Horowhenua District Council has a vision to make Horowhenua the best rural lifestyle district in New Zealand and they recognize that 21st century Libraries have a huge role to play in getting there. This is a quick rundown of why a District with a population of just 30,000 decided to build this extraordinary facility in the middle of a recession.This is a story of lateral thinking, ambition and courage – and one I am very proud to be sharing with you.
As a District we are faced with many problems; we have a small rating base – and a generally poor one. Our population is older and younger than other communities in New Zealand. Social isolation is heightened with high numbers of single person households and low uptake of internet in the home. We have one of the highest rates of youth crime and lead the nation in teenage pregnancies. On the upside, we have fabulous scenery and the outdoors is everywhere, beaches and bush, and we are close enough to ‘everywhere else’: an hour or so from Palmerston North and Wellington, several from the Hawkes Bay, Taranaki and the Mountains. You can ski Ruapehu and swim at Waitarere on the same day. We have terrific climate and soils and it is a secret place city folk escape to when it’s time to downsize and grow trees or raise children in ‘real NZ”. Our smallness is our strength. Because we can ‘feel the edges’ we can know our community really well and solve real problems. Our actions have impact.
GovernanceBack in 2000 Horowhenua District Council established The Horowhenua Library Trust to provide library services in the District. The Trust is a Council Controlled Organisation but also a Charitable Trust. The Council provides buildings and the Trust is the governing body. The Trust works to a Trust Deed, a Management Agreement and a Statement of Intent negotiated annually with Council which sets out key activities for the year, a budget and key performance indicators. The Levin Library building had been built in the mid 1960s and while it was a fabulous building in its day the town had outgrown it. Two years ago Council agreed to embark on a partnership project with the Trust to develop Te Takere, a culture and community centre for Horowhenua.
The Trust was renamed Te Horowhenua Trust in order to reflect the much broader scope of the ‘charitable purposes’ the Trust would deliver in Horowhenua on behalf of the Council. The Council and Trust were joined by The Muaupoko Tribal Authority who gifted what essentially became the kaupapa or mauri of Te Takere.
The Trust also rewrote our mission and identified the values we would hold dear in this new venture.
The NameWe asked the Muaupoko Tribal Authority if they would do us the honour of gifting us a name for our new library, culture and community centre. They did: Te Takeretanga o Kura-hau-Pō. The meaning of Takeretanga is the dispersion of knowledge. The takere is also the hull of the waka where treasures are kept for safety. The bottom of Lake Punahau (Horowhenua) is said to be the shape of the hull of a waka, a takere, and it is there where many taonga of Muaupoko are kept. The name Kurahaupo has been purposely spelt Kura-hau- Pō to get a deeper holistic understanding of the complex celestial and terrestrial meaning. There many are meanings to the word Kura: Red glowing light The hidden knowledge of our ancestors TaongaLearning place The word Hau means wind. According to Maori traditions Tawhirimatea is the god of winds and it is on these winds that the knowledge is dispersed outwards. The Pō is the transition from the world of darkness to the world of Light, through knowledge we gain understanding, through understanding we gain enlightenment.
The BuildingTe Takeretanga o Kura-hau-Pō is a beautiful and inspiring name for a beautiful and inspiring building.Our architects Mike Evans and Brian Elliot, from Design Group Stapleton Elliot, have been outstanding partners in the project. When Steve Hirini, CEO of the Muaupoko Tribal Authority, produced a rough sketch of a double- hulled, ocean faring waka to illustrate what a takere was we never imagined that within 24 hours we would be gazing at floor-plans developed from his sketch.
My favourite spot is half way along the mezzanine where you can see the deconstructed waka: the two hulls laced together with floor tiles, the rudder and sails suspended above and the anchor stone out front. The architects have built us a facility which articulates our kaupapa in a functional yet beautiful way.
Community Centre not LibraryTe Takere is first and foremost a community centre, a multi-purpose fully integrated community facility that is a key service delivery point for a wide range of community services in Horowhenua. It contains the library but that is only one aspect of this facility, a significant one granted, but the scope is so much wider. This has been important in terms of obtaining support at the Council table. Te Takere is a huge financial commitment by Council - $7m – during a recession. As a District we need to get a really big bang for every ratepayer buck and funding ‘just a library’ was never going to fly. That was a political and financial reality we had to face and while it took some time for Librarians and Trustees and Friends of the Library to get their head around this – we did. We stopped using the ‘L’ word. As a librarian this is a pretty huge leap to take, and I’d be lying if I said it was an easy one. What I’ve learned though is that it’s ok.
I believe this is the way of the future. We have to be designing sustainable services not just sustainable buildings; open source software, embracing volunteers, generating income and community involvement all have a part to play. In all conscience I can’t stand in front of ratepayers and say that funding library books is more important than providing drinking water, stopping sewerage discharging into streams and replacing infrastructure that is more patch than pipe.Libraries are just a part of the whole and we need to do our bit by working with our funders to solve community problems in creative, collaborative ways that address many community issues.
Early in the project we developed a Design Brief. Researched and written by library consultant Nicki Moen this is probably the most important piece of work we did. It is extraordinary in that it doesn’t talk about floor area, access routes, service desks or frontages. Instead it talks about values, aspirations and strategy. TeTakere was very deliberately developed to meet the strategic objectives of the partners. Council’s strategic planning documents, the Tribal Authority and the Trust’s Annual Plans are all guiding documents. We knew exactly where we were heading as a District and could identify our role in getting there. We also drew on the suggestions identified in an earlier Discussions and Options paper which had been prepared by Opus and also the many conversations and meetings held throughout the District. Our goal was that TeTakere would:Be a third space – a community centre in its fullest sense, be an affordable family destination, connect well with its surrounding environment, reflect the richness and diversity of the community.
Time and again we go back to a set of principles which have evolved along the way: TeTakere as platform.We are providing infrastructure to enable other groups to do what they do best, we don’t have to deliver everything ourselves. Sometimes our role is to facilitate and enable not ‘do’. Helping others do their business.We look for ways to leverage TeTakere to get community and economic growth. We want our colleagues at Council and Central Government to look great because we have helped them achieve their objectives. Sustainable funding.The more successful our commercial operations are, the more we can do by way of free and community activities – our ‘charitable purpose’. Manaakitanga.TeTakere is the heart and hub of the community, the living room of our town. We don’t want TeTakere to be too corporate, more Levin than ‘Wellington’ so a welcoming, ‘beautiful’, slightly eclectic environment was important. We want a programme of activities and events that gently draw people in, serendipitously as well as in an orchestrated manner. Non-exclusive use.While we are encouraging community groups to make TeTakere their home for meetings and gatherings, we are not allowing groups to ‘hang their tiles on the door’. All areas are available for use by anyone. The only exclusive areas are staff areas and the Archive Room. Delight.We want all visitors are to be delighted with TeTakere: exemplary service, gorgeous furniture, amazing technology and fabulous collections beautifully displayed – just like a book shop. We want to provide things that people won’t find at home. Connections.We focus more on connections than collections. Partnerships are important to us. To be a community centre we need community involvement. Not just Council or the Trust, but the Tribal Authority, and groups like Historical Society, Family History Group, Senior Net, Kip McGrath and the Friends of the Library. We want as many volunteers working in TeTakere on any given day as paid staff; learning new skills, participating in society and doing real work that adds value to the society in which they live.
The ScopeThe Trust and Council have developed a 14 point Strategic Plan which identifies the new activity which will be delivered from Te Takere and forms the basis of the Annual Plan for the next 18 months.The key elements include library – but only as one of 14 subplans. TeTakere has been developed by a team which is more than just the library. Council’s Strategic and Corporate Services Manager, David Clapperton, has been the project sponsor, a true visionary, and his team have been at the table with us throughout: marketing, community development, property and IT. This has been a very different way of working for the Trust which had been an entirely arms-length organisation for the past decade with the Head of Libraries running a ‘whole of business’ show.
As a Council Controlled Organisation the Council appoint the Trustees who negotiate the Management Agreement and Statement of Intent (Annual Plan) with Council. The Trust employs a Chief Executive Officer to implement the plans and manage operations. The CEO employs all other staff, and works closely with Council Officers to ensure business is delivered effectively and in concert with HDC. The redesign of operations as a result of TeTakere has resulted in most of the administration and support functions being delivered by Council. No longer would the Trust be responsible for everything including investment schedules, designing brochures and network firewalls. The thinking behind this links straight back to the platform principle; Council’s role in providing infrastructure and support is to enable the Trust to get on and do what it does best – in the same way that Te Takere provides infrastructure to allow our community groups to get on and do what they do best. The fourteen subplans of the Strategic Plan map nicely into 3 areas of activity: developing services, resourcing activity and service delivery.
A year down the track we reviewed the structure to ensure we had got it right – because we really are making it up as we go!Things hadn’t worked out as we’d expected:HDC didn’t have the capacity to simply absorb the Trust business so finance and communications are now back inhouse,IT, HR and property maintenance are still delivered by HDC,We found that ‘teams’ introduced a competitive rather than a collaborative spirit – we are now all on the same side.We have realised we need to work in a much more integrated way strategically with HDC Community Development Team and are in the process of establishing a combined planning team comprising our Management team of 3 plus HDC’s Community Development Manager, Economic Development Manager and the Group Manager, Strategic Partnerships and Community Services.We are also leaner; we have dropped from 34 FTE to 26 FTE since June 2013.
A few sacred cows have been slaughtered in Horowhenua:We embrace volunteersWe roll with user paysWe develop retail collectionsBefore TeTakere opened our lending statistics were in free fall – 8% last year – 50% over a decade. I know most libraries are glumly considering similar figures. 2 years ago Public Library Stats showed that Horowhenua was in the bottom 5 out of 72 Districts in terms of the amount we invest in new collections per capita yet we were in the top 3 for turnover rate. When we looked closely at lending patterns we found something interesting. Only 10% of the adult nonfiction books generated 40% of the adult nonfiction loans. Only 400 titles – 2% - of the collection had been borrowed more than 10 times in the year. We asked ourselves why are we so precious about our nonfiction collection and why do we give it so much floor space if the reality is that nonfiction is simply not being borrowed in the same way as it used to? In readiness for Te Takere we threw away every book that hadn’t been borrowed for two years. This reduced the size of our collection by about 25%.We then contracted the local bookseller to develop our nonfiction collection on retail lines rather than on dewey lines. We want gorgeous seductive books that fly off the shelves rather than a balanced collection that spans the entire range of human knowledge so beautifully captured by Melville Dewey back in 1876. Since opening Te Takere our lending rates have increased: monthly stats show that children’s up regularly up 40%, large print up 70%, nonfiction from 20%-30%. To put that into context though, visitors are up significantly: we now regularly have 50,000 visitors in a month – 56,000 once. A good month in the old library was 18,000 – 20,000.In Te Takere we value floorspace and people and connections and activity more than we value books that no one cares about.
ConclusionHorowhenua library staff are lucky; we feel like we’ve won the golden ticket. Our Council and our community value the work we do; have so much confidence in us and our abilities that they are prepared to invest in a fabulous new facility because they believe that we can change lives. Isn’t that why we are all librarians? We have been given a future, an exciting, challenging and very bright future.
• Local and family
• Community support
• Meeting facilities
• Customer service
• Older adults
• Te Ao Maori
• Exhibitions, Events
• Business support
• Visitor Information
( The Management Team)
• Visitor Info
Events and Exhibitions
• Income generation
• Fish bowl
• Highly productive
• Can’t be all things to all people
• Managing expectations
• Partnerships are hard work