Mandy Hager On The Importance Of Books

Mandy Hager writes: ‘I’ve read with interest the debate around the cutting of the books budget for our local libraries.

It’s clear the costs of upgrading Waikanae library were unexpected and there is a whole debate needed around why this situation was allowed to get so out of hand.

It’s an election issue

In our upcoming local body elections, those who feel strongly about this should challenge our representatives as to why this was not recognised or remedied sooner and how such ‘surprises’ can be avoided in the future.

Why are Councillors so defensive?

Having read the responses from the deputy mayor and one of the councillors, I’m surprised by their defensiveness and desire to close the conversation down. 

I’m glad we live in a community that values books and understands their importance to a healthy community.

Books are not only valuable for their ability to take us into lives and worlds other than our own, but they have a function in building empathy and compassion for those we might consider ‘others’ or ‘outsiders.’

Consolation, understanding and mind-opening

They can bring consolation, greater understanding, a sense of having been ‘seen’ or recognised, and open our world more widely, whether through non-fiction or fiction.

Given the Waikanae Library is in need of such a dramatic upgrade, I can see that it required a juggling of the numbers to facilitate the restoration.

The former Waikanae Library, closed late last year aftere the discovery of toxic mould in the building and the book stocks

Readers need reassurance

But I think what most people would like is a reassurance that the budget will be restored in the next funding round (at the very least), and that the council acknowledge the importance of the continued refreshing of material available at the libraries.

As someone who spends a lot of time travelling around and speaking in libraries, I have seen how they form a crucial hub for the community and it is important that they continue to function in this way and to provide the greatest diversity of material possible.

What is needed is a strong statement in support of this from our elected representatives, not just knee-jerk defensiveness.

I have always been so proud of our local library. This area has many residents who cannot get out for sport and even beach walks. The library is so important for the – for all of us. Is the council buying into the (false) notion that tablets will take over from libraries? My rates have gone up exponentially this time around I am a model citizen regarding what financial drain I put on the council. I don’t do graffiti, we tidy the council area around our property, I organise community functions, don’t destroy public things, pay my rates on time (huge as they are), pay for our own rubbish disposal, pick up litter around the beach access and car park bordering our house, maintain our own sea wall, am economical with water (have a pump). One of the things I love is the library for many reasons. I can only assume that the councillors who made this decision have no interest in reading, books, or activities useful for keeping our minds alive. It will come to it that the librarians (like parents and teachers) will have to do fundraising to buy books – how bizarre. I wonder if anyone on the council will read this and respond?????

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