library books

by Coman Tait

The library book acquisition budget slashed from $402,500 to $211,000

No less than 80% of Kapiti residents belong to our libraries: There are 41,619 active borrowers according to Ian Littleworth, KCDC Libraries & Arts Manager. It is the highest library membership in NZ.¹

How does KCDC treat us? It declares war and punishes readers by halving what is spent on new books. At the same time, it happily spends $9.33 per swim as a subsidy for those using the Aquatic Centre. [See the previous Official Information request response.]

This subsidy means a person using the pool just 4 times a week is getting gifted $1,940.60 a year. While ratepayer money flows in a torrent into the Aquatic Centre, the book budget tap is turned down to a trickle. The amount for books per library member is a mere $5.06 per year.

The original budget was totally insufficient. Compare KCDC to Wellington. Wellington has 111,929 library members out of a population of 211,000 (53%). Yet they spent $2.9 million on new books in 2018. That is $25.91 per reader. To be comparable KCDC should be spending $1,078,000 pa. KCDC is short by $867,000

The reason for this massive cut, to an already parsimonious spend on books? It is clear the Mayor and councilors have decided readers have to be punished by making them pay towards repair of the Waikanae Library  leaks. That is Council’s view of what is fair, what is just. Library members have to pay for Council’s negligence.

The Mayor takes no responsibility. No councilor is responsible. The CEO is not responsible. No staff members have been fired. The humble reader is the only one punished by not having new library books.

Morrison Low did an independent investigation into leaking at the library. It sets out the negligence of KCDC in very clear terms. The investigation showed it was “widely known that the building leaked and leaked badly”. This is from back in 2002. Nothing was done to solve the fundamental flaws in the building. No councillor ever raised the issue until it was too late. So late it is costing $2 million to repair.

The Mayor’s attitude is clearly set out in his re-election campaign. In a full page ad in the Kapiti News of 7 August he says “Empower our Community Boards” He goes on to say “To empower them I will support Significantly increasing council funding of the boards”. So his vote was to decimate library book acquisitions. That money will go to pet projects. By the time the bureaucracy for this is set up, there will be another $1 million frittered away.

Forty one thousand, six hundred residents who have shown their interest in reading are ignored. Readers clearly have no political clout. Quiet peaceable book readers will have to be satisfied with reading the same book 100 times. Is that is what they deserve? Certainly no new books for them.

Reading and mental health

A world leading neuro-psychologist says:

“In readers, the occipital lobe, the visual processing center of the brain, was more developed. This means that the readers could process visual information more efficiently. This brain trait could translate into enhanced imagination and creativity skills as well as being able to visualize the future better for decision-making and planning. The readers’ parietal lobes were also strengthened. The parietal lobe turns letters into words and words into thoughts. It’s essential to writing and reading comprehension.

“Reading helps people’s brains process information both visually and verbally more effectively. Brains that can’t read might also struggle to process verbal information which could be why a slow reader may lag in other academic areas. Reading improves every aspect of a person’s communication skills.

 How Reading Increases Your Emotional Intelligence & Brain Function: The Findings of Recent Scientific Studies, explains how important reading is for well-being. The Mayor and KCDC reject all this evidence

The Mayor wants a hospital in Kapiti. Hospitals are the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. Reading is part of the fence at the top. It can ward off depression. It can maintain wellness, so important in an aging population. Reading gives perspectives of other cultures, of other traditions. It inspires innovation. But that is apparently irrelevant in Kapiti. Ephemeral pet projects are the Kapiti solution to creating a brave new world. But what does one expect from those declaring war on readers?

Will library users docilely accept the war declared on them by this Council? One suspects that writing submissions will be pointless. That involves reading.

Readers — take to the trenches!


  1. There are approximately 41,619 active borrowers with 253,900 library visits across the Kapiti Coast District.