Samoa House Library is an independent art library and alternative education platform, located in the Samoa House building at 283 Karangahape Road, Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland. It is an artist-run and community-grown space that first emerged in response to the closures of specialist libraries at The University of Auckland.
The library consists of:
An open and inclusive space for people to meet, study, and work
A growing collection of texts, based primarily off donations from our community
A calendar of group discussions, workshops, and other public programmes
A research-based residency programme
Ten studio spaces for individuals or art organisations
The library is organised by the Save Fine Arts Library Charitable Trust, and funded by Creative New Zealand grants and other small fundraisers. The library is supported by a range of volunteers who help to mind, maintain, and develop the space and its organisation, as well as by individuals and organisations who donate books and resources, and provide support in other ways. If you are interested in being involved please feel free to contact us via email or in person at the library.
Kaitiaki / Operations Manager: Bonni Tamati
Board of trustees: Vaoala Olivia Blyth, Hannah Davis-Gray, Ella Johnson, William Linscott, Bevan Peace, Daniel Satele, Faith Wilson
In March 2018, a review document was published detailing the proposed closure of Elam’s Fine Arts Library, the Architecture and Urban Planning Library, and the Music Library. This was part of a wider restructure of Libraries and Learning Services at The University of Auckland that also involved the disestablishment of many staff roles throughout the department. The review document made recommendations to the vice-chancellor, who would make the final decision regarding the proposed closure. Many felt the eventual closure to be a fait accompli given the internal approaches taken to the review process and the imperatives of upper university management.
Some of the University’s most valuable resources and spaces were being dismantled, and during this process, there was no meaningful consultation with students or staff. A campaign called Save our Fine Arts Library (SFAL) was organised rejecting the review proposal. Initially, oppositional proposals were made through official university channels, but after a lack of traction, the campaign was made public via an array of responses from media appearances to peaceful protests. In April, over 1500 people participated in a rally at the University of Auckland. Speakers representing different faculties affected by the proposals addressed a crowd gathered outside the Vice-Chancellor’s office. Around 700 written submissions were hand-delivered, along with a petition of over 4000 signatures. A learn-in was held at the Fine Arts Library, with speakers addressing topics including the planned closures; the value of libraries as collections and places; and the broader issues of university management as reflections of, and conditioned by, neoliberalism. On another occasion, the department dean’s office was occupied by students and staff who were demanding at least basic transparency and the reversal of the decision to close the libraries.
Despite widespread backlash, the decision to close the libraries went ahead. The protest actions taken by students, some staff, alumni, and the arts community reflected a response to the wider crisis in tertiary arts education. In the same year, students at The University of Otago were fighting against the disestablishment of their art history programme; Victoria University in Wellington responded to the loss of important art history staff; and The University of Auckland’s School of Cultures, Languages and Linguistics and the Education and Social Work Faculty experienced significant cuts to resources at a time when we were facing a huge shortage of teachers around the country.
As the library closure progressed, those involved in SFAL began to think about ways in which we could transfer our energy into productive and autonomous actions. In challenging the Libraries and Learning Services review, we had recognised our ability to self-organise. We set out to open and operate an alternative library that sought to interrogate established education models while also attempting to recreate some of what we believed we would lose when the libraries closed—a physical space to support communal gathering, learning, working, and the sharing of knowledge and resources.
Samoa House building
Samoa House was built with funds raised by the Samoa House Appeal Fund and opened in 1979. The site includes the first fale built outside of Samoa and previously housed the Samoan consulate alongside community spaces and offices. The Consulate-General relocated to Fale O Samoa in Mangere in 2016. The consulate lease spaces within Samoa House to a variety of private and public spaces.