Topic: Library history

Topic type:

A history of the public library service in Carterton from 1873.


HISTORY 1874 - 2010

A concerted effort by the citizens of Carterton in 1873 enabled the first library to be established on March 24 1874 based on a collection of 200 books. Some of these initial books were purchased by Charles Rooking Carter, then residing in London.

Fundraising had begun as early as 1870 when early settlers held "readings" in each others homes, charging a penny to come and listen. The money was used to purchase books and soon the collection grew to such an extent that a room in the first Town Hall was required to house it.

Mr W. Parker was appointed librarian at a salary of seven pounds a year. Annual subscriptions set at 10 shillings, with an entrance fee of 2/6. It was reported that there were 50 members and the library was debt free in February 1875. Mr W. Booth, A. Armstrong and R. Fairbrother were the first trustees of the library.

By December 1878 the library collection had grown to approximately 700 volumes. Again Charles Rooking Carter acknowledged the library and raised a further 50 pounds in London and added a further 12 pounds from his own purse to purchase more books.

In 1880 the community decided to build a library building, the room in the Town Hall being too small for the purpose. The imposing mock-Roman building was completed in 1881 at a cost of 336 pounds, Mr W. Booth supplying the timber. Carter also assisted by obtaining the land and extra funds.

The Librarian's living quarters were at the back of the library and until 1988 were still being used as a residence. Evidence of the chook sheds associated with the library flat can still be seen at the rare of the current building.

Charles Rooking Carter maintained his strong association with the library through donations of books. By 1884 the collection stood at 2,388 books. On his death in 1896 Carter bequeathed a sizeable part of his own collection to the town.

From 1876 until May 1963 Carterton Public Library was a subscription library, a membership fee being paid annually by all borrowers. In 1896 the Carterton Borough Council made an annual grant of 20 pounds (rising to 250 pounds by 1957) to subsidise the libraries operation and to allow for public use of the restroom. 1896 also saw the opening of a public reading room.

Throughout the 87 years as a subscription library it was managed by a volunteer committee elected annually. At the last meeting of the library committee Mr W. Vaughan handed the deeds to Cr. Andy McCallum representing the Carterton Borough Council.

A centennial plaque was unveiled at 2pm on Saturday 19 1981 by the Mayor, W.P. Chisholm, to mark the 100th year of occupation of the Holloway Street building by the library. It is believed that the library is the oldest purpose built library still in library use in New Zealand.

Some of Carter's books held at the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington were returned to the library in 1981. These are now held in a glass cabinet within the library.

The Love Seat which resides in the was commissioned by the South Wairarapa Community Arts Council to commemorate the centenary of the library building in Holloway Street. It was designed by Welshman David Lewis and built by Ted Rotman in 1981.

In February 1984 the Wairarapa Large Print Pool was officially started. This was the first co-operative arrangement entered into by the libraries of Carterton, Featherston, Greytown, Martinborough and Masterton. This arrangement enabled the purchase of a wider range of large print books for the benefit of all five libraries.

The Carterton Suffrage Centennial Banner, which hangs in the library, was part of a nation-wide New Zealand Suffrage Centennial project. The Carterton banner was produced by members of the Wairarapa Embroidiers Guild, featuring symbols of the district. The basic shield shape recognises the suffragists association with the Womens Temperance Movement.

The embroidiered banner of the Waiohine C.W.I. commemorating their jubilee also hangs in the Library.

It was reported in June 1994 the library had 10, 611 books. During the late 1990's the library experienced a number of developments. On 28 October 1995 the first Saturday morning opening was introduced. Following hard on this on Friday March 1 1996 at 12.30pm the Library's computer catalogue was launched. Finally on March 5 1999 Mayor G. Beyer opened the new extension to the existing building. At this time the collection consisted of approximately 21,000 books.

The next development occurred in September 2001 when Carterton Public Library officially joined a joint co-operative arrangement with the South Wairarapa District Council's libraries to form the Wairarapa Library Service with a total book stock of approximately 76,000 items, 30,000 of which are at Carterton.

For the first time in 129 years the Library was temporarially relocated to the Greytown St Marks Lodge Hall across the road in Holloway Street while the Carterton Events Centre was constructed around the old library building. The move began in mid-September 2010 and was completed by 18 October 2010 when construction began on the new building by Holms Construction under the direction of Opus International architects. Mayor Gary McPhee performed a turning of the sod ceremony as his last official act as mayor on 8 October 2010.


Bagnall, A.G. A history of Carterton: the story of the first hundred years of the settlement of Carterton 1957

Nga Maharatanga o Wairarapa / edited by Catherine Morrison 1991

Various newspaper articles, letters, reports and documents held at Carterton District Library

Updated: 29 October 2010

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