Palmerston North Public Library: a New Zealand Gem!

It’s National Library Week in the United States, and one of Palmerston North’s greatest assets is its Public Library. Located at the northwest corner of The Square, the library is extremely vibrant, creative, dynamic and welcoming and a major gathering place for people in the community. Under the direction of Anthony Lewis, who has worked here for 27 years, the Palmerston North Public Library is privileged to have extraordinary support from the Palmerston North City Council (PNCC) and the community as a whole. It is an exemplary model of the modern library that serves the community in multiple and relevant ways.

With the changing dynamics of media, research, resources, electronic books, communications and more, the traditional library of yesterday must evolve to meet the needs of modern society. Libraries can and should be an anchor destination for community conversations, cultural events, family activities, entertainment and more. As one of New Zealand’s leaders in creative culture, the Palmerston North Public Library is on the cutting edge in many ways.

Big Spaces, Cool Art & Fun Seating abound at the Palmerston North Public Library.

Big Spaces, Cool Art & Fun Seating abound at the Palmerston North Public Library.

Originally located on the east side of the Square, the library relocated in 1996 to a former department store building, the historic and restored C.M. Ross building. A surface parking lot was acquired for an additional wing, and a youth center extends into an additional building across the street. The space is modern, colorful, and well-lit with an enormous amount of natural lighting coming through both large windows and skylights. It occupies four floors and opens up onto two separate streets in the central business district. It holds an enormous collection of books and has a special floor dedicated to New Zealand and Maori resources, both fiction and non-fiction. In addition, the library oversees four other venues in the region as well as a bookmobile.

Branded as the Living Room of the City, the Palmerston North Library has an incredible amount of lounge space in all levels with large, comfortable, modern furniture, an Internet Lounge plus dozens of computer work stations scattered throughout, and a locally-owned café and coffee bar surrounded by glass windows and small dining tables. Designed by Ian Athfield, an internationally-renowned architect and designer, the building is surrounded by public art, both inside and on its exterior.

plenty of lounge space exists on all levels with large, comfortable, modern furniture.

plenty of lounge space exists on all levels with large, comfortable, modern furniture.

Interestingly, the Public Library is one of the major branches of the Palmerston North City Council. Lewis serves as the General Manager of Community Services and is one of eight key senior city managers. On the tail end of a major organizational restructuring, the library now has essentially four divisions: content, community engagement, planning & performance, and Living Room management. With a little over 100 employees, including a Community Cultural Coordinator, the Palmerston North Public Library is essentially funded by the PNCC through rates (taxes paid by residents) and operates on about eight million dollars a year. It has much to be proud of and can serve as a great role model for many, including the Missoula Public Library.

The Missoula Public Library has worked to build new creative services; serve those who need free Internet services; has brought in a small coffee/lunch bar business; and is maintaining programming for children and teens. The Board of Directors and staff have recently engaged in the development of a long-term expansion plan and see the vision to serve as a cultural anchor for Downtown and for Missoula as a whole. Expansion of space and creative services is needed, which will require community support and funding.

Palmerston North is quite fortunate to have such a dynamic leadership team caring for the Living Room of the City. Missoula has a bright outlook and good plan for the future of its public library. Two great reasons to celebrate National Library Week!





Linda McCarthy has served as Executive Director of the Missoula Downtown Association since 1999. Prior to that, she served as a Sports Information Director for Grizzly Athletics for 10 years. She is a two-time graduate of The University of Montana, where her husband, Tom Gallagher, is a professor in the Applied Computing and Electronics Program at Missoula College. Her daughter, Maddy Gallagher, is an outgoing and kind 11-year-old who has spent all of her school years at Lewis & Clark Elementary. They can be reached via email at: