The History of Our Library


The First Rotorua Library

The Rotorua Public Library and Reading Room opened in April 1889 in a building next to the Rotorua Hotel at Ohinemutu. The building had been first a store and then a schoolroom before being furnished as a reading room with newspapers, magazines and 335 lending books. Visitors were given free use of the library but residents had to pay a subscription of one pound a year.

By December 1889 so many newspapers and magazines had disappeared that access was restricted to subscribers only. The Library had 900 books by 1891, in part funded by successful concerts and dances organised by the library committee. 

The Victoria Institute    

By 1895 the library badly needed renovation and a building fund was started for a new library in Arawa Street.  The Victoria Institute was opened in 1897 with a new librarian, Miss Emma Cottrell, and by 1907 it had 1300 books.

For the next 15 years Rotorua was under Government control and the library was sadly neglected. When Rotorua became a borough in 1923 the librarian Miss Benner reported that most of the books were old and lacked covers. She used to sell plants from her garden to raise money for the Library. 

The Municipal Building

An upsurge in interest in libraries in the 1930s resulted in Rotorua Public Library moving into the new Municipal Building in October 1940 and becoming "free" to borrowers in 1941. During World War Two library service was given to soldiers in the Physical Training Centre Military Camp and in the hospitals.  Use of the library increased steadily during the 1950's and 60's.

The Masonic Building

In 1970 the Library moved into temporary premises in the Masonic Building on Fenton Street where it remained for 21 years. A branch library operated at Western Heights for 12 years closing in 1981. A new modern issue system was introduced in 1974, a mobile library service in 1985 and the Library's first computer system in 1986.

Rotorua Public Library was still in its temporary quarters when it celebrated its Centenary in 1989 but the dream of a larger library that could give better service to the people of the Rotorua District was not far from reality.​​​​

Haupapa Street

The former government building between Haupapa and Arawa Streets was renovated and opened to the public in 1991. 

In 2008/9 the library building was extensively renovated, adding 1000sq metres of floor space for the library.  A cafe was incorporated into the entrance design and an extra floor was opened up to accommodate the growing collections.  Three meeting rooms were created as well as a secure browsing area for some of the library's special heritage collections. 

The entrance door was also moved to face out to Haupapa Street.  At that time, the library's name changed from Rotorua Public Library to Rotorua District Library.


Pukuatua Street

Rotorua Library opened in the temporary location on the corner of Pukuatua and Amohia Streets on 29 July 2017.
The library name changed from Rotorua District Library to Rotorua Library. 

The move to these temporary premises allowed for refurbishment and maintenance work to be done on the Haupapa Street building. Many know the building on the corner of Pukuatua and Amohia Streets as the 'Old Van Dyks Building'. While the floor space of these premises was a significant reduction, different layouts, processes and programmes were tested ahead of the move back to Te Aka Mauri, Rotorua's new Library and Children's Health Hub in Haupapa Street in early February 2018.

​Rotorua Library Te Aka Mauri

Te Aka Mauri, incorporating the new Rotorua Library and Rotorua Children's Health Hub opened on 3 February 2018. Nau mai. Haere mai.  ​


Library Carvings and Artwork

Hinemoa and Tutanekai Carving

The carving of Hinemoa and Tutanekai was done by the Rotorua Māori Arts and Crafts Centre for the opening of the library in 1991.


The Rotorua Embroiders Guild were contracted by the library to make the needlework hanging in the library. A list of all those who contributed hangs next to the needlework.

Page reviewed: 07 Feb 2019 11:35am