BY KATE RUSSELL AND CHARLES ANDERSON
The vision statement for the Elma Turner Library redevelopment has been removed after it left some Nelsonians feeling ‘not very smart’.
Nelson City Council received the community engagement report for the $14.9 million redevelopment during a workshop on 19 August.
The report, prepared by Athfield Architects and Irving Smith Architects, stated the original vision statement was “a smart library for a smart little city”, based on the council’s buzz phrase it has used for the past few years.
However, feedback received from the community was that the statement made people feel “uncomfortable” and that the statement was “exclusive” in that “only smart people can use the library”.
Instead the library moved to change its statement to reflect a “vibrant and well-used library network which connects the people of Te Tau Ihu to knowledge, heritage and creativity by empowering lifelong learning”.
“A place of respite and enjoyment, our library system grows and adapts to the community it serves.”
Council’s group manager strategy and communications, Nicky McDonald says the term ‘Smart Little City’ was designed to show Nelson as a vibrant and forward-thinking region, encouraging clever business and innovation to help create smart, sustainable communities.
“This thinking flows through council’s work, from the introduction of Bee Card, our new electronic bus card, to stormwater upgrades that will increase our resilience to future heavy rainfall events.
“We encourage feedback from the community about the term and how it is used, and this is just one example of feedback we received about the term in conjunction with the library. It is not a reflection of wider feedback on the Smart Little City as an effective description for Nelson.”
The report also summarised feedback received through its community engagement process and makes recommendations for the next steps.
The Elma Turner Library has been housed since 1990 in a former car showroom on Halifax St. Over time it has been extended and refurbished.
However, the building has been labelled “tired”, unsuitable for contemporary library operations and an inadequate size for the current or projected Nelson population.
The redevelopment first gained traction in 2018, with $14.9 million budgeted in the long-term plan.
The engagement process involved meeting with elected members, council managers and staff. Library staff, iwi groups and the public were also consulted with.
During the survey period, 159 responses were received. Feedback included a desire to keep the library in the river precinct – although it was noted the project should consider sustainability and sea level rise.
A cafe, a well-serviced community room, a connected Nelson archive centred on a library heritage space, a sustainable building and the inclusion of a ‘hub’ of community services were also mentioned in the feedback.
A final location has not yet been agreed. Options might include refurbishment of the existing building, a new build on the current site, a new build on a neighbouring site or greenfield site.