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Days of the ‘good read’ on the decline

Thursday 26 January 2023 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Education, National


Days of the ‘good read’ on the decline
Cook Islands Library and Museum librarian Sally Voss with one of the thousands of books on sale. PHOTO:AL WILLIAMS/23012601

Thousands of items including books, compact discs and DVDs are up for grabs at bargain prices, as the Cook Islands Library and Museum Society struggles to keep up with a continuing influx of donations and declining membership.

Labelled the “Big Book Sale”, with “lots of sci-fi/fantasy, chick lit, thrillers, romances, cook books, children’s books . . . starting at 50c”, Cook Islands Library and Museum Society manager Jean Mason estimated there are 64 cartons containing 30 books each on sale.

That equates to nearly 2000 books.

Add to that stacks of CDs and DVDs which have been filling up limited storage space at the Avarua facility.

Mason said there has been a turnaround in trends during the 15 years she has been with the organisation.

“Fifteen years ago you couldn’t get a book; they have so much stuff now they are taking it to the dump.”

Mason identified the digital age as a key contributing factor.

“Everyone has gone digital.”

She said it is mainly young adults who have moved away from using the library services as the non-profit organisation has limited opening hours.

“We open when we can, when we have volunteers.”

Membership is on the decline and the library had to find ways to diversify, she said.

The library relied on revenue from fees and books sales, with no Government funding.

“There was some fallout with Government in the early 90s, we don’t have ratepayers, everyone is expecting it to be free.”

Most of the books, CDs and DVDS are donated by various organisations in New Zealand, and some are destined for schools and the outer islands.

“We try not to dump trash in the outer islands.”

Thrillers are popular among men while sports biographies have declined in popularity, she said.

And while an increasing number of people are turning to online sources for their reading pleasure, Mason had plenty to say about the benefits in picking up something hard copy.

“They don’t call books brain food for nothing; reading improves your brain.

“Using memory recall is helpful for your brain.”

Mason said the library was now a place where “everything comes to die”.

“It’s strange times we live in.

“Last year we had full encyclopedia sets and a lot of young people had never heard of them.

“Encyclopedias used to sell for thousands of dollars a set, they were for sale here at $10 a set.”