New Zealand Library Work: Johnsonville Library @ Waitohi Community Hub


One of the biggest reasons that I chose to come live & work in New Zealand is the new Waitohi Community Hub. You can read about this space in the links below, but in a nutshell I am the Team Leader (USA equivalent=library director) for the Johnsonville Library @ Waitohi Community Hub. This library sits within the Waitohi Community Hub, which is a new community building. A big part my role was to be part of the team that opened up the space to the public and then after that to continue the operation and growth of the Johnsonville Library @ Waitohi Community Hub.

The closure of Wellington’s Central Library in early 2019 has had a great impact on how people use libraries in Wellington, and this combined with the opening of the Johnsonville Library @ Waitohi Community Hub in late 2019 marked a radical shift in how people used this specific library. The Johnsonville Library has always and continues to be a branch library, but with the closure of the Central Library combined with the new Waitohi Community Hub building it took on a new life….it became the busiest location in the entire Wellington City Library system. Despite Covid-19 and everything else, the Johnsonville Library @ Waitohi Community Hub has seen a 112% increase in visits, a 31% increase in borrowing, and a 41% increase in the amount of items returned to this branch. Simply stated, the Johnsonville Library went from a simple library branch in the suburbs to being the most visited and most used library site in the city of Wellington, New Zealand. Without a Central Library around, and also thanks to the space being the newest and most flash library in the system, the Johnsonville Library quickly grew from a small branch library to being, for lack of a better word, the new Central library for Wellington. While the number of visitors and borrowing statistics were not as high as what they were when the Central Library was open to the public, they did show that this particular library was now the busiest in the city.

The past 1.5 years have been a series of ups, downs, and everything in between. As librarians we will never get tired of seeing a library succeed beyond our wildest dreams. This is exactly what has happened with the Johnsonville Library @ Waitohi Community Hub. The library has quickly become adopted by not only the local community but many others in the greater Wellington region as their library of choice. This is perfect. We all want nothing but success and community involvement in our libraries. But with this success has come a lot of learning and growth. It showed that the we did not have the infrastructure to the keep up with our newfound popularity. Simply put we did not have enough staff to properly run the place. We couldn’t continue to offer a lot of events & programmes. We couldn’t keep up with leave requests and illness. Staff were not happy, and rightfully so, with the increase in the amount of work they were now seeing. It was great to be working in such an awesome and inspiring new library, but at the same time we had to do a lot of soul searching and understand as to what needed to be fixed and how we could do it.

The Covid-19 lockdown in New Zealand gave us all a chance to step back, breathe, and look at the big picture. We had to understand how the library was being used, what a day of work at the new library looked like for staff, and what other things like annual & sick leave obligations we had. We had to get into the guts of the situation. I have found this work to be extremely challenging, yet at the same time immensely rewarding. Over the past few months I’ve had the chance to work on a completely strategic and operational overview of what we have in front of us when it comes to our work at the Johsonville Library @ Waitohi Community Hub. The first part of the work I did ended in a 24 page report on where we were, where we are right now, and where we need to be. If you’re curious about that, email me and I’d be happy to share more information. The next bit is where I’ll get into the weeds a bit and look at our overall staffing picture, our events & programmes, and all of the operational bits of our library work. It will be very detailed and intense, but once again it will be really awesome to be involved in this work. Why? Because utlimately the work that’s being done here will lead to lasting, positive change. And that’s why I am involved in libraries. I got into libraries because I wanted to bring positivity and good change to the world. I used to do that when I was a Youth Services Librarian all of the time. Things changed when I moved into Library Management. It became less of “do this and see the change” and a lot of “you can’t talk about what you’re doing and you have to be very patient”. This was tough! This was very tough! But recently, and especially with this project, I feel like I’ve come out the other side. I am now (finally!) starting to see that this work is bringing a lasting and positive change for good.

You can read more about Waitohi here:

Please note: no project that has even happened has been done alone, and all of the projects I talked about in this post are no different. They are all the hard work of many individuals. Without others, none of these projects would exist or they’d all fall apart. There is a never-ending list of people who have been involved in these projects, and they all know who they are. I thank you each and every one of you for being awesome, supportive, hard working, and kind during these projects. You made a positive impact.


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