As New Zealand celebrated a national holiday, one of the country’s largest city libraries was closed, with staff and security given the day off. But an error with the automated door programming meant Tūranga’s doors opened to the public as usual – and the unstaffed and unsecured library was happily used by the public, who browsed and checked out books for hours before someone realised the mistake.
As well as its books, the library is home to a wide variety of artworks and sculpture – but staff say nothing was stolen, and there were no serious incidents to report.
News of the incident emerged in correspondence documents released by the council last week.
A library staff member at Christchurch city council said 380 people came into the building that Sunday morning.
“Our self-issue machines automatically started up and 147 books were issued by customers. No book-theft alarms went off, and at this stage nothing has been reported missing, nor have we spotted any damage.”
The library was supposed to be closed for Waitangi Day, a national holiday.
There was one disgruntled punter – a person who couldn’t find a librarian to assist with checking out their CDs.
The staffer wrote: “One customer left a note saying they were taking some CDs because there were no librarians in sight: ‘I’ve decided to take the CDs to teach you a lesson in how not to operate a functioning library.’ The returns room was full of books and the first floor … was quite messy. My team leaders will continue to check for any missing books or other items of value.”
“Lucky nothing was stolen,” another staff member wrote.
The council realised what was happening after seeing comments on the library’s lack of staff on social media, and a security guard was sent to usher out the city’s browsers.
“We’re grateful for the honesty of the people who used the library during this time,” said Bruce Rendall, the head of facilities, property and planning at Christchurch city council.
He said there had been an investigation and the door system failing was “very rare”.
“We consider all of the materials in Tūranga to be valuable because of the knowledge, ideas and joy they bring people,” he said. “To the best of our knowledge, nothing has been taken. The people who accessed the library during this time used the self-checkout machines to issue books and other materials.”
Facilities managers said in correspondence that the contractors in charge of the security door system “take responsibility” for the error and had “put in place a peer review for holiday programming to ensure this won’t happen again”.