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Creating a home away from home in public libraries

Posted: 
Thursday, 25 Nov 2021
Region: 
Auckland

When kaimahi found five teenage boys cleaning Takanini Library’s dedicated public kitchen, they knew they had created something special.

The 'Creating Home' initiative came out of insights from The Southern Initiative’s (TSI) report on the Early Years Challenge, which focused on the first thousand days of tamariki lives.

“The overall question was how can we create better outcomes for whānau in South Auckland,” says TSI’s Tamariki Wellbeing Advisor, Roimata Taniwha-Paoo, who is leading the initiative in partnership with Auckland Libraries.

Having previously made changes to Otara library’s ‘age-old system', Roimata is no stranger to creating comfortable spaces for whānau.

“We work within a system that says ‘you can’t eat in a library’ and there are so many rules. But we chucked all those out to do what was needed,” says Roimata.

“Whānau told us they needed somewhere they could parent outside of their home because their home wasn’t always safe, was cold or they were living with people who weren’t great with their babies during the day.”

“A lot of our māmā said ‘how cool would it be if the first thing you see when you walked in to a library was a kitchen instead of a reception’. So that’s now the first thing you see at Takanini and it’s open to everybody.”

Tikanga Māori and whānau voice at the heart

“It was important that whānau felt they were part of the change-making process and that they could see their kōrero being prioritised,” says Roimata.

She and her team worked with people from outside of the library system, with the only prerequisite being that they had to be a parent.  In addition to meeting with those who use their local library, the team sought the input of whānau who were disconnected, struggling or who were isolated.  This included connecting with whānau in Work and Income waiting rooms.

“The insights told us that whānau wanted to be in a space with people who looked like them and who knew what they had been through,” says Roimata.

Achieving systemic change within community facilities 

As a result of the insights, there is now a recruitment drive to ensure those working at the library 'look like the community' and Auckland Libraries is implementing ‘five minimums’ as core components in new builds. They are:

  • a warm welcome
  • somewhere to feed baby
  • access to baby changing space
  • a space to connect with others
  • access to a kitchen.

Roimata says the basis of the ‘Creating Home’ initiative was manaakitanga and aroha.

“When staff demonstrate manaakitanga for each other, this manaakitanga can then be extended to whānau who, together, then infuse manaakitanga into the space.”

“Takanini Library is an embodiment of Creating Home,” says Roimata. “The dreams of whānau have been made into reality – right down to the māmā who wanted a slide.”

This story is courtesy of SKIP, who supported this community project through the SKIP Local Initiative Fund.  If you have a great idea to make positive change for whānau in your community, and want to find out more about what funding might be available, get in touch with SKIP.