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Canterbury Public Library



  • Existence: 1873 - present

Parallel Names

  • Canterbury Public Library


A Christchurch Mechanics’ Institute was first proposed in March 1852 by Charles Joseph Rae. A public meeting was held in July and an Institute founded but the venture failed. In 1859 Rae tried again, calling a meeting on 26 May where he proposed that a Mechanics’ Institute and a Book Club be established. This time his proposal was received more enthusiastically; a committee was elected, and rules were drafted. Temporary premises were found at the Town Hall, and the Institute was officially opened on 4 August 1859 by Sir John Hall.

Over the next 3 years, the Institute concentrated on acquiring its own building. With the assistance of a grant from the Provincial Council in January 1862, half an acre (sections 405 and 406) was purchased on the corner of Cambridge Terrace and Hereford Street. The design for the new building by Samuel Farr was selected following a design competition. The building was completed in October 1863 and the new library and reading room opened for business on 2 November.

The Institute’s finances were an issue throughout the years. In a bid to attract more support, a name change took place in 1868 and the Mechanics’ Institute became the Christchurch Literary Institute.

In 1873 the Institute was prepared to close (except for an hour each evening). After discussion between the committee and the Council a proposal for a free library scheme was promoted. The committee recommended the transfer of Institute property to the public library trustees. This proposal was put into effect in September by the Canterbury Public Library Act (1873), with the deed of transfer being signed on 15 December 1873.

The Provincial Superintendent gave the control of the library to the Board of Governors of Canterbury College, through the Canterbury Museum and Library Ordinance Amendment Ordinance (1873). Canterbury College took over the running of Canterbury Public Library in February 1874.

With the abolition of the provinces in 1876, the Library became the property of the College. In 1936 the City Council agreed, in principle, to take over the Library, which it did in 1948 by Act of Parliament. By the late 1960s it became obvious that a larger site was needed, and after seven years' planning a new building on the corner of Oxford Terrace and Gloucester Street was opened on 11 Jan. 1982. Meanwhile a network of community libraries had been developed throughout the city.

By the 1960s the adjoining local bodies of Waimairi District Council and Paparua County Council had also established professional library services, and these, with the central and community libraries, formed the new Canterbury Public Library network following local government reorganisation in 1989. On 21 July 2000 Canterbury Public Library adopted Christchurch City Libraries as its brand name. On 6 March 2006 Banks Peninsula District merged with Christchurch city and their four libraries were added to the network, becoming fully integrated on 1 July 2006. In addition to Tūranga, the central library (opened 12 October 2018), there are 19 community libraries and one mobile library.

Christchurch City Council (n.d.). Christchurch City Libraries.

Found in 3 Collections and/or Records:

Canterbury Public Library records

Identifier: Arch 0052
Scope and Contents

The records of Canterbury Public Library, now known as Christchurch City Libraries, includes correspondence; minutes; press clippings; reports; statistics; newsletters; book lists and financial records.

Includes a Special report on the Canterbury Public Library / R.N. O'Reilly November 1951.

Dates: 1948-Present

History of the Canterbury Public Library card index

Identifier: Arch 0391
Scope and Contents

Manuscript index to the History of the Canterbury Public Library 1959-1980. Card index compiled between December 1980 and February 1981.

Dates: 1859-1980