When the internet arrived nigh on twenty years ago some declared that libraries would become extinct. The same anguished cry has gone out with the arrival of the e-reader.

Public libraries have embraced the internet and e-readers. Most libraries around New Zealand (including the six in the Far North) offer free internet and WIFI to anyone, including non-library members. E-books are relatively new. The Far North District libraries belong to a consortium of North Island libraries that offer e-books and downloadable audio books to their patrons.

A few library patrons initially abandoned their public libraries when they first acquired their e-readers. But for most the e-reader is a supplement to their ordinary paper book, rather than a replacement. In many ways the e-reader is to your library what your microwave is to your kitchen. It is an extra, an add-on. It doesn’t replace the other services offered by your library just as the microwave doesn’t replace your cooker.

New Zealanders love their libraries. The modern library is a vibrant community hub. It may not always be as quiet as it once was, but it still a place to search for knowledge and information. And it is a place to meet with friends and family. Here in Te Ahu you can do that while sipping on a cappuccino and listening to live piano music.

E-book circulation has advanced steadily since the introduction of our Novel service. And the collection is growing. But traditional library use remains, only better than ever. Now patrons can request and renew books online. Our online catalogue is easy to use and includes a cover photo of most resources. It also includes lists of new books purchased by the FNDC libraries by the month. That’s a lot of books. Our overall collection contains around 125,000 thousand items spread around the six libraries of the Far North. Each year roughly 10,000 new books are purchased so the collection is constantly being refreshed.

But libraries are about much more than books. They are places of information storage peopled by information retrieval experts. They contain DVDs, audio books, and magazines. Here at Te Ahu, with our magazine collection purpose-built adjacent the café, magazine lending has doubled to 1000 per month. There are special collections of puzzles, westerns and romances, as well as important and well-used Maori and Aotearoa collections.

Is the modern library in danger of being made redundant? Certainly not here in Kaitaia. In our first six months in Te Ahu we added nearly 800 new members and foot traffic increased by 40%. We continue to see new arrivals to the Far North and residents of long-standing keen to join the library. The place is abuzz with activity.

Rather than a dinosaur of the past the modern library is an ever-evolving celebration of the future and of the communities in which we live.

Radio host, librarian, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See http://www.JohnHainesBooks.wordpress.com