Old library files come to light

Presbyterian Research Centre director Anne Jackman with the Kaikorai Presbyterian Church circulating library register from the 1880s, a piece of local history recently rediscovered. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Presbyterian Research Centre director Anne Jackman with the Kaikorai Presbyterian Church circulating library register from the 1880s, a piece of local history recently rediscovered. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.

The titles include everything from Missionary Enterprises to The Wonders of the Human Body, and the subscribers are listed in cursive handwriting both elegant and neat.

The Kaikorai Presbyterian Church circulating library register is a small piece of local history, and it was recently rediscovered and given to the church's archive at Knox College.

Presbyterian Research Centre director Anne Jackman says the register is a ''snapshot of what people would read'' at the time.

The register came to light after Ms Jackman, who is in charge of both the Hewitson Library and the church's national archive at Knox College, spoke at a genealogists' meeting in Dunedin.

She was approached by an attendee who had discovered the item among family papers, and asked if the archive would be interested in it.

The archive stores items from official records to ministers' personal papers, and Ms Jackman said the register was of interest.

The Kaikorai Church has stood at the crossroads of Taieri Rd and Nairn St since 1868.

Circulating libraries were common in the past, with most parishes having one, so parishioners could access ''suitable religious literature''.

The register shows the Waverley Novels, by Sir Walter Scott, were popular, as was the Sunday at Home journal and travel books like The Land and People of China. The History of Scotland, unsurprisingly, was also a part of the collection.

The rules of the library were adopted at a meeting on June 24, 1880.

It was open to any member of the congregation, and ''any person recommended by a member or adherent who is a subscriber''.

The rules were clear when it came to the library committee's powers, which included ''the power to exclude from the library any book which they may deem unsuitable''.

Subscription cost one shilling a quarter, paid in advance, and books were given out on a Thursday night at the close of the prayer meeting.

Ms Jackman said the register had been added to the archive, which was open to anybody with an interest in the history of the church. It would join the 180,000 items in the photograph collection, and 2500 linear metres of archive material.

- david.loughrey@odt.co.nz

Research library in Dunedin town

I'm all for restricted access or member subscription to collections. The Hocken has archival catalogue of patient records donated by Ashburn Hall, a former residential psychiatric hospital. It is for specialist researchers, and I'm proud not to be one.

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