Ōpōtiki library – The heart of a Librarian


Celebrating its 50thbirthday on 15 December, 2017 and in need of a face-lift, the Ōpōtiki library has seen better days. However, inside this sagging shell beats the heart of a librarian whose passion for books, stories and community sanctuary has been developing since she was six years old.

From her childhood memories of family outings to the Rotorua library, to 20 years of library service, Ōpōtiki Manager Jo Hunt’s enthusiasm for all that is library is brilliant.

According to Jo, “A library should provide a safe and secure space for all walks of life. There’s no judgment when you walk through the door, just an acknowledgment that you are here whatever your reason.”

Ōpōtiki library is keeping it real and lacks pretention. Everyone who walks through the door is greeted as an equal and by name if you’re a regular. “By creating a safe and secure space that’s how the light gets in,” says Jo, quoting Leonard Cohen’s song Anthem.

Today’s technology has no borders so you could be forgiven for thinking that a library is an outdated concept.  In fact the heart of the library is beating strong. “As a non-commercial space a library provides knowledge, refuge, connectivity and a wide variety of social and educational needs,” says Jo.

Far from being under-utilized the Ōpōtiki library is keeping it current with technology. With free WiFi, internet access, E-books and even a 3D printer, the library is often the first place where new technology is experienced, says Jo.

Centrally located, on the corner of King and Church Street, this library is a hub for the Ōpōtiki community. It fosters the society by celebrating the social and cultural environment. Whatever your need when you walk through the sliding doors, Jo and her team are there to help.

Her team is also putting Ōpōtiki on the global map by hosting PechaKucha* 20x20 nights. Members of the community come together to talk about any topic they choose. It has been a great fundraiser for the planned library redevelopment plus it provides an insight into the passion of many community members. Having attended these evenings and participated in one I can say these are a fascinating way to get to know your ‘neighbours’ better.

*Pechakucha 20×20 is a presentation where you show 20 images, each for 20 seconds. The images advance automatically and the speaker talks along to each image.

Books are still the bread and butter but with the proposed extension they are looking to offer digital classes, tutoring and after school programs. The redevelopment will see a use of separate spaces for children, youth and seniors. In addition to that there will be designated meeting rooms, research areas, an outdoor space and a coffee cart. Jo is hoping this new facility will provide opportunities for kids to re-learn the joy of reading and meet the growing need for social and educational development.

Having noticed that a lot of people are choosing Ōpōtiki as a place to live Jo says, “We need to be responsive to these choices and listen so we can create new opportunities for things to happen.”

With Jo and her team at the helm I think this library is on its way to feeling 20 years younger.