In October 2012 I moved from Auckland to Rangiora to work for Waimakariri Libraries. Waimakariri is the second fastest growing region in New Zealand – a community brimming with rejuvenation and opportunity. With more than 1200 people visiting Waimakariri Libraries each day my role was to lead and manage strategic projects that will open doors for enquiring minds. My primary focus was on two projects: the rebuild of the Kaiapoi Library after the Canterbury earthquakes, and the implementation and delivery of RFID self-service kiosks.
In March I returned to Auckland for personal reasons and I’ve written this article to pay homage to the many Rangiora Library customers I was fortunate enough to meet and come to know. The connection community members have with the library is personal and unique and it is important that we as librarians take the time to listen and strengthen those connections.
This article tells the stories of Rangiora Library through the eyes of two such customers – Jon Read and Tony Barnett.
Free to Indulge
Jon Read plans liveable built environments for the rapidly growing Waimakariri District in a temporary portable office next door to Rangiora Library. Sometimes for a change of scenery he’ll bring his work into the library, claiming a table for a couple of hours to do research or seek inspiration.
With a background in parks and recreation Jon has worked as a park ranger, developed cycling and walking tracks and been involved in the development of reserves such as the Brooklands Lagoon and New Brighton dunes in Christchurch. He’s been working for the Waimakariri District Council for seven years and lives on a lifestyle block near Oxford with his partner Sharon and two children Shae (13) and Devon (11).
As I talk with Jon about his life and how the library fits into it he confesses that he has succumbed to the occasional book binge. Every now and then he will take home an armful of books that look interesting and sometimes do nothing more than skim a couple of chapters or flick through the pages before bringing them back with the intention of reading them later.
It is his frequent use of the library for a variety of purposes that has made it easy for Jon to indulge in what would otherwise be an expensive habit.
It turns out the library and I also support Jon in another ‘otherwise expensive habit – foreign movies and tv series. When I issued Jon the Borgen dvd about a year ago, I asked if he’d seen the recent Wallander series with Kenneth Branagh and if so what he thought of it. We discussed the differences between tv series made in Scandinavia compared to those made in American or Britain, and how long it might be before the next series of The Killing is available in New Zealand. Jon’s watched most of the library’s Scandinavian dvds and nearly every week he’ll flick through our entire dvd collection looking for new ones. He wishes there was an easier way to find out what’s new since he last looked.
As fate would have it, I am also a fan of Scandinavian crime and have a dvd collection at home that I share with Jon so he doesn’t have to wait until they become available in New Zealand, and then the library.
Jon’s son Devon developed an interest in reading through the Summer Reading Programme in Oxford Library a couple of years ago and Jon will often look for the latest Andy Griffiths’ book or Diary of a Wimpy Kid for him. Devon is in a digital class at school where all coursework is completed on a laptop. Devon loves it, but Jon is concerned about how he will keep up without broadband at home (no connection available). A slow dial-up connection doesn’t make it easy to look for Andy Griffiths’ email address or Facebook page so you can ask him when his next book will be out.
Jon tends to favour socio-political biographies over fiction and is also curious about landscaping, architecture, design and self-help topics. He likes the variety and diversity available at the library and he never knows what he’ll discover next.
Jon’s thankful the library gives him the freedom to indulge.
A life-long love of learning and languages
I first met Tony Barnett when he asked if he could use the library’s computers during my first week at Rangiora Library. The computers can be booked for thirty minutes each day and although some customers habitually linger longer than they should, Tony respects the opportunity to check his email and rarely outstays his allotted time.
Every day for the last fifteen years Tony has visited either Kaiapoi or Rangiora Library.
He prefers Rangiora Library, as it is closer, but spent a few years visiting Kaiapoi when the noise from the children’s area and the unfriendliness of staff pushed him away. Thankfully in the last three years the situation has improved and he’s back at Rangiora waiting for the library to open each day. Whenever I see Tony we exchange greetings and share a brief conversation. But it wasn’t until I asked him if I could write a story about him that I realised Tony was a man of many talents.
Born in Christchurch during the war Tony’s family lived in a number of places in the Canterbury region and in Wellington, moving whenever his father began a new teaching position. Tony’s mother supplemented the family income teaching singing to local children and both professions have had an impact in Tony’s life. Tony began singing solo at the Town Hall from the age of six and has the gift of being able to read music and intuitively understand how the parts come together. Today he continues his love of music by playing the organ during Christmas church services.
It also seemed natural for Tony to continue in his father’s footsteps into a life of academia. In fact you might say Tony is the embodiment of life-long learning. Tony taught in primary and secondary schools for fourteen years including three stints in England.
He has a BA in French, MA in English, an Engineering degree and has completed ¾ of a Chemistry degree.
This is his 15th year as a student with Christchurch Polytechnic, most recently completing a Diploma in Information Technology in 2006 and he is currently enrolled in the Polytechnic’s Computing 4 Free Excel course. Tony is also a fluent reader in French, Spanish, German and Italian and continues to regularly attend Italian classes in Christchurch to maintain his fluency.
We talked at length about the difference in studying towards a chemistry degree versus an arts degree, the impact of a teacher’s gender on their approach to teaching and whether qualifications are still an important indicator for employers.
Through Tony’s love and expertise in languages I learnt the term patronymics. A patronym or patronymics is the component of a personal name derived from one’s father. For example, many English names include the patronym ‘son’ as in Johnson (son of John), whereas the Irish and Scots use the prefix ‘Mc’ or ‘Mac’ as in McDonald (son of Donald). Barnett, Tony’s surname, includes the Hebrew patronym ‘Bar’ (son of Nett). This led to a discussion on the Scandinavian influence of many English place names and the Danelaw. I found these stories fascinating as it prompted me to compare it with my knowledge of whakapapa and the origins of Maori place names and personal names.
You might expect Tony to be a regular borrower, using the library to extend his studies and pursue his interests, but Tony isn’t even a member of the library.
He doesn’t borrow books because his caravan doesn’t have adequate lighting for sustained periods of reading. Instead he reads in the library.
You might also expect that with his knowledge of computing that Tony would have a computer at home and would have no need to use the computers in the library. Tony does have a computer but it isn’t connected to the internet because he is concerned about viruses. So he uses the library’s computer to access his email and search for information.
The library is Tony’s home away from home; a place to read the newspaper, check email, and be amongst people.