I have now visited four of the eight universities in New Zealand. A week or so ago in Wellington and Dunedin the libraries were very busy indeed. It is end-of-year exam time here in New Zealand and like students the world over, libraries become the study-space-of-choice. This week the students head off for the summer and the library of the University of Auckland was much, much quieter as the exams come to an end. At Otago University in Dunedin, staff re-configure various spaces during the revision period, introducing additional tables to increase capacity. There and elsewhere I have been impressed by the very simple, flexible (and inexpensive) space management techniques such as pull-up banners demarcating quiet study areas which seem very effective.
The Otago University Library was built about 20 years ago by a far-sighted Vice Chancellor keen to create a landmark building focussed on student study needs rather than collections. He commissioned architects from California. They positioned the library adjacent to a mall-like area with a coffee shop, mini-supermarket and an area of relaxed seating. The library itself, like the Edward Boyle Library has a very dramatic entrance with a full-height atrium clad in local stone. It was ahead of its time providing collaborative areas as well as traditional study desks. Huge windows look out towards beautiful countryside. Investment in quality finishes has paid-off – the library continues to provide quality study facilities.
Auckland University’s Information Commons is similarly positioned near to a number of student-support facilities. There are no books at all in this facility which full of rows and rows of students on the last lap of revision. nearby in the same building is a supermarket, the language centre and disability support.
Auckland’s main library is not far away and remains the focus for both print and archive collections. I was fortunate enough to be given a tour of Special Collections and as in Wellington I was presented with a little bit of Leeds. This time it was a copy of Songs of the Philologists, a collection of poems by J R R Tolkein and E V Gordon, written when both were teaching at Leeds in the 1920s but published from University College London in 1936 by one of their former students. We purchased the original manuscript together with letters from Tolkein a couple of years ago from the family of E V Gordon. Copies of the published collection are very rare indeed because they were printed without the permission of either Tolkein or Gordon and in consequence most were destroyed. It is thought only 14 or so are left. So it was quite a surprise to see this small book. It was taken to New Zealand by a Leeds graduate by the name of Sewell.
So I continue to discover Yorkshire even in this distant corner.