Library history

Nelson Public library service is one of the oldest public libraries in New Zealand, and indeed the library which has provided the longest continuous service to the public in New Zealand.

Its origins date back to 1841, Nelson Institute original premises, when building was occupied by Mrs Cooper.with the formation of the Nelson Literary and Scientific Institute, on board the New Zealand Company ship, the Whitby. A collection of 700 books, on the Whitby, was to form the basis of the first library collection. The Institute’s first reading room was opened in Upper Trafalgar Street on 27th September 1842. A plaque in the pavement marks the site. The second and third buildings were in Hardy Street, with the third serving for many years as the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology’s Fisheries building. The fourth and current central library building, the Elma Turner Library, opened in 1990. Foundation stones for all buildings can be seen in the foyer. The Council took over the library system, which has branches in Stoke and Tahunanui, in 1965.

Construction of the 1911 Nelson Library, Institute & Museum, with scaffolding.

To read more about Nelson Public Libraries and its history, see the following stories on the Prow, our local history website:

The Nelson Institute continues to flourish, and offers regular Coffee and Books talks at the library. To find out more about the Institute, or to join, contact the President.