I’m a great fan of libraries. I’m fortunate to have six? of them within a fifteen minute drive of my house. I always have at least four books to read. Although I have written 22 Kindle books available on Amazon, I have never been comfortable reading books off a screen as I find it tiring on my eyes. I much prefer to hold a physical book and turn paper pages. My research for this blog has revealed a number of quaint little libraries scattered around New Zealand, all of them still operating.


Just a 45minute drive from Christchurch, Glentunnel is a small village in mid Canterbury. In 2018, it had a population of just 162. Today, the village is popular with Christchurch people who enjoy its many recreational walkways. These include the River Walk that follows the Selwyn River and the Millennium Walkway, which follows a now, non-existent tramway up to the disused tunnel which gave the township its name. In the 1870s Gentunnel was both a coal mining and a pottery town where the Glentunnel Brickworks operated from 1875 until its closure on 31st October 1983.

Glentunnel Library (PlacesNZ)

The town’s beautiful library is arguably the most attractive tiny library in New Zealand. The school master of the day, approached the landowner of nearby Homebush Station requesting some land for a library. This was duly granted. The eye-catching octagonal structure dates from 1886 and is reputed to incorporate every type of brick and terra cotta tile then produced by the Glentunnel Brickworks. To make it stand out from the mundane, the building is shaped like one of the kilns that produced the bricks that it is made of. Two  diamond shaped patterned panels on the exterior add to the beauty of the structure. The beautiful wood lined, open interior is just 5 metres (16 ft) at its widest point but there is still room for the locals to meet and chat while checking the shelves for a book or two. Some of the books are older than the library and were presented to it when it first opened. Being in a fragile state, these valuable books are now just for display. Another historic relic on show is the remains of an advertisement from the Young Ladies’ Journal dated 1888. In 1984, a Post Office Agency was added to the library and revenue from this allows for the purchase of new books. The building suffered considerable damage from the Canterbury earthquake of 2010. Fortunately, insurance paid the $180,000 to repair the damage and keep the library operating. Like many other tiny libraries in New Zealand, the Glentunnel Library is operated by volunteers and is open for two hours a day for a few days a week.


Possibly the least attractive tiny library building in New Zealand, the humble Patearoa library is 125 years old and still operating. I guess you could say the building has ‘character’!

Patearoa Library (Paws Awhile)

The gold rush at Patearoa, a two hour drive from Dunedin, didn’t last long but in the 1890s the village included a school, church, post office, store, bakery, butcher and blacksmith. In 1895, the village blacksmith, Tom Tate raised funds for a library. Initially, books were stored in the librarian’s house, but as the collection grew it was moved to a building which had been a school and church. The simple corrugated-iron structure proved unfit for purpose so the library committee was faced with erecting a new building, but had only 14 shillings (about $75). Local builder Owen Cambridge offered to construct a new corrugated iron library for 50 shillings ($5000) a bit overpriced I would say! Gold-miner Jack Johnston offered a low-interest loan and the current basic little shed was constructed. It took until 1946 to pay off the loan, the repayments often being made in gold.

During the 1930s, after surviving a flood or two, a windstorm blew a tree across the roof and the stains from the rainwater which seeped through can still be seen on the ceiling. The library had been built on skids, as it was always planned to move it closer to the centre of the village where most of the 30 subscribers lived and in 1953 the great move took place to the present site.

From the 1940s the Country Library Service book bus called and books were loaned to the library. This service closed in 1989 and the library struggled on with dwindling subscriptions, but by 2000 it was little used and it closed. However, the rich collection of about 3000 books remained and from 2005 a group of local volunteers decided to save the historic asset. More books were donated and for the past 15 years the library has been open during holidays and locals can use it anytime by picking up a key. Now housing 4000 books and issuing about 250 a year, the Patearoa Library proudly survives in this out-of-the-way Maniototo ex-gold town.


Puhoi means slow water. The tidal river has a slow rise and fall creating ideal navigable conditions for canoes. Puhoi Village just 35mins drive from Auckland, was founded by Captain Martin Krippner from Staab in Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic. He encouraged fellow Bohemians to join him on land granted by the provincial government. The settlers felled 16,520 cubic metres of kauri and developed dairy farms on the cleared land. Today, the village strives to maintain its unique Eastern European legacy and is a popular destination for day trippers from Auckland.

Puhoi Library (Eventfinder)

More than 6000 visitors step inside the attractive little Puhoi Town Library every year, finding books for sale. Built in 1913, this concrete building was not always a library, having been built by the road board on the banks of the Puhoi river as a storehouse for equipment. It later served the district as a meeting place, first aid post, mortuary and craft store. Despite being flooded several times including once in “the great flood of 1924” where water almost destroyed the structure, it is going strong and by the last count, has around 4500 donated books inside.

Ceidrik Heward

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