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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

 

Principles, aims, and code of conduct

 

The library is a continually redesigned and re-authored space. We have developed an initial set of principles, aims, and code of conduct which will be developed over time, rethought and rewritten as necessary. These and what they invoke reflect ongoing processes within and beyond the site of the library. 

 

We commit to operating the library according to the following principles: 

  • To honour and uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi, acknowledging tangata whenua as people of the land and in recognition that this land was stolen from Māori and sovereignty never ceded

  • To respect and honour the space we occupy in the Samoa House building, and the layered history of this site in which we are implicated, as indicated by and held in our name—to reflect and act on this responsibility accordingly

  • To support and platform Māori and Pacific knowledges and practices as a crucial part of our programme 

  • To practice collective decision making processes at a board level that recognise our individual perspectives, as well as those perspectives that exist outside of our board 

  • To welcome feedback, criticisms, and comments from the public and address concerns in an active way that reflects the values of our organisation

  • To demonstrate a duty of care to those we host and our wider community, as well as those directly involved, such as our volunteers, donors, studio residents, contracted practitioners, advisors, supporters, and organising members

  • To foster a sense of belonging, through respecting and nurturing the mana of others

  • To create space in which peoples of the Pacific feel safe and welcomed

 

As a library we aim to:

  • Provide infrastructural conditions for artistic thinking and radical pedagogy

  • Create a collective setting where knowledge is shared and critical conversation is encouraged

  • Form around relations and kinship, which requires and benefits from ongoing negotiation and discovery

  • Maintain a space that is welcoming, free, comfortable, and safe for all communities to use

  • Make the collection readily usable, useful, and relevant 

  • Prioritise critical evaluation of our material, and of the organisation of this material

  • Expand the archive and diversify the collection—to pluralise our archive and place value on an ecology of knowledges and epistemologies

  • To maintain a collection that represents and reflects our placement in the Pacific

  • Develop the library to reflect the needs and concerns of the local artistic field and our context

  • To critically evaluate and reconsider the use of the name Samoa House Library

All visitors to the library are expected to:

  • Respect the mana of other visitors and volunteers at the library

  • Be considerate of others within the building including the studio residents 

  • Take care of the library’s resources and facilities

  • Understand unequivocally that bullying and personal or discriminatory harassment is not tolerated

 

Organisation

 

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.  

 

The current organisers are: Atarangi Anderson, Divyaa Kumar, Hannah Davis-Gray, Olyvia Hong, Shiraz Sadikeen, Waveney Russ, and William Linscott.

 

If you are interested in being involved please feel free to contact us via email or in person at the library.

Formation

 

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. 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.