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Title: Report of the Chief Librarian
       for the Year Ended 31 March 1958: Special Centennial Issue

Author: J. O. Wilson and General Assembly Library (New Zealand)

Editor: A. D. Burns

Release Date: April 10, 2008 [EBook #25034]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by Jonathan Ah Kit, Mark C. Orton, New Zealand
Parliamentary Library and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at

H. 32









31 MARCH 1958


Presented to the House of Representatives by Leave



Year's Work 3
Acquisitions 3
Copyright Deposit 4
Microfilming 4
Bindery 4
Use of the Library 5
Reference Inquiries 5
International Exchange 5
Library Fund Account: Statement 6


Library Service To Parliament 1858-1958

Beginnings 7
1860-1870 8
1870-1900 9
Early Librarians 12
Twentieth Century 14
Copyright Deposit 15
Librarians 16
Fire and Fire Insurance 17
General 18
Circulation of Books 18
Fiction 19
Inter-library Loan 19
Recess Privileges 19
The National Library 20
The Library as a Museum 20
Purchase of Books 20
Aims of the Library 22
Books and Men 23

To the Chairman, Library Committee.


I have the honour to report on the activities of the General Assembly Library for the year 1957-58.

The year 1958 marks the end of the first century of the Library's existence, I have thought it a good opportunity to tell briefly the history of the Library during the period in an appendix to this report.


Staff changes have not been as great during the past year, though Mr C. B. Newick resigned to go overseas and there were four other resignations and appointments. Fortunately these did not greatly affect the senior staff.

Routine work has mainly occupied the staff though stock was taken of class 500 (science) and 600 (useful arts). A few books were missing but losses are not serious.

During the year the new circulation counter was erected in the lobby downstairs. Not only does it improve the appearance of the area, but the change has enabled proper oversight to be given over those leaving the Library. The new books are now placed in the room next to my office and are immediately available to members.


Once again the Library has to record its thanks to the many individuals and organisations for their kindness in presenting large numbers of books and periodicals. All have received letters of thanks, but once again we should like to express our thanks to those concerned for so much material that might otherwise not reach the Library. This year one donation was of such value and importance that it must be specially mentioned. It was the gift of 350 books by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. This collection has been specially selected to portray United States life and to explain its origins. It has proved exceedingly popular and has added many fine books on the United States to the Library. The Library is grateful to the Corporation for its generosity in presenting the collection.

During the year 8,375 books were catalogued and added to the collections, compared with 7,650 during 1956-57. They were classed as follows, the figures in parentheses being those for the previous year: general works, 370 (420); newspapers, 238 (156); philosophy, 73 (67); religion, 375 (414); sociology, 2,413 (2,275); parliamentary papers, 332 (423); philology, 56 (47); natural sciences, 393 (331); useful arts, 1,023 (847); fine arts, 333 (312); literature, 440 (320); history and travel, 1,099 (1,107); biography, 506 (421); fiction, 724 (510). Total accessions now number 247,825.

A better guide to the stocks of the Library is the estimate prepared in connection with the census of libraries being held this year. A quick count of the books on 1 April 1958 gave a total of 240,450, plus 65,960 pamphlets and 18,860 maps. The figure for pamphlets is, I believe, slightly exaggerated as many are little more than single sheets and others now listed as several pamphlets will eventually be made into a single bound volume.


Every attempt continues to be made to ensure that all material coming within the terms of the Act is deposited and preserved. During the year an inquiry was held into the Copyright Act and evidence was given on deposit and on some minor changes of the law that are needed.

Copyright receipts were issued during 1957 for 961 items, that is for books, pamphlets, and first issues of periodicals other than those issued by Government Departments, an increase from 778 in 1956. In addition 193 annual reports, 78 yearbooks and almanacs, 149 bulletins, 163 school magazines, and 260 local body balance sheets were received. In view of the deposit of this latter material in the Library it is no longer thought necessary for it to be laid on the table of the House.

Further details relating to publishing in New Zealand are given in the following table:








Books 2 5 28 74   1 9 71 21 18 43 10   282
Pamphlets 7 2 121 95     15 46 13 15 19 7   340
Maps                         30 30
Government publications—
Books 4     29 118 2 15 13 2   4     187
Pamphlets       56 233 1 10 72 9 1 3     385
Maps                         105 105
Total 13 7 149 254 351 4 49 202 45 34 69 17 135 1,329


During 1956, 272 books, 284 pamphlets, and 4 maps were issued by commercial publishers, while 107 books, 312 pamphlets, and 120 maps were issued by Government Departments. This gave a total of 1,099 items.


The microfilming of newspapers continues. During the year 31,900 ft of film were added to the New Zealand newspaper collection and 10,000 ft to the other series.


As in the past the bindery has proved a valuable and economical section of the Library. The campaign to enforce the deposit provisions of the Copyright Act has shown in the bindery's work and during the year 4,662 books were bound before being placed on the shelves and 470 volumes were rebound. Included in the latter were some volumes of newspapers, for many originally bound in leather have needed repair. They are rebound in canvas, a material which should wear much better than today's leather does.


Twenty-eight thousand two hundred and nine books were borrowed from the Library in the year under review, compared with 27,462 in the previous year. Of these 494 were sent to libraries other than those of Government Departments through the New Zealand Library Association interloan scheme. The Library in its turn borrowed 23 books from other libraries under the same scheme.

In addition to members of Parliament, some thousand people have access to the Library and enjoy borrowing privileges of one kind or another.


Once again there has been an increase in the reference questions to which the Library staff has had to attend. One thousand seven hundred and seventy-seven inquiries were made, an increase of 322 over the previous year. Of these, 563 were answered in less than five minutes, 569 took between five and 15 minutes, and the remainder, 645, took over 15 minutes to answer. This statement of times does not record the fact that many of the inquiries took much longer than 15 minutes. Indeed some had several days spent on them by one or more members of the reference staff. Such questions are not answered by merely marking a passage in a book or two; they require the material to be abstracted and rewritten ready for use by the member making the inquiry. This service is becoming increasingly popular with members who cannot themselves afford the time needed to do all the research involved.

Seventy-eight new research students registered for the first time during the year, the largest number yet to have done so in any one year. Some are university students working on theses; others are engaged on research for publication. The use of the Library in this way shows how valuable its resources are for many students.


Twenty-four cases were received by the Library for its own use during the year, while 5,823 packets were received from abroad, 3,685 being posted, the remainder being forwarded by Internal Affairs messenger.


I should once again like to thank the Library Committee for its great help and interest, and in particular to thank the former Speaker and Chairman of the Committee, who has recently retired, for his invaluable assistance in Library matters. We are also indebted to the overseas agents of the New Zealand Government in many countries for their aid in obtaining books. They have helped considerably in adding many valuable books to the Library.

I am also grateful to the Assistant Chief Librarian, Mr Jess, and the staff for their loyal and efficient service.

Attached is the statement of receipts and expenditure of the General Assembly Library Fund Account, together with the Auditor-General's certificate.

I am, etc.,

J. O. Wilson, Chief Librarian.



Statement for the Year Ending 31 March 1958

Receipts. Expenditure.
Balance, Bank of New Zealand, £ s. d. Purchase of books, etc.— £ s. d.
1 April 1957 293 13 1 United Kingdom 2,419 16 11
Annual grant 4,500 0 0 U.S.A. and Canada 960 0 2
Refunds, lost books 5 6 8 Australia 64 11 5
Sales 52 4 4 New Zealand 1,145 3 1
Private Bill fees 300 0 0 Other 16 2 11
        Bank charges and cheque book 1 10 0
        Balance at Bank of New Zealand,
31 March 1958, £1,456 4s. 7d.,
less unpresented cheques, £912 5s.
543 19 7
  £5,151 4 1   £5,151 4 1

J. O. Wilson, Chief Librarian.

Examined and found correct—A. D. Burns, Assistant Controller and Auditor-General.



Today there are few legislatures without a library of some kind. Parliament works best when its members are well briefed and have access to good sources of information. The shortest speech often requires the verification of facts to be found in books, and the most economical and satisfactory solution is a library. The General Assembly of New Zealand, to give Parliament its more correct title, was not long in deciding this. It met first in 1854 and again in 1855 without a library. At the beginning of the session of 1856, however, the need seems to have been evident for on 6 June Mr W. T. L. Travers from Waimea moved in the House that a library should at once be formed, and a Select Committee set up to consider the best means of establishing one. Three weeks later the Legislative Council followed suit with a similar motion, though here it is interesting to note that Dr Richardson stated that the Councillors had been using the library of the Attorney-General.

The Assembly shared its meeting place with the Auckland Provincial Council, which had in 1853 formed its own library. It was decided that it would be to the advantage of both legislatures to possess a joint library, and on the motion of the chairman the Council was approached to find if it had any objections. The Council did not have any, and in addition offered to provide the librarian and an equal grant for books as well as fittings if the Assembly would provide a room.

On 28 July 1856 the report was laid on the tables of the two Houses, a list of books for purchase given to the Speakers, and a recommendation made that the sum of £100 be placed on the estimates for books. The money was voted, after which Parliament was adjourned, not to meet again until 1858.

The Committee was once again set up, and the situation was such that once again the terms of reference were to consider the best means of establishing a library. The books ordered in 1856, principally on legal and constitutional matters, were there branded "General Assembly" but they were not a library; members had to rely largely on the Provincial Council collection which comprised nine-tenths of the total books available. In its report, the Committee suggested that £300 be devoted to library purposes, and recommended a list of books to be purchased even if they cost more than the £320 available—£20 had not been spent in 1856.

The Committee was not happy about the joint Library, but as matters stood thought it hardly desirable to end the arrangement. It was, however, of the opinion that as soon as practicable the Library should be placed on an independent footing.

To ensure that its recommendations were carried out, and to control and report on the work of the Library, the Committee suggested that an officer, the Librarian of the General Assembly, should be appointed. This was done and the first Librarian was Major F. E. Campbell, the Clerk of the House of Representatives.

Two other matters also were considered of sufficient moment to be mentioned. One was the supply of newspapers that had been cancelled as the Government had promised to supply files from Government offices. The other was the acquisition of British Government publications, which would be of great value to the Library. The Committee noted the successful approach of the Canadian Parliamentary Librarian to the British Government and proposed that either Mr J. E. Fitzgerald, who was in England, or the Colonial Agent should be asked to see if the Library could not be given such documents.

Once again two years elapsed before Parliament met again, and the Librarian reported that there were now books, separated from the Provincial Council Library, but in an adjoining room. The approaches to the British Government had not been entirely fruitful, but there was promise of success.


The Library now possessed books and a librarian and the next 10 years were to be amongst the most adventurous of the Library's story. However, they began quietly when in 1861 the Committee recommended the appointment of a permanent messenger for the Library instead of a sessional one.

Next year the session was held in Wellington in the Provincial Council Chambers. A case of books was sent for use of members. Unfortunately it was lost when the White Swan carrying the Governor and Auckland members was wrecked near Castlepoint. The published list gives 50 books, mainly reference works on constitutional and economic matters, but the greater loss was that of the House, which was deprived of not only its documentary records but also most of the early printed papers. The Committee, nothing daunted, recommended that the books be replaced and used the mishap to have the vote raised to £500 for the year.

The sessions of 1863 and 1864 were both held in Auckland. In the latter year the Librarian was instructed to prepare cases so that the books could be moved to Wellington along with the other Government records.

Parliament took over the old Provincial Council Chambers in Wellington but they were enlarged to meet its requirements. The Library had a new home built specially for it costing £1,800 which was, with extensions, to provide an uneasy resting place for the next 35 years. In one paper the new library was described as "a very lofty handsome building with large painted windows". In another, "The Library is a fine room, handsomely decorated and the walls are fitted with bookshelves." It was of wood.

Details about the administration of the Library during the early years are few, but it appears that the Committee was undoubtedly the mainspring of the organisation. It contained men such as Carleton, Fitzherbert, Travers, and Domett, to mention only the best known, who were interested not only in the Library for its own sake but also in the part it could play in parliamentary affairs and in providing pleasure to members.

The Committee was responsible for book selection, carried out mainly during the session. While control over the Library in the recess lay with representatives of the House and Council, from the first H. F. Carleton, Chairman of Committees of the House, and a classical scholar, was responsible for seeing the books were obtained and that the funds were expended.

Until 1861 the only assistance in the Library was provided by a sessional messenger, but a full-time sub-librarian was provided from 1862. When Parliament moved to Wellington different arrangements were necessary and in 1866 the Committee suggested that a permanent librarian should be appointed. It was thought necessary to have somebody for the custody of a collection increasing in value from year to year. The House disagreed with this view, but perhaps with the hope of making the way clear for such appointment Major Campbell had given up his responsibility for the Library.

This left a gap which appears to have been filled by the Hon. Alfred Domett. As in addition to being a Legislative Councillor, he was Secretary for Crown Lands, Land Claims Commissioner, and Registrar-General he cannot have been able to spend much time with the Library. For all that, his influence was considerable and Gisborne, in his book New Zealand Rulers and Statesmen, says "He was for many years the mainstay of the General Assembly Library. He was, it may be said, the father of that institution; and it is mainly owing to his love of literature, and to his great ability in the organisation and classification of a library that the success of the institution with comparatively small means was so marked at the date of his departure from the Colony in 1871."

Just how long he was Librarian is not clear, but probably with the library attendant and additional assistance during the session there was sufficient staff to carry out all the work. It was not until 1875 that Ewen McColl, the attendant, became Sub-Librarian, though it is possible he may have been in fact Librarian as early as 1871.


The last 30 years of the nineteenth century were spent by the Library Committee in enlarging the Library and in trying to obtain an adequate and suitable building to house it. The vote was raised to £300 in 1867 and £600 in 1874, while in addition the adoption of a new standing order for Private Bills in 1870 gave the fees up to £25 for a Bill that passed both Houses to the Library fund. Fines levied on members were also devoted to the Library fund, though this has never been a lucrative source. Among others, the fine of £75 imposed on Mr Lusk was received in 1875, and a similar sum from the Hon. Mr Robinson, but the historic fine of £500 inflicted on the manager of the Bank of New Zealand in 1896 was never received.

Private Bill fees varied from nothing to £150, so that the income was between £650 and £750. The money was not spent on books only, but included expenditure on binding, periodicals, and on insurance. In the eighties and early nineties insurance premiums on the collection housed in a wooden building were £100 per annum and, though they were reduced, even in the last years of the century, £40 had to be used for this purpose.

Even so the Library stock was increasing annually by some 1,400 volumes. In 1871 there were 8,330 volumes, in 1877, 14,580. Five years later the figure had increased to 21,000, and to 30,000 in 1887, reaching 52,000 in 1902. Most of the growth was due to purchase, but the Library had many friends, especially among members, and they were most generous. Their gifts filled gaps specially in New Zealand material, while others gave books of value on subjects not of great interest to Parliament. Among such donors were Carleton, Mantell, and Sheehan, to mention only a few.

The Library had other friends who were no less helpful. New Zealand was represented at the Philadelphia Centenary Exhibition in 1876 by Dr Hector. He made arrangements with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington for the General Assembly Library to receive United States Government papers and for New Zealand in turn to supply New Zealand official publications to the Institution. This was the Library's first large exchange agreement and, while the material received under it has often threatened to swamp it, very many valuable items have been added from this source.

The overtures to the British Government first made in 1858 do not finally seem to have succeeded until 1883. In this year Lord Derby in a circular dispatch to all colonies offered to exchange British official papers for those of the colonies to be sent to the British Museum. The Library Committee jumped at the offer; it had since 1874 been buying sets of parliamentary papers and immediately approached the Cabinet to authorise that New Zealand publications should be sent. As a result the Library possesses an extremely valuable and still growing collection of British official papers.

The Library was in addition receiving New Zealand newspapers and publications of all kinds and it had other exchange arrangements with Canada and the Australian States. Until 1884, 81 newspapers were being bound regularly out of 153 received, but in this year because of the lack of space and the expense the number was reduced to 24. For all this the Library was adding to its holdings of newspapers at a fairly rapid rate.

The increase in the number of books necessitated an increase in storage space. The first attempt was made in 1869 when a motion was brought before both Houses asking that the Library building should be added to in order to provide additional room. The matter was deferred until a general enlargement of the buildings took place. This was done in the recess of 1872-73, and the Library was given the old smoking room, but only after a division when an attempt to have a proper building for the Library had been defeated.

There was genuine concern on the part of the Committee for the safety of the Library. In 1875 the building caught fire which was only put out by the efforts of members. Two days later the Committee passed a motion stating that the time had come when the erection of a proper Library building could no longer be delayed. Sir George Grey was asked to move the motion in the House. This was passed and a Royal Commission set up to superintend the construction, £5,000 being voted in the Estimates for the job, which it was thought would take two years and cost £14,000.

Nothing was done before the session of 1876 and the Committee set to work again. Several resolutions concerning the Library, its location, and the calling of competitive designs were passed, but though the Government proposed to put £7,000 on the estimates towards a Library, it was not done. The resolutions seem to have confused rather than helped the situation.

The session of 1877 began with no further progress. To the Joint Committee's requests for information the Minister of Public Works replied that no designs had been settled on and in any case competitive designs would involve reconstruction of the whole block. More debate ensued and finally the sum of £2,500 was placed on the Estimates and a second Royal Commission set up to superintend the erection of the building. The money was not voted, however, and the Commission did not meet.

The Library now occupied three rooms, with a further office for the Librarian, but the growth was continuous. Two more rooms were taken over from the Legislative Council in 1881 and temporarily the Library could shelve all its books.

No success had rewarded the Committee's desire for new buildings in the seventies, but in 1882 it seemed that luck was in its way. £20,000 was placed on the Estimates for the partial reconstruction of the buildings which were to include a new Bellamy's as well as a new Library. Only £10,000 was voted, however, and this was spent on Bellamy's. The new building had a bad effect on the Library, cutting off the sun and making it damp, though the Committee had a consolation prize, receiving the old Bellamy's for book storage.

So the matter dragged on. In 1886, on the initiative of the Premier, £5,000 was voted for a new building, plans were prepared as quickly as possible and tenders called, but none was accepted before the end of the financial year so the vote lapsed.

By now the Committee seems to have been almost reconciled to the fact that there was little immediate chance of a Library being erected. Frequent requests were however made for something to be done and the slightest possibility of a surplus in the Consolidated Fund always raised hopes. Assurances were frequent that Cabinet was worried about the housing of the Library, and whenever possible an extra room was given.

In 1885 the Library was located in six rooms, some remote. More were given later, though some were taken away. In 1892 the Librarian reported that the building "simply cannot any longer accommodate the books". But it was to be nearly 10 years before the new building was to be ready for storing books.

The situation was indeed growing more and more desperate. Many books, particularly old novels and duplicate periodicals, were given away to hospitals and libraries, and files of newspapers were no longer preserved, while much of the Library stock could only be located with difficulty. In 1897 the Library was spread all over the building with many of the rooms outside the control of the Librarian. Books were stored in two Ministers' rooms, the ladies' tearoom, and two committee rooms. A motion was brought up in 1896 to dispose of certain of the lesser used books, but it was defeated and steps were taken to case the books and house them elsewhere.

Economic conditions were somewhat better in 1897, and to the Committee's joy, Cabinet showed signs of approving the construction and plans were eventually sent to the Library Committee for approval.

The Government had selected Mr Thomas Turnbull as architect and he was instructed to draw up plans not only for a Library but also for committee rooms and an imposing entrance to the buildings generally. On the last day of the session they were approved, but as the vote was for only £7,000 the Library Committee drew a line across the plan and said the committee rooms were not to be built.

Demolition of the old building was undertaken in February 1898 before tenders closed. When they were opened, they were found to be so much in excess of the estimate that all were rejected and it was decided to carry out the work under the cooperative system. The lowest tender for ordinary construction was £42,000 and for fireproof £45,300; the others were considerably higher.

On 13 April 1898 the foundation stone was laid by the Premier, Mr Seddon, and when the session began the walls were almost complete. Because of the noise it was decided that the work would have to cease. All may have been quiet there, but it was very much otherwise in the House. On the second day the Leader of the Opposition gave notice of a motion that the House regretted that His Excellency's advisers without the necessary authority had greatly exceeded the specific appropriation of £7,000, such action being a dangerous subversion of the House's control over public expenditure. There was an acrid debate but the Government survived.

As a result of the attack, however, the Premier decided to abandon the idea of a three-storeyed building and to limit expenditure to £25,000. The Library Committee initiated another debate in which members tried to get the Government to reconsider its decision. It was unsuccessful but during the debate some of those who had condemned the spending of more than £7,000 advised the Government to keep to the original plans.

The architect was upset at the change and stated that the alterations had destroyed the symmetry of the building so that it was no longer a monument to his ability. As a result his name was removed from the foundation stone, and today the building, which was said to be the finest example of Victorian Gothic in the country, does not bear the name of its designer.

The Library was completed in 1899, but took some time to dry out and it was not until early 1901 that it was occupied. It is a fine building, but has many defects from a library point of view. The main reading room is probably one of the most beautiful rooms in the country, but the high windows reduce considerably the book capacity as well as allowing too much bright light on to the stock, and on to the readers.


Ewen McColl, the first Librarian, died in 1881. It is hard at this time to evaluate his work, indeed the Committee was very much in control and he was its instrument. It is probable, for example, that the fine collection of newspapers of the time was due as much to the initiative of the Committee as to the Librarian.

He was succeeded by Angus MacGregor, a Scot, who had been associated, it seems, with the Dunedin Athenaeum and appears to have been a man with somewhat wider interests than his predecessor. During his time the Library bound its large collection of pamphlets, many of which are now of great value, and in addition absorbed the more worthwhile books from the Wellington Provincial Library. He also began the accessioning and shelf marking of the books. The Library was beginning to become an organised collection.

Mr MacGregor resigned in July 1885 and spent his later years as a teacher. He was succeeded by Mr James Collier, another Scot and a graduate of St. Andrews and Edinburgh. He came to New Zealand in 1882 and had previously been an assistant to Herbert Spencer and was compiler of the first and last volumes of the Descriptive Sociology.

He early realised that there was little likelihood of a new library building, but his reports show that he grasped the essential aims of a library, and particularly a legislative library. His reports deplored the lack of copyright deposit in New Zealand, while he did much to make the resources of the Library available to students.

One of his main tasks was to build up the collection relating to New Zealand in the Library. This has always been essential material and in his day the Library began to fill the gaps, a task which is not yet completed. Collier's interest was great and he compiled the first New Zealand bibliography, published by the Government Printer in 1889.

His health was not good and after sick leave in 1889 he resigned in 1890. A few years later he went to Australia and until his death in 1925 was engaged in writing, being the author of a life of Sir George Grey and of The Pastoral Age in Australia.

The Library Committee advertised the vacancy and recommended the appointment of the Hon. J. W. Fortescue, then Governor's Secretary. The choice did not seem popular and there was some argument in the House whether or not it was legal to appoint an officer when the salary had not been voted. As a result the application was withdrawn. Though this may have been a bad thing for the Library, it was a good one for other reasons. Today Sir John Fortescue is known as the author of the monumental History of the British Army as well as other books, and for having been the Royal Librarian at Windsor.

The Committee then appointed Mr H. L. James, b.a., Acting Librarian. Mr James had joined the staff in 1889 and continued as a member until 1923. He was a born librarian, hampered by devotion to detail and the desire to do the almost impossible. Generally whatever he did was sound and has stood the test of time. For 10 years until January 1901 he was in charge. Though two attempts were made to appoint him Librarian, and one (in 1891) to appoint the Serjeant-at-Arms, Colonel De Quincey, Librarian, it was not until 1900, when the new building was almost completed, that the necessity for further staff made some additional appointments necessary and a Chief Librarian was appointed.

Mr James' main monument is the Library Catalogue. The first catalogue had been printed in 1862 in London, and it lists a good working collection for Parliament. Other editions appeared in 1872, 1875, 1880, and 1884, each having one or more supplements.

However useful they were from the members' point of view, they were not the best examples of the cataloguer's art. In 1890 the Committee authorised a new edition and the supervision was entrusted to Mr James, the work of compilation being done by Mr B. E. Stocker, m.a. The manuscript was completed in May 1894, but the cost of printing was so great that the length of the entries had to be cut again and again. The first volume was issued in 1895 and the second in 1897.

Unfortunately the catalogue does not give the Dewey Class number for the books. This system was adopted in April 1898 and has provided a more systematic arrangement of the books.

The staff, which consisted of a single full-time member in 1866, had in 1886 grown to three full-time assistants with two extra assistants during the session. By 1899 the staff was five assistants and a mailman. The latter was employed because for many years the Library also served as post office. Stamps were sold, and an extra assistant was employed for fetching and posting mails. The Library Committee frequently suggested that the day had arrived for the Library staff to be relieved of these duties but it was not until 1923 that the post office moved to its present location. About 1910, however, a mailman was provided by the post office, though he still worked under the charge of the Chief Librarian.

As the day when the Library would move to its new home drew nearer the question of staff became more important, particularly the question of a Chief Librarian. It was thought impracticable to have Mr James appointed, and during the session of 1899 the matter was seriously considered. A subcommittee recommended that a Chief Librarian (at a salary of £400) be selected in England and that certain other additions be made. The question of an English appointment was vigorously debated until finally in September 1900 selection in New Zealand was recommended. The position was advertised in the New Zealand Gazette and Mr Charles Wilson, former journalist, and M.H.R. for Wellington Suburbs for two years, was appointed. Mr Wilson, who was a member of the Library Committee, had not sought re-election in 1899.

As Mr Wilson did not take up his new duties until February 1901, the task of making arrangements for moving into the new building fell to Mr James. Though the building was completed in 1899, it was at first too damp to hold books, and later the shelving was not ready for the stock. Mr James, however, went steadily ahead with classification while a barrage of correspondence aimed at hastening the day for entry into the new home was maintained.


When the Library entered its new quarters it possessed 52,000 volumes. Ten years later it had grown to 80,000 and by 1921 to 102,000. This growth of between two and three thousand volumes a year was reduced somewhat in the twenties and in 1931 the stock was 123,000. Accessions increased during the depression years and after, so that in 1941 they totalled 159,000. Another increase occurred during the forties and an average of 5,000 volumes was added annually, bringing the number of volumes in the Library in 1951 to 200,000. It took over 60 years for the first 100,000 volumes to be added, but only 31 for the second, and early in the present financial year the quarter-million mark was passed, so that the third hundred thousand should only take 15 years.

Again the growth was not without its problems. As early as 1908 the problem of housing the stock was again causing worry, but for a few years it was solved by better arrangement of the shelving. By 1915 the situation was again difficult and approval was given for the removal of the Valuation Department from the attic, the provision of stairs, and the adapting of the area as a stack room. This provided welcome relief, but only for a short while until in 1926 the attic space over the main reading room was shelved and provided a makeshift storeroom for books.

The next expansion came in 1933 when the committee rooms adjacent to the main reading room were taken over and portion of the walls removed to give an open area. In 1938 the Library took over the remainder of the attic and portion of the first floor vacated by the Health Department. Though other alterations were made to increase shelving, no further space was taken over until 1950 when a further committee room was given to the Library. About the same time earthquake risk and alteration to the building caused the removal of books from a portion of the attic to the basement where further space had been made available. Other rooms have more recently been provided to store the books and periodicals in the Library and constant ingenuity is necessary to see that the most economical use is made of the area available.

The reasons for the expansion of the Library can be found in the increased interest in libraries generally, and in the increased vote which resulted. The fund received £600 until 1920 when it was raised to £800. It was reduced to £700 in 1922 and remained at that figure until 1929 when it was raised to £900, though it suffered the depression cuts.

These amounts were not sufficient to adequately finance the purchase of books needed for the service the Library was expected to give, and in 1938 the grant was once again raised, this time to £1,250. Further increases were made in 1947 (£2,000), 1949 (£2,250), 1952 (£3,000), and 1955 (£4,500).

In addition there has been considerable expansion in the exchange arrangements, Government publishing having increased considerably in the United Kingdom and the United States. Arrangements for the exchange of official publications with Australia were made in 1952, while during 1957 the Canadian Government made the General Assembly Library a select depository for its publications.

Another source of material for the Library has been by gift either of individual books or of collections. They have been many and varied, and it is safe to say that the Library would not possess the wide variety of stock it does had it not been for the kindness and generosity of many donors.


The Copyright Act has also provided the Library with an increasing amount of material. Like so many other of the Library's activities, this was foreshadowed in the days when James Collier was Librarian. In his report for 1888, he suggested that the time was ripe for the enacting of a Colonial Copyright Act. Whatever was done about this there was one thing that ought to be done immediately and that was the passing of a law making provision for the deposit of one copy of every colonial publication in a central library, which library could only be the Parliamentary Library.

A letter was written from the chairman of the Library Committee to the Premier asking for instructions to be given to the Solicitor-General to prepare a Copyright Act, but nothing was done. The matter was raised again by the Acting Librarian in 1891 and 1894. In 1895 Mr W. Hutchison, M.H.R. for Dunedin, introduced the Literary Copyright Act requiring the deposit in the Library of two copies of works published in New Zealand. Nothing came of the Bill, which was discharged, though the Library Committee in welcoming it had, however, considered one copy sufficient.

There the matter rested until 1903 when two vigorous supporters of the Library, the Hon. R. McNab and the Hon. John Rigg, introduced the General Assembly Library Bill requiring publishers to present two copies of their books to the Library. The Bill passed without difficulty and became law on 30 October 1903. Though there was some argument whether the Act required the deposit of issues of periodicals, the Act was generally welcomed, and increased the amount of New Zealand material reaching the Library.

There has been little change in the provisions affecting deposit, though the previous Act is no longer in force, and has been replaced by section 52 of the Copyright Act 1913.

In the 55 years during which deposit has been required the Library has taken its responsibility for preservation seriously and now possesses thousands of volumes not only of books, but of newspapers, periodicals, and pamphlets. In addition, every attempt has been made to obtain material which for various reasons was not obtained at the time of publication. While not by any means perfect, the New Zealand collection of the Library is probably without equal.


Mr Charles Wilson had a considerable interest in literature as such and contributed a literary column to a Wellington weekly for many years. Though he had an excellent knowledge of literature, library technique generally in New Zealand was not at its best, and not all the work done in the Library was of the highest standard.

He was responsible for further attempts to buy the more important New Zealand books still missing from the Library and for housing them in special cases where they were available for consultation but were not permitted to leave the Library. From this has grown the special New Zealand collection with its own rooms.

Mr Wilson introduced the present system of alternate weekly shifts for the staff working nights. Previously the staff worked broken shifts which meant that some often had "all nighters" without breaks and were called on to make their appearance fairly early the following day. If the House sits late, the present system relieves the night staff when the House rises or at 8 a.m. and they are not required till 5.30 p.m.

Stocktaking was a major task of the staff. The Library did not possess a shelf list and the system used was slow. It did, however, indicate that constant vigilance was necessary—and still is—to prevent books going astray.

Mr James continued as Assistant Librarian until 1923. His later years were marked with frequent periods of illness which told on the standard of his work.

Mr Wilson retired in March 1926 and his successor, Dr G. H. Scholefield, o.b.e., commenced duties in May. He was even then the author of two books on New Zealand and the Pacific and had been New Zealand Press Association representative in London. For the next 22 years the Library was under his care. Hampered by depression and war, the development of the Library was not as rapid as it could have been.

The principal change in the Library during this time was probably in the staff. Members of the staff, mostly in senior positions, had held degrees, but generally they had not been recruited from university graduates and had picked up such library technique as they could at work. A university degree now became essential, and in addition, outside studies of library science were favoured as being of value both to the member of the staff and to the Library. Mr A. D. McIntosh, now head of the Department of External Affairs, for example, was given leave in 1932 after receiving a Carnegie grant to attend the Library School at the University of Michigan.

Dr Scholefield was also responsible for the introduction of women to the staff. Though a Mrs North had been employed as a clerk for six months in 1900, the hours of duty had made the Library a man's world. In 1926 Miss Q. B. Cowles, from the Turnbull Library, was the first of the many young ladies who since then have been members of the staff.

The other change was in the reference service. The Library came to be called on more and more for research and information. These calls came not only from members of Parliament, but also from Government Departments and from the public. The staff naturally had to be more highly trained to carry out these tasks and had to spend more time to answer the inquiries. After Mr McIntosh's return the reference staff was reorganised and a collection of quick reference books made. In addition, not only did the staff carry out research but it began to summarise and rewrite the results of its research ready for immediate use by honourable members.

Dr Scholefield, with his keen interest in biography, was instrumental in obtaining for the Library many collections of personal papers of New Zealand statesmen. Among these are the papers of Sir John Hall, William Rolleston, and Sir Julius Vogel, not to mention the wonderful papers written and collected by the Richmond and Atkinson families over nearly 50 years. These documents are already proving valuable to political and historical scholars.

Dr Scholefield was also Controller of Dominion Archives and for some years these were housed in the Library. During his period as Chief Librarian, in addition to several editions of Who's Who in New Zealand, Dr Scholefield published his monumental Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and two other works of biography.

On his retirement in October 1947 Dr Scholefield was succeeded by Mr W. S. Wauchop, m.a., who had joined the staff in 1924 as Assistant Chief Librarian. Freed from the restraints of war, and with a larger grant, the Library expanded rapidly. The Library Committee, which had for some years taken a less important rôle in the control of the Library, once again came to the fore. It was instrumental in obtaining much needed space and assisting generally in the progress which took place.

Mr Wauchop was also responsible for obtaining the microfilm camera which is today reducing the bulk of New Zealand newspapers received in the Library to manageable proportions for storage. Great steps forward were also taken in the indexing of New Zealand newspapers and for the first time in its history the Library had a complete index to all news in two (later three) of the more important newspapers in the Dominion. Mr Wauchop retired at the beginning of 1955.


No history would be complete without some mention of the fire of the early morning of 11 December 1907 which destroyed most of Parliament Buildings. It began in the old portion formerly occupied by the Library at about 2 a.m. and rapidly spread to the Legislative Council on one side and the House of Representatives on the other. Both these portions were of wood and burned fiercely.

Though the Library was in the brick portion, fire danger had still been considered to be great so that earlier in the year the stackroom windows overlooking the courtyard had been bricked up. In addition, the entrance door was protected by a steel blind.

It appeared at first that the Library was in no danger and no attempt was made to remove books. Eventually, about 4 a.m. the roof of the new committee rooms and entrance was in danger of catching alight, and Mr Wilson decided to clear the building. With the help of some of the staff and the general public, some 15,000 volumes were taken either to the Government Buildings or to houses in Hill Street. Though the rear portion of brick with wooden floors and partitions caught fire about 5 a.m. and damage was done to the roof, the Library was seen to be in no further danger and the clearance was stopped.

Some slight damage was done to these books, but insurance covered this, and generally little damage was done to the Library itself. The removal of the wooden portion has reduced the risk of fire considerably, and although the rear portion still has wooden floors, little of value is stored here. If any future outbreak occurred it is probable that more damage would be done by water. To prevent this a large drain was recently made in the basement to allow water to escape readily.

After the fire there was some discussion on the possibility of using the reading room as the Chamber of the House of Representatives, but Government House was finally chosen. The brick building was repaired and a covered access way provided across Sydney Street from the Library to the Chamber.

At the time of the fire the Library was insured for £4,000, a small portion of its true value. This insurance was continued until 1928 when the cover was raised to £10,000, still much below the cost of replacement. In 1942, with the introduction of war damage insurance and the consequent increase of premiums, it was decided that the Library should, like other Government Departments, not be insured, the Government carrying the risk itself.


Circulation of Books

The first library rules that can be discovered today are those for 1869. Though it is certain that borrowing was permitted before this, members were permitted by these rules to borrow two books for a period of a fortnight. Even so, the privilege of borrowing was restricted to the session.

It is doubtful if the rules were strictly enforced for as early as 1873 Mr T. Kelly from New Plymouth moved that the Library Committee should be instructed to allow members outside Wellington the right to take out books and to keep them for two months. Though the motion was not approved it appears that members residing in Wellington did have books at their homes.

No great change was made in the wording of the rules, but it appears that at the end of the session members were taking books away, and in 1886 Mr James Macandrew from Dunedin admitted doing so. In the recess of 1885-86 Sir James G. Wilson (Bulls) had written to the Librarian asking for books to be sent to his home. The request was refused but following it the House passed a motion recommending the Joint Committee to prepare regulations for lending books during the recess to members living outside Wellington.

The Committee, however, did not favour the idea and reported that there were so many difficulties in the way that they would not carry it out. On the motion of the Premier, Sir Robert Stout, the House reluctantly agreed with the report.

There the matter rested until the session of 1891 when it was raised in a question addressed to a Minister. As a result the Committee brought down a report saying that they had agreed to a scheme for circulating up to six books at a time to members in the recess. Certain reference and valuable books, newspapers, and periodicals were excluded, but most other works could be borrowed. The Library would provide boxes or baskets for the transmission of the books, and six dozen were obtained for the following recess. During it 34 members borrowed 438 volumes, not one being lost, though two were damaged.

Both House and Council agreed to the scheme, though certain members were violently opposed to it. Since then it has provided members with reading material during many recesses. Certainly, some books have been lost, but probably there would be an even greater chance of losses if the practice of recess borrowing had not been regularised. In any case, books often disappear from the shelves in libraries with the best oversight and supervision and are never seen again.


The provision of fiction in the Library has been criticised, but novels have been purchased since the early seventies. The numbers purchased have always been small, and have given well earned relaxation and pleasure to legislators as well as building up what is the only collection of the minor nineteenth century classics that exists in the Dominion. These books are frequently in demand by students of nineteenth century English literature.

Inter-library Loan

In keeping with the policy of allowing the widest possible use of the Library, while at the same time retaining all books necessary for Parliament, the Committee in 1909 drew up rules which would have permitted university libraries to borrow. Little use, however, seems to have been made of the privilege.

In 1936 the Committee gave approval for the participation of the Library in the New Zealand Library Association scheme. Libraries outside have not been slow to take advantage, and while considerable restrictions exist on the books that can be lent, only one book is borrowed by the General Assembly Library for every 20 or so lent.

Recess Privileges

Though the Library is primarily the Library of Parliament, it has always been generous in allowing the use of its resources to students and others. As early as 1875, while books could only be taken out by members of Parliament, heads of Departments, and Judges, the Recess Committee had discretion to allow the use of the Library for reference and study.

The minutes and correspondence show that the demands were many and that permission was frequently given. There was no general rule about admission, and as a result individual application was necessary. Mr Collier did his best to liberalise the privilege, but at the same time he wanted the use limited to genuine students rather than to those who wanted it for prestige and as a means of obtaining light reading.

A resolution of 1891 allowed the privilege to be granted on the recommendation of a member of Parliament, head of a Government Department, or local clergyman, but by the end of the century the right was restricted to members of Parliament. The recess privilege did not allow borrowers to take out current fiction though classic fiction could be borrowed.

The rules have long permitted the use of the library for brief periods by serious research workers. The position has now been placed on a permanent basis, and students at the honours stage at the University or undertaking serious research are allowed to use two special rooms in the Library.

Here it might be well to mention the request that has recently been made to allow the Library to keep open until 6 p.m. during the recess. This has been done three times in the past, in 1892-93, in 1903-04, and again in 1911, but the use was so small that the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. were quickly reverted to.

The National Library

Though the General Assembly Library is principally the Library of Parliament, many of its functions are those of a national library and this matter has been raised on many occasions. The earliest references are those of James Collier in 1888, and his remarks are of interest, "... the Library of the General Assembly [may] develop or, as is more probable, bifurcate into a national library ..."

As the only large State library, it was natural that the General Assembly Library should be regarded as the basis of a national library and there were frequent references to this side of the Library's work in the debates on copyright deposit in 1903 and 1913. About the same time the Library Association meeting in Wellington carried a resolution saying that the Library should be regarded as the nucleus of a national reference library.

The matter was not forgotten but rather lay dormant until 1935 when the Munn-Barr report on New Zealand libraries suggested the amalgamation of the General Assembly and Turnbull Libraries, together with a country lending department, to form a national library. This suggestion more or less received the approval of the Government and plans were drawn up for a new library building.

The war intervened, but since 1950 the question has become increasingly prominent, and there have been two inquiries. While it is possible to combine a purely legislative and national reference library, I have doubts on the complete absorption of a parliamentary library by a national library. In the United States, for example, the Library of Congress gives both services, but Congress and its needs are supreme. The library seemingly envisaged for New Zealand would have wider scope and unless very carefully planned and managed, there could be conflict between Parliament and the department controlling the library.

The Library also played its part in the establishment of the Country and later the National Library Services. In 1935 Dr Scholefield travelled overseas at the invitation of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and on his return made a report on rural library services, which turned further attention to this matter.

A group of New Zealand librarians interested the Carnegie Corporation of New York in the proposal to organise a demonstration scheme in Taranaki and asked Mr G. T. Alley to prepare plans. In 1937, however, £3,000 was placed on the Estimates for the Country Library Service and Mr Alley was appointed Director later in the year. For some time the Service was also located in Parliament Buildings.

Twenty years earlier the Library had also assisted in the reorganisation of the Turnbull Library as a State library. Mr J. C. Andersen was for some time on the staff, resigning to become first Librarian. In addition, both Mr Wilson and Dr Scholefield were in turn Advisory Directors to the Turnbull Library until the post was abolished in 1930.

The Library as a Museum

The Library has during its century collected many curios which should really have been given to a museum. The Library Committee has had to decide frequently whether historical relics could be displayed. In 1886, after the Taiaha of Wahanui presented to James Bryce had been refused, the Committee laid down that nothing but books, manuscripts, maps, etc., should be deposited without special permission.

However the Library possesses today many such relics. There are the caskets containing the Freedoms of certain cities presented to Mr Fraser, a similar collection of Mr Seddon's and of Sir Joseph Ward's, the pen used by Mr Massey to sign the Treaty of Versailles, a kava bowl, mats, etc., from Samoa, and many other items. The Library also had for a time the Bishop Monrad etchings and the Chevalier pictures, but these were handed over to the Turnbull Library and Academy of Fine Arts respectively.

The display of such objects tends to attract to the Library visitors not interested in the books, but whose conversation distracts more serious readers.

Purchase of Books

Though today books are purchased in many countries most of the books have always been obtained in England. The first books were bought from Smith and Elder in London, but this was not continued. Instead, an arrangement was entered into with a Mr Maberly of Auckland, partner in a London firm of booksellers, to obtain and bind books uniformly.

In the following years the Library had several London agents, none of whom were entirely satisfactory, while some were quite the reverse. What the Library Committee wanted was a reliable buyer who could provide books cheaply and in addition supply the more important books as they were published without duplicating them in later orders. Including the time taken for reviews to reach New Zealand, for them to be read, the books to be ordered and dispatched to New Zealand, it would be not far short of a year before a book published in England reached the shelves of the Library.

After several changes of agent in quick time the Committee in 1883 asked the authority of Cabinet to use the Agent-General in London to purchase books. This was given and book purchase was put on a happier basis. This was particularly so in the first years when Sir Francis Bell was Agent-General. Though the books were supplied by a bookseller in Edinburgh, Sir Francis, as a former member of the Library Committee, took a personal interest in the orders and anticipated the purchase of many popular books.

The High Commissioner in London, successor to the Agent-General, has continued to oversee the purchase of books for the Library either from booksellers or from the publishers. He has been of invaluable assistance to the Library in this task; and the assistance given in this field is only paralleled by that of the other overseas agencies of New Zealand, particularly those in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

A large and increasing number of books has also been purchased from booksellers in New Zealand. Particularly in the case of novels, it is of advantage to inspect the book before buying a copy.

For many years books purchased in England were rebound uniformly in morocco. In 1886, in an attempt to reduce costs, the Committee decided that works costing less than 10s. were to be sent out in the ordinary cloth binding. The more expensive and important works still continued to be rebound in leather, but as time went on this too was discontinued and all books were dispatched in the publisher's binding.


What does the General Assembly Library exist for and what does it set out to do? Its primary function is to assist members to obtain information needed for the performance of their parliamentary duties and also to make available to them books, periodicals, etc., which may better equip them as men of affairs.

From the first the Library set out to obtain books on matters and topics likely to be the subject of legislation and on matters likely to be of interest to members. As funds became available and the Library grew it was also possible to purchase books for recreational reading, but this has always been a lesser aim.

The necessity for obtaining books on matters likely to be subject to legislation has directly led to the acquisition of books relating to New Zealand. The principal subject of legislation before the New Zealand Parliament is New Zealand, and in order to give the information required it is essential to have as complete a collection as possible on New Zealand.

The advent of the Liberal Government in 1891, and later of the Labour Government, led to wide extension of the field of legislation and consequently of the stock of the Library. Today the Library is strong in official publications, in economics, politics, administration, law, and statistics; there are good collections in history, biography, and travel, and also an excellent reference collection.

The staff have always given members of Parliament every possible service, but the scope has tended to grow. Last century members tended to do more of their own research, and relied on the staff to locate books rather than individual items of information. The desire for this last service grew and attempts were made to provide it.

To do so, however, required considerable advances in staff and technique. It involved the indexing of periodicals, often attempted by the staff which was rarely in a position to do it well and to continue it. Today much of this work is done either commercially or cooperatively and, although the results are not available quickly, the staff is freed for other work.

Today the Library is working towards the time when it can give a reference and research service similar to that of the House of Commons Library, or to imitate in a smaller way that of the Library of Congress in Washington. Such a service requires intelligent, well trained staff who are capable of locating and organising information into a form where it can be readily understood and used.

The Library is doing an increasing amount of such work, but it has not the staff to do all that is required of it. I am sure, however, that before the story of the Library is much longer, it will be giving a fuller service.

In this connection there is one aspect of the work that should not be passed over—the indexing of newspapers. Newspapers have always been important to the Library, giving as they do so much current history and opinion. Only in recent years has it been possible to index certain papers fully, and so provide quickly necessary references.


Books are of little value without men to care for them and men to use them, so that to be successful a library needs good books and good men. The General Assembly Library has been fortunate in the men who have controlled it and the men who have used it.

No librarian can ask for more than the support and interest of those who control the library, or that the material and information he provides is being put to good use. No user of a library can ask for more than the real interest and help of the librarians in his research and reading. Again the General Assembly Library has been lucky in the interest shown by members of Parliament and by the staff who have served in it.

Some names have been mentioned here; many more should have been. Suffice it to say that as far as Parliament is concerned many members have given generously of their time and energy to help make the Library what it is today.

The same remarks can be applied to the staff. They are fortunate, for their work gives a pleasure that much work does not, and so makes doing it so much easier.

This support from members of Parliament and from the staff gives the Library such reserves that it faces its second century with confidence. Difficulties there may be, but they will not be so great as to prevent even better library and information service being given to Parliament.


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