This past weekend I was honoured to be a part of the opening of Waitohi, the new community hub in Johnsonville (Wellington) New Zealand. You many notice in the last sentence I’m using the phrase community hub and you may be wondering what that means. Waitohi isn’t just a new library. Instead Waitohi is a community hub that brings together the new library in Johnsonville, a public swimming pool (Keith Spry Pool), the Johnsonville Community Centre, a cafe, Whānau Manaaki Kindergarten, and finally a park. The space at Waitohi is a great example of how a community comes together. We all don’t live in these silos. Our lives overlap in so many ways, yet our spaces don’t reflect this. Waitohi is a place where services connect and people meet each other. It’s a reflection of what communities actually look like in real life.
One of the most amazing parts on the opening day was the Māori blessing. At 4:45am, myself and around 150 folks gathered at Waitohi and were led around the building as part of the Māori blessing, led by local Iwi leaders. As we walked through the building I felt a sense of happiness, purpose, and community wash over me. It was something that I hadn’t felt in a library related space in a long time. Sure, my love for libraries has always been around but at some point I lost it a little bit. With the Māori blessing something re-awoken. A sense of purpose. A rediscovery of who I can be while I’m on this earth. I am honoured to be a part of this project, this space, and whatever this adventure brings.
Libraries are so much bigger than books on shelves, events in a space, or a makerspace. It’s about people, how they connect, how they communicate, and how they live together. It’s about sharing experiences. In that way, Waitohi is the space that I’ve always dreamed about when it comes to working in libraries. I never got into this just for the books. I never got into this just for the technology. I got into this because I want to help play a part in realising a better community. Waitohi is the place where this better community can start.