledge, information and documentary heritage. Public spaces and services include:

  • The ‘net.work’ (Ground Floor) - a commons area with information technology and printing solutions, and other technology for enabling social research and exploration.
  • Audiovisual Pods Pods (Ground Floor) –access to curated elements collections.
  • Free Wi-Fi access throughout all public spaces.
  • Programme Rooms (Ground Floor).
  • The Piano Room (Level One) - designed for playing scores from the music collections.
  • ‘Lifelines’ – a large interactive touch table that gives people an opportunity to connect to the National Library’s holdings to discover content that’s meaningful to them, their family and friends through prompts of date, place and name.
  • The Gallery on Te Ahumairangi (Ground Floor) and Turnbull Gallery (Level One) –host and support several major programmes each year through exhibitions.
  • Café ‘Home’ open 7am-5.30pm Monday–Saturday and late on Fridays.
  • A retail space on the Ground Floor.

Besides these, there are seminar rooms and an auditorium for hire and new reading rooms.

Other Achievements of the New Generation Implementation Programme (NGIP)
During the NGIP many other services were developed, these include:


  • The number of online images more than tripled, from 80,000 to over 250,000; due to both the Pictures Online Preservation Project and the Alexander Turnbull Library Digitisation Programme.
  • ‘Papers Past’ digitisation increased coverage of newspapers to two million pages and added 10 newspaper titles to the collections.
  • An Audio Retro-Perspective Project digitised over 2000 at-risk audio recordings that together makeup over 86 days’ worth of audio recordings (2066 hours). Preservation master files are now stored in the National Digital Heritage Archive (NDHA), enabling copies to be made available online. It also helped develop staff capability during the Library’s offsite period completed in March 2012.
  • You can now download 2,500 free high-resolution images, with no restrictions on their re-use.
  • The upgraded National Library website now provides improved access to online services, better cross-collection search, more accessible online images through the Gallery search results view and a redeveloped image ordering process as well as new on-site access to the catalogues and online resources through the Reading Room search stations, providing an improved web experience for all users.

    From left Fiona Rigby (National Library), Hon. Chris Tremain, National Librarian Bill Macnaught, DIA Chief Executive Colin MacDonald watch Prime Minister John Key try out one of the Library’s new AV Pods

Services to Schools:

The NGIP assisted with the completion of the new Auckland centre. This includes Services to Schools, which supports literacy and learning in New Zealand schools. The centre strengthens connections with communities and partners to improve access to the National Library's resources and programmes through the implementation of the 0800 Advisor service which provides an integrated pathway, the online channel, and outreach expert services (programmed activities and workshops) and one-on-one consultations in Auckland. The centre also now provides the opportunity for targeted Public Programmes and increased visibility of the renewed Alexander Turnbull Library Research Service.

Key Facts on the Collections and Storage Space:

  • The nation’s documentary and digital heritage stored at the National Library is valued at nearly NZ$1 billion (government valuation).
  • In 2008, it was identified that the integrity and safety of the collections were at risk and the collection storage space was expected to run out in two years.
  • The Library collection storage space has been reorganised and intensified, adding a further 20 years to the collections growth capacity within the facility.
  • Some 860 tonnes of shelving (around 1703 cubic metres) have been brought into the building.
  • Storage for heritage collections in the Molesworth St. building has been improved from 55% to 100% of collections housed in controlled-atmosphere cool-room environments.
  • The Library’s manuscript collections occupy almost 11 kilometres of shelf space and the total collections (including in the building) occupy 95 kilometres.

Asia and Oceania, New Zealand

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