Topic: Greta Valley Community Library

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Greta Valley School

A brief history.

The early 1980's saw great changes in government attitudes to library services in rural New Zealand. From 1938 onwards the Labour Government had taken the responsibility of providing library services to rural areas, by establishing a book van service throughout provincial New Zealand, books being supplied by the Country Library Service and financed by central government  through the Education Department. Escalating costs saw a radical rethink and the government decided on a managed withdrawal while encouraging provincial councils to assume some of the supplied books for the bulk of the country readers through a system of small B libraries, which were often located in private houses or small rural settlements. It was decided to amalgamate these libraries to village centres where possible, where the local schools were to be encouraged to participate. Cheviot and Greta Valley appeared to be ideally situated to start the ball rolling.

There had been a library at Scargill for many years run by a local committee of enthusiastics. The new War Memorial Hall was built in the 1950's and had a small room added with wooden shelving for books. It was opened for a limited time about once a week. the centre of the Scargill-Motunau district had over the years shifted from Scargill to Greta Valley with the run-down of the railways. When the Scargill Store closed and moved to Greta Valley the writing was on the wall and it made more sense for the library to be relocated there as well. The Greta Valley Village was up and running and the Hurunui County Council was keen to see the village amenities grow. The initial idea was, with council assistance, to build a library there and the early records show a flurry of correspondence between the secretary, Jill Home and the Council on the possibility of taking up a section for the library in the village. At the same time it became apparent that there was an alternative. The Education Board had finally consented to supply a relocatable classroom to the Greta Valley School and that Room 4 was now surplus to requirements and could be made available for a library at no cost, otherwise it would be demolished. Further flurries  of two-way correspondence eventuated between the library committee and the school committee. At this stage Mrs Malvina Jones , Librarian-in-Charge of the Country Library Service, Christchurch entered the picture and no doubt prompted by Head Office in Wellington did everything to encourage the transition, there were generous offers to help from Elizabeth McLean, Field Librarian, and all the National Library Service books in the field would be donated to form the nucleus of a book collection. A public meeting was held which enthusiastically endorsed the change and work began very quickly to transform Room 4 into a School Community library. The committee comprised members from both the school and the community. A constitution was nutted out to protect the interest of both parties and work began very quickly to transform a rather tired and neglected room into a warm and inviting place for all to enjoy.

A local builder Rob McCauley was employed to do structural work and to oversee the army of enthusiastic amateurs lining up to help. The metamorphosis accomplished in short order. We also applied for and received a generous grant from the Lotteries Commission. Kathy McCauley, one of the school staff, was our first president and Jill Home a very enthusiastic and efficient secretary. Chris Foster was appointed treasurer and Lyn Meares Librarian.

Halfway through the demolition we had a nasty surprise when asbestos was found in the ceiling but with care and expertise, that was overcome and nobody came to any harm.

The enrolment of members was our next aim and very quickly we had 90 families join up. We sent out a letter to the district seeking donations of quality books, which would be acknowledged by a nameplate. A lot of beautiful books were given, often in memory of a family member who had passed on. Fund raising was enthusiastically pursued at this stage- plant stalls, cake stalls and all the usual. We also levied a small family subscription it was imperative that we quickly built up our book stock. We also haunted book sales and scoured our own shelves for books to donate.

At this stage we were still being supplied by the book vans and two librarians were sent from C.L.S Christchurch to assist us with culling the old stock. The five small B libraries in the disrict brought their books to Scargill for exchange and in one huge effort it was accomplished and we were in business.

The spirit of cooperation between community and school was fantastic. The Head Teacher, Ken Gatehouse and his wife Norma were totally committed to making it work and the same happy cooperation  has continued with subsequent principals and committees. Our family roll ended up past the 100 mark in those days. The visits from the book van finally ceased, and for awhile longer we visited C.L.S Christchurch to do our exchanges.

These were heady days indeed. The National Library was proud of our success and over that time we had visitors from all over New Zealand looking us over. In fact we earned the title " Jewel in the crown". Great stuff.

We never had any trouble finding librarians and always have in excess of 20 at one time keen to man the desk and issue books. Their help is much appreciated.

Out grand opening on October 4th, 1984 was indeed a day to remember. We were cheeky enough to approach Margaret Mahy to spend the day with us and to our delight she consented. She spent the day adorned with her multi-coloured wig telling stories and engaging with the delighted children. She delighted everyone and while the children were engaged the adults made the most of their opportunities to catch up with old friends and look at the library. The official opening was performed by Mr Kevin Dunbar who was our local Education Board Representative. It was a memorable day.

When the Hurunui District Library was formed in 1993 things changed again and we henceforth looked to Amberley instead rather than Christchurch for our focus.

The success of the District Library is another story even more exciting. Inevitably it has impacted on the smaller libraries and our membership has inevitably dwindled, as the longer hours, more comprehensive book stock and wonderful amenities  has eaten away at our membership. However it is very important that the smaller local libraries are supported and stay open. When petrol costs $3 a gallon we will suddenly become relevant again.

It was decided that our contribution to the Sesquicentennial in 1990 to do an oral history of the district  and we applied for a grant to get it underway. We employed Mike Minehan to do this. She did some interviews, but her heart did not seem to be in it so Lyn Meares undertook to carry on with it. It was quite a big, but interesting task and quite time consuming. There was a near disaster when the Meares house burned down with both copies of the tapes involved as she was still working on the editing. Fortunately the interviewees all had copies of their own tapes so we were able to borrow those an record them.

We  decided to put on a thank you luncheon for those who took part in the histories which was a wonderful  occasion. The function was held at the school and everyone had a wonderful time. Things like this have created a lot of goodwill. The photographic record of these occasions are priceless as so many of these people are no longer with us.

In 2004 we decided to have another celebration for our 20th Anniversary. To our absolute delight that wonderful lady Margaret Mahy again consented to be present. She even broke an official appointment in Wellington to be there. She obviously has got her priorities right. The children all dressed up as their favourite book character. I think there were three Harry Potters. The first prize went to a brave cross dressing boy. He deserved it. The staff were also in fancy dress for the occasion. Brendan Byrne in a gorilla suit!

Being involved in this library has been a huge privilege for me . The wonderful people who are always there to help make it so rewarding. My thank you to one and all, those past and those present, Special mention must go to Margaret. It has been my privilege, Margaret, to be counted as your associate and friend. All the best for the future. It has been good fortune to be present at the birth of two great libraries ao different in scope and size, but each valuable in its own right.

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