There’s a hive of activity nestled in the corner of Te Ahumairangi, the ground floor of the National Library. is a public space that offers free access to digital services including free wifi and PCs and Macs bundled with office, graphic, web, video and audio software. Scanning and printing services, for a small fee, are also available.

There is a positive energy in Natural light streaming through the high windows promotes warmth while outside, a steady traffic of people race past and the trees sway and bob melodically.

A mixture of tall and short tables stimulates movement and soft furniture of green, yellow and blue creates vitality.

Panorama of the space showing tables, chairs, computers, and 3D printers.


Within reach in the foyer is the majestic mural ‘Te Wehenga’ or ‘The Separation’, carved by artist Cliff Whiting. According to Māori legend, the sky father Rangi-nui and earth mother Papa-tū-ā-nuku lay together in tight embrace. Their sons, unhappy with darkness, plotted and successfully separated their parents letting in light and knowledge. The mural is a fitting reminder of the Library’s mandate to preserve national identity and archive knowledge.

Nearby is HOME cafe, which provides the aroma of brewed coffee and the comforting background noise of incomprehensible chatter symptomatic of modern urban times. Numerous cafe staff dressed in black zig zag hurriedly with purpose and poise.

The vibrant and versatile atmosphere of attracts an assortment of patrons.


Students are naturally drawn to a place that promotes education. Wendy Russell is a student at Victoria University’s Pipitea campus. She is studying International Business and Marketing and comes to often to study and complete assignments.

Similarly Erana James, a Year 13 student from neighbouring Wellington Girls' College will sometimes use during a free period to work on upcoming assessments. In the late afternoon, College students will trickle in. Huddled in small groups they talk quietly, read, or in ostrich fashion simply bury their heads in their digital devices.

Te Kura Correspondence School

Every Tuesday afternoon during the school term, functions at full capacity. The numbers swell with students and teachers from Te Kura Correspondence School turning up to study and teach. Officially New Zealand’s largest school, Te Kura offers an alternative for many students who are not able to attend conventional school. Co-ordinator and teacher Jennifer Boyd says, “It’s welcoming, open, colourful, warm and multi-functional, which really matters to kids”.

Students like Te Ani Rangi are studying up to six subjects. not only provides a place for Te Kura students to receive essential tutoring and guidance but also offers an opportunity for students to meet other students.

Jennifer Boyd and Te Ani Rangi in the space.Jennifer Boyd and Te Ani Rangi.

The out of office meeting room

A common sight in is a group of white collar professionals seated around a table exchanging thoughts and ideas and gesticulating. Entrepreneurs Jo-Ann and David diligently tap away at their laptops. The sophisticated duo are behind Ārahi, a company producing premium non-alcoholic beverages. A lot of time and effort goes into a business from production to marketing and distribution. Hard work has paid dividends with Qantas recently adopting their product.

Kate is passionate about Wellington and can speak at length about important issues affecting the city. A self-employed consultant and former council worker, she quickly prints off documents before meeting with a client. She often uses and the Library as an off-site office.

Actively seeking work

Bernie is currently unemployed and uses the computers for job seeking purposes. Despite many years of work experience, he confides that he is concerned that age might count against him. He is philosophical about his job prospects and with a wide smile reveals he attended an interview the other day.

The globe trotters

Many international travellers will come to for relaxed place to surf the web and print travel documents. Slovaks Katarina Simoncicova and Andrej Antal have enjoyed the rigours of fruit picking during their sixteen month working holiday. It will be back to reality in four weeks for this couple when they bid New Zealand zbohom (or farewell) to return home where Katarina is an architect and Andrej is an engineer.

Andrej and Katarina in the space.Andrej and Katarina from Slovenia.

3D printing

As part of the Library’s commitment to provide access to learning resources, it has recently added 3D printing to its services. These special printers will often draw on-lookers curious about the humming contraption frenetically darting back and forth, intricately building an object layer by layer. A variety of small models have been printed by customers including appliance and robotic parts.

Hayden uses the 3D printers because the service is competitively priced and it allows him to trial and test the technology before deciding on whether to invest in one himself. Today he is printing a model from a favourite video game as the game does not have any official merchandise. This particular file will take a few hours to print in which time Hayden will use to study towards a qualification in counselling.

National Library Learning Facilitator Jason Hansen has a keen interest in design. He has previously run workshops on using Adobe Creative Suite in and is currently completing an independent study on 3D printing with Victoria University. “3D printing is a way of making information physical,” Jason explains. He illustrates his point saying he recently printed a 3D map of Mt Ruapehu to tie in with the current library exhibition on cartography. The small model presents an alternative perspective showing tangible depth and shape of the relief.

The regulars

Murray Goodger of Miramar, an online book trader, discovered by word of mouth about eighteen months ago. He uses the services for both work and pleasure as he owns neither a TV nor computer. Murray finds the close proximity of the National Library collection a big advantage. “The Library holds a copy of all New Zealand publications and it’s easy for me to pop upstairs. I pride myself on knowing what I’m selling”. He also likes to watch old music videos and TV programmes on YouTube.

Nick Harvey lives within walking distance and describes as a pleasant, friendly environment. Although today he uses mostly for work related tasks, in the past he has used it as a creative space, arriving early in the quiet of the morning to write a screen play.

Nick Harvey in the space.Nick Harvey.

George is living it rough. After seven years of sobriety, he relapsed in 2013 setting in motion a domino effect. With his inability to function competently at work, he eventually lost everything. He has been homeless for the past five months, currently sleeping in the carpark opposite the Civic Centre. He is seeking counselling for his alcoholism though says it is hard as it helps him sleep and keeps him warm as the temperature drops. George says he likes as he gets to surround himself with positive people and enjoys connecting with the hundreds of friends he has on Facebook. has become a regular destination in Caroline Christian’s daily routine following morning mass at the nearby Sacred Heart Basilica in Thorndon. She is currently writing a book and uses as a base between her research on family history at the Alexander Turnbull Library, upstairs and Archives NZ, a short distance up the road. Caroline says she likes the building, décor and engaging staff and describes the Library as “relevant to New Zealand, capturing our time and space in history”. During school holidays she will often bring her grandsons Nathan and David in to share the importance of the Library’s taonga.

Caroline Christian in the space.Caroline Christian.

Craig originally from the Hawkes Bay is a regular. He is a bit of an enigma with talents in hunting and design. He is a jovial character who enjoys friendly banter with other customers. A die-hard Hurricanes fan, Craig will jokingly remind any Auckland Blues supporter that the best thing about the team is first five Ihaia West (Hawkes Bay) and coach Tana Umaga (Wellington) and that their chances of a title is very unlikely.

Indeed there is a positive energy in and it comes from its patrons. Come visit!

By Mathew Purcell

Mathew is a former Learning Facilitator with the Library's Public Programmes team.

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