New Zealand Law Society - Books returning to NZLS Library in Wellington but Christchurch has less space

Books returning to NZLS Library in Wellington but Christchurch has less space

This article is over 3 years old. More recent information on this subject may exist.

The Law Society’s Wellington Library based at the High Court is coming together again, with the first of about 80,000 books in storage due to return in two weeks.

The library was initially closed following the 7.8 magnitude Kaikoura earthquake that struck just after midnight on 14 November 2016. The quake activated the library’s sprinkler system and some of the books were damaged. All the books were moved to a specialist document management facility in Porirua.

“We’ve got shelving in the library which is a really good start,” says Law Librarian Robin Anderson. “It’s what’s left of the old shelving which was salvaged – most of it was salvaged – but about a quarter of it was destroyed in the earthquake. That’s been resurrected in the new floor plan on one level instead of two.

Robin Anderson stands beside empty library shelves
Law Librarian Robin Anderson with the returned shelving

“And just today (Monday) the engineers approved all of the positions for it, so that means we can now go ahead and get it earthquake braced to the floors, and all set to receive the books.

“I suspect that’s probably going to take another two to four weeks to get all this braced, so we don’t expect all the books to come back this month, but some of them may come back after a month,” he says.


Mr Anderson envisages “quite a bit of work” will be required to re-shelve all of the books.

“I anticipate that, in November, we will have all the books back, but it could be a bit longer before we have everything in the impeccable order that we are used to, and that could take us into January.”

He says the Porirua facility has been ideal for protecting the collection.

“It’s a low temperature, low humidity storage facility, which is really good for the books. Unfortunately, we discovered in the storage that several of the books were wet and had grown a bit of mould and two had to be destroyed. The remaining ones were fine once cleaned of mould.”

Mouldy library books
Mouldy books before being cleaned

With the library being reduced in size, Mr Anderson says all unreported judgments will be scanned in and put on the Cloud.

Less than one percent of the collection was damaged beyond repair in the quake, but many of those were duplicates. Some of the others have been replaced by other libraries and some will have to be purchased.

Lawyers have been able to use the library’s digital service in the meantime, while several research questions had to be fielded by other libraries. Victoria University of Wellington’s Law Library has allowed lawyers to research within their collection, although, Mr Anderson says, there is a different orientation between the academic set up there and the practical operation of his library.

Less space for Christchurch library

The new NZLS Library at the Justice and Emergency Precinct in Christchurch will have to make do with significantly reduced space, impacting greatly on shelving.

The library is moving out of the current courts building into the ground floor of the new building later this year. The Ministry of Justice says Fletcher Construction Co. expects to complete the Justice Building at the end of September and the Emergency Services Building at the end of October.

The Librarian at the Canterbury branch, Julia de Friez, says they currently enjoy about 400m² of space at the Durham St Courts building, but the new library will only have 247m².

“This library was very well designed by Warren & Mahoney in the early 1970s. So, while the Justice Precinct has an interesting, modern design aesthetic, our current location is a lovely, traditional law library space and we’re rather sorry to have to leave it.”

Ms de Friez says the new library will accommodate the ‘trimmed’ print collection, a study space with seating for about 15 lawyers, and a staff ‘hub’ for the small library team).

“Due to the reduction in space, most of the collection will be shelved in compact shelving, but even using compact shelving, we are working to about a 22% reduction in shelving capacity,” she says.

Lawyers’ Room

There is also a separate Lawyers’ Room on level three of the Justice building which will provide a break-out space for lawyers working in court.

Ms de Friez says lawyers will be able to access the library's subscription databases via its wifi network.  The room will have a mix of eight ‘stand-up’ and ‘sit down’ workstations.

Two Law Society computers will be provided for quick research. For more involved research, it is expected they will go to the library on the ground floor.

Ms de Friez says there has been a delay in moving to their new home, by four weeks, to early November.

She also notes the process for issuing lawyers with swipe cards for access to the Library and the Lawyers' Room is still be worked through by the Ministry of Justice.