I had the opportunity today to attend the official ceremony to mark the 150th anniversary of Christchurch City Libraries today – a wonderful celebration to mark 150 years of innovation in the provision of library services in Christchurch.
Speakers at the event recounted what has happened in the development of CHCH city libraries, from the beginnings as a male-only subscriber library for 100 men known as the Christchurch Mechanics’ Institute through to the current network of 20 libraries across the whole of the city.
There was lots of mention about how libraries are now becoming hubs in their community, embracing traditional book stock along with other forms of media, including music, software, posters etc.
Some of the CHCH library’s achievements in the digital realm include being the first library in Australasia to have its own library website, an early adopter of an electronic catalogue system,the provision of online catalogue and booking access to all CHCH residents and the provision of a 24 hour online, real-time reference librarian service.
A significant development in the CHCH City libraries has been the development of learning centres within the libraries themselves, and the inclusion of cafes in some libraries – adding to the appeal to spend time exploring, reading and socialising within the library environment. I’ve had a particular association with the South Learning Centre since its inception, and see in that facility not only what 21st century libraries should be like, but also pointers as to what 21st century schools/learning environments should be like.
The exciting thing for me at the event was the announcement that from today all 20 of the libraries on the CHCH city libraries network will offer free internet access for library users! This is the culmination of nearly 8 years of planning and visioning which will usher in a whole new era of opportunity and library use in the city!
Well done CHCH City Libraries – here’s to the next 150 years!