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Wednesday, 29 August 2007

WHERE SHOULD THE LIBRARY BE?

That question would never have arisen if Auckland City had not thrown its bureaucratic cat amongst the island's wood-pigeons, as per usual, in its overweening desire to organise our island they way it wants it.

The library should be where those who use it, after informed pondering, decide it should be (so to do the job properly we should first survey who the users are and where the bulk of them live). There are arguments on both sides, and it can be said that there is little to choose between them, but my own view is that it should stay where it is (even though Ostend would be more convenient for me). There is a wise old saying: 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' If you are going to upset the status quo you must have a very good reason, something so powerful that it over-rides everything else. There is no such reason here. Kow-towing to Auckland's whims is no reason for anything.

An inescapably powerful argument in favour of the Oneroa site is that is well established as the island's centre for cultural activities. The library, the art gallery, the artistic shops, the Artworks theatre, Whittaker's Museum and the cinema are there. That quality should be added to and enhanced, not detracted from or destroyed.

The problem, if it is moved, is that the library is a major facility on the island. It is a busy place. If you shift something like that you will upset a dynamic and a balance that have grown up and become established over a long period of time. The other activities that have grown up round it, and prosper because it is there, or do better because of it whether they know it or not, will do less well, or will wither and die.

The real question is which village should be the main one. Oneroa or Ostend? The answer is plain. Oneroa. It always has been. It has location, location, location. It has the best views; Ostend has none worthy of the name. Oneroa is the first village visitors come to, and the one most of them get off at. It has everything they want and need--all the banks, the Post Office, a choice of the most popular caf├ęs and restaurants, souvenir shops, the Citizens' Advice Bureau, grocery shops, clothing shops, the government service centre, real estate offices, a department store, the police station, the videos shop, a butcher and one of the best beaches on the island. Far, far more than Ostend. Their second choice is either Palm Beach or Onetangi. Very few go to Ostend unless they want the supermarket or are changing buses. They vote with their feet. Oneroa is number one. We should take notice of that. We should also take notice of how many islanders linger in Oneroa compared with how many linger in Ostend. Far more in Oneroa.

That therefore is where the library should be. It is a main facility, it is in the main village, it should stay there.

Public transport is perfectly suited to library users at Oneroa. Both buses stop right opposite. But only one bus route goes past the Ostend location.

There is also the very human argument of sensitivity to habit and nostalgia. Oneroa is what we are used to in heart and mind and body, and because there is no good reason for upsetting that it should not be upset.

We can also look at the demographic profile of the island. Where is the greatest concentration of population, and where is the demographic centre? The Council's computer system cannot spit out that data, but the street-map shows that is round about Surfdale/Pacific Parade, which is a bit closer to Oneroa. But that has to be weighted in favour of Oneroa because of the much larger number of other facilities. Ostend has the supermarket and Placemakers, true, which are heavy counterweights, but they do not offer Oneroa's variety, nor do they outweigh the value of having a single, integrated cultural centre. But again it comes back to the question of which is the main village and where it should be.

Oneroa is only five or ten minutes up the road from Ostend. Hardly a major schlepp.

Auckland City's notion that its Service Centre should be merged with, or beside, the library is the sort of thinking we can expect from bureaucrats. They like things to be in what they see as tidy pigeonholes, regardless of practicality or any other good reason. Why should they be together? They are not together even in Auckland. How many people really want desperately to combine a trip to the library, a haven of books away from the world, with the bruising reality of a visit to the Auckland City Council? Very few. You are far more likely to want to combine it with going to the Post Office, the bank, etc. Few visit to the Service Centre often--far fewer than those who make regular visits to the library. The combination is artificial, not made for any practical or demographic reason. Just for some notion of tidiness disconnected from reality.

If some overlap was seen as desirable for research, because so many functions are available at the Service Centre on the computer system, they could easily be made available at the library too, simply by giving the library computers access to the same data.