Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 29, October 1985


As a result of structural faults which showed up in the Library Building in 1983 a search of old Council records was made to establish when the building was erected and how it came to be there. The first record of a library is a letter from the Registrar of the Supreme Court, Auckland, stating that the Ohinemuri Public Library was registered under the Public Libraries and Mechanics Institute Act on the 6th September 1883 and the first trustees are recorded as: Peter Austin (Chairman), C.F. Mitchell, J.M. Robson, J.H. Mahoney, W.M. Littlejohn, J.W. Salmon (Secretary),C. Rhodes (Treasurer), John Ritchie (Librarian).

In 1911 Section 27 Block 1 Town of Paeroa (where the Borough Council office now stands) was proclaimed Library Reserve and subsequently vested in the Ohinemuri Public Library in 1913 (N.Z. Gazette 1913 p 176). I cannot find any indication that a library actually operated on that site.

In fact, the first indication on Borough Council records of actual location refers to Section 65 (the present Library site). This site seems to have come to the Council as a result of a decision by the Commissioner who dealt with the formation of the Borough in 1915 when he directed that "The Ohinemuri County Council shall assign to the Paeroa Borough Council Section 65 ... now occupied by the Public Library ....". The Borough had to pay the County 650 pounds. As two sites were not required the vesting of Section 27 was changed on 25 February 1926 to "in trust for a site for Municipal Buildings" (N.Z. Gazette No. 11 25/2/1926).

Immediately on the formation of the Borough in 1915 the Library Committee sought a financial grant and was given 7 pounds & 10 shillings ($15). For the calendar year of 1918 the Library income was 22 pounds 6 shillings & 7 pence from which they spent 7 pounds 6 shillings and 6 pence on new books and 3 pounds 14 shillings & 9 pence on newspapers and periodicals. Staffing was voluntary, no Salaries being paid. Subscribers numbered 42, paying 10 shillings per year. The book stock was a remarkable 2081 volumes and the issues for the year were 6657 of which 6400 were fiction.

The Library hours 7—9 p.m. Tuesdays, 3—5 p.m. Thursdays and 7—9.30 p.m. Saturdays with the Librarians recorded as: Miss Priestly, Miss Shaw and Mrs Anna Thorp. Mr David Leach was Chairman and Edith A. Dobson, Treasurer. Names of other Librarians mentioned in records are: Mrs Halliday followed by Miss Kenny 1925 to 31 May 1937. Then Mrs J.E. Wright 22/5/37 to 25/9/39; Mrs E.L. Stewart 25/9/39 to 31/1/43; Mrs H.L. Buckrell from 1/2/43 to 28/2/73; Mrs D. Dreadon from 1/3/73 to 1985.

The Library hours were extended in 1930 and the Librarian's salary increased from 30 pounds to forty pounds per annum and were still that in 1937. In 1939 the hours were Tues, Thurs, Sat. 3—5 p.m. Mon, Wed, Fri. 7—9 p.m. The Ohinemuri Public Library signed a Deed assigning all their interests and property to the Council in 1925. The Workers Educational Association held its meetings in the building in 1930.

In 1941 there is a note on the file which says "at the end of March we will move into the new rooms". These were a Centennial Memorial and were officially opened on 16 June 1941 on which date the Council joined with the Country Library Service and became "free" with an initial C.L.S. stock of 375 books. In another file relating to the N.Z. Centennial Celebrations in 1940 I found a record of a Public meeting held on 26 January 1930 when it was recommended to the Council "that the completion of the Library building be adopted as the Centennial Memorial".

The Government had offered a subsidy of one quarter of the cost of approved Memorials, the project was to be financed by the Borough Council putting up 450 pounds, public subscriptions to provide 450 pounds and the Government subsidy of 300 pounds. Unfortunately, public canvassing did not go well, possibly because of the war and the demands of patriotic fund raising and Council informed the project committee that it would increase its contribution. Mayor William Marshall was asked to "draw up the plans and supervise the work". The final cost was 1,580 pounds which included 114 pounds 18 shillings and 6 pence for a share of the party wall with Dalgetys and 150 pounds for furnishings and sundry. Because the job had gone ahead so slowly the Council was late in applying for its subsidy and almost missed out. It was to some degree through the efforts of the M.P. that they eventually received it.

Fairly major alterations were carried out in 1969 when the reading room and Library room ware turned into one big room as it is now. The Paeroa Branch of the NZ Plunket Society occupied a room in the building from 1941 until it built its own premises at the corner of Wharf and Marshall Streets in 1961. That room was then occupied for a period by the District Health Inspector and, when he moved into the County Council extensions, it became the book store and repair room for the Library. The Feilden Thorp Museum extension was added in 1978, with Mr P.F. Lowe as the contractor, at a cost of $ 15,759.00.

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An interesting side-light to the foregoing history is that Paeroa, apparently, had a library before Hamilton did, for in the press in October 1984 was a report stating that the Hamilton Library was now celebrating its centenary.


Mrs Dorothy Dreadon, Paeroa's Librarian for 12½ years, retired in April, 1985. Her efforts were recognised by the Paeroa Borough Council at its monthly Council meeting and a presentation was made to Mrs Dreadon by the Mayor, Mr Ted Leigh.

The Historical Society also held a function to pay tribute to Mrs Dreadon and to thank her for her kindness and thoughtfulness at all times to Museum staff.