Dunedin has a large number of outstanding libraries and hours can be spent soaking up the calm and contemporary environments, while finding a read to satisfy the soul. Dunedin’s reputation as a literary city in the literary and learning stakes can be seen by the incredible wealth of mediaeval manuscripts, precious historical items, generous bequests and impressive photographic and pictorial collections housed in our libraries.
Dunedin libraries also have exciting event calendars, with lectures, performance, art and launches often reflecting activities around the city. The per capita use of the public library is impressive, with more than a million people through the doors annually and 40,000 individuals participating in events and outreach programmes. Not bad for a city of around 123,000 people!
Dunedin Public Libraries
The Library, often described as the living room of the city, provides a range of inviting physical and virtual spaces, and offers open access to information, education, ideas and works of the imagination across generations. A regular collaborator with local writers and arts organisations, the public libraries hosts and publicises author talks, workshops and supporting book launches. The libraries ensure that the published work of Dunedin writers is well represented on the shelves for customers to enjoy, and also keeps a pristine heritage copy for future generations through the McNab New Zealand Collection.
Libraries can be found in the City, Mosgiel, Port Chalmers, Blueskin Bay and Waikouaiti; along with two book buses that visit a wide variety of areas throughout Dunedin.
Hocken’s collections celebrate the history and cultures of Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific. Open since 1910, the Hocken has grown into a national research hub. Its collections of archives, publications, maps, pictures and photographs focus on the history, cultures and natural environment of Aotearoa New Zealand, the Pacific and Antarctica with special emphasis on southern New Zealand. The art collection, one of the largest in the country, contains historical and contemporary works.
The Lilliput Libraries project was born in 2015. The Libraries are painted by volunteers - artists range from professionals, through to secondary school students, students in community youth groups, and guardians who want to make their mark on their Library. The project has been a real community effort with neighbours, friends, workmates and local businesses all donating time, materials or talent.
These books are free, for people to take and keep, or pass on, or return to the original or another Lilliput Library. We encourage people, at some stage, to pop a replacement book in the Library so they are self-stocking with top ups by the Guardians! We're hoping they'll become focal neighbourhood spots - a bit like the old corner dairies!
You can find your nearest Lilliput on this map
Opened in 1870 on a prominent site in The Octagon, Dunedin, the Atheneum is one of the oldest surviving main-centre private libraries still used for its original purpose in New Zealand. The Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute provided the early European settlers with ready access to books, periodicals and live readings. The Athenaeum is still in existence today, with its library still operating from the central city site it moved to in 1870. While its membership has naturally declined since the advent of the public library, there has been a revival of interest in the Athenaeum and what it provides over the last few years. The building in which it is situated in the Octagon in the centre of Dunedin was recently purchased by a heritage building restoration enthusiast who has woven his magic over a number of the city’s old buildings and his intention is to provide a fully fledged arts hub in the building with the Athenaeum library as its centrepiece.
The Hewitson Library
The Hewitson Library, located in the Hewitson wing on the Campus of the historic Knox College Dunedin, has one of New Zealand's largest theological collections of print material in religions and theological subjects, including rare books, world religions, Biblical studies, church history, Christian thought, ethics, missions, pastoral studies, lay ministries, and spirituality.
The ISB. Information Services Building
The University of Otago Central Library, was gutted, rebuilt, and extensively enlarged at the turn of the 21st century. The building, now known as the ISB, continues to be quite a sensation and provides 2,000 plus study spaces, facilities for users with disabilities, 20 group study rooms and multiple access to databases and other electronic resources. Nearly 700,000 items including about 4,000 print and thousands of electronic journals are available. Subjects include arts and humanities, commerce, physical education, social sciences and theology. The Special Collections, on the first floor, consist of about 9,000 books printed before 1801. Other special collections are the Brasch Collection, the post-1800 stack collection, the Mellor Collection and art works including a collection of Piranesi etchings and a major McCahon mural.
The Robertson Library
The University of Otago, College of Education, Robertson Library, also serves the Otago Polytechnic students and staff. The architects for the redevelopment of the 30 year old building were McCoy & Wixon Architects. University education resources and Polytechnic resources are provided from the Robertson Library. Library staff provide assistance in the use of library resources, services and facilities, including comprehensive reference and research services.
The Tower Room Library
The Dunedin Chinese Garden is the only truly authentic Chinese Scholar’s Garden in the Southern Hemisphere. Within, the Tower Room Library is a collaboration between the Shanghai Municipal Library, the Dunedin City Library, the Chinese Consulate, and Dunedin residents, offering a range of books focused on Chinese culture in both English and Mandarin. The tranquil Dunedin Chinese Garden, located in the heart of the city, also regularly stages writing and poetry events and is an important place, acknowledging the significant contribution of the Chinese settlers to the city, and located in the heart of Dunedin.