Eastbourne Library is celebrating its’ 45th anniversary on March 20 this year. The Library was a triumph for the community who campaigned from the 1930s for it.
Before the Library opened in 1974 Eastbourne residents relied on small private libraries, such as ‘Mackies Store’.
The original 1960 plan for a new Eastbourne Borough Council building contained a block of flats on top, but no library! However in October 1968 a referendum for a library was held alongside the local government elections and there was a resounding win for a library – 682 people for, 409 against.
So the plan for the block of the flats was dropped in favour of plans for a library. Construction began on the corner of Rimu Street and Marine Parade in 1973.
The new Eastbourne Borough Council’s Municipal Building, including the Library, was opened by the Minister of Internal Affairs the Hon. Henry May. There were over 500 people enrolled to join on opening day. The buildings were the first offices owned by the Council, despite it being established in 1906.
At opening time they were still waiting for books to arrive so the Country Library Service in Palmerston North gave Eastbourne their surplus books and rotated the stock every eighteen months. Marie Sweeney (Library Assistant) recalled “Keeping the Library supplied with good books was quite a problem” as the customers loved the books but were initially limited to two books at a time.
Mrs Pat Powell reported in 1979 overwhelming support of the Library with comments such as “I don’t know what I would have done without this place to come to”, teenagers showing interest in historic Eastbourne and clubs using the Library. It functioned as the “mainspring of a community”.
In 1987 90% of Eastbourne residents were library members and the library issued 87,000 items a year, averaging 22 items per resident – compared with the national average of 10!
At the end of 1989 Eastbourne Borough Council amalgamated with Lower Hutt Council causing controversy in the community. But on the upside Eastbourne people now had access to all 8 Hutt City Libraries!
Eastbourne: a history of the Eastern Bays of Wellington Harbour by Ann Beaglehole with Alison Carew