Unveiling of the Pare 1988

Farewell Sylvia Ashton-Warner Library at Epsom

Services moving to the City Campus

As part of the wider closure of the Epsom Campus, Te Herenga Whakaakoranga | Sylvia Ashton-Warner Library, at Epsom, is closing its doors for the last time on Monday 13 November 2023. Services and collections are transferring to Te Herenga Mātauranga Whānui | General Library at the City Campus. 1.

Key moments

A library for student teachers was established at the Auckland Teachers’ College in 1906 and has been located in Epsom since 1925. To mark the transition to the City Campus, a few key moments from the history of the library, some of which are drawn from the Auckland College of Education Archives, are captured here.

Library renamed in honour of Sylvia Ashton-Warner

On 10 November 1986, the Management Team of the Auckland College of Education resolved that the library shall be named the “SYLVIA ASHTON-WARNER LIBRARY”. 2.  They had received the recommendation from Stuart Middleton in May of that year, and the outcome was the result of several considerations, including:

  • Sylvia Ashton-Warner is a most prestigious graduate of this college having been a student at the Auckland Teachers College in 1928-1929;
  • She is widely regarded throughout the education world as a significant influence in the development of current perspectives in the field of language education;
  • She is one of New Zealand’s most famous teachers;
  • Her work represents a fine balance of education, literature, biculturalism and equity which fits well into the emphasis of the college;
  • It is fitting that her work receives this recognition. 3.

The official ceremony took place on 14 August 1987, and the rather generic name of College Library was assigned to history.

Of course, the Library Staff were invited, as captured in the formal Invitation. 4.

invitation to the opening of the Sylvia Ashton Warner Library

Click on the images to enlarge.

The Official Secretary for Sir Paul Reeves Governor General, noted, in accepting his invitation to be part of this event:

“His Excellency is most happy to accept this invitation. He would like you to know that he has the highest regard for Sylvia Ashton-Warner and is greatly pleased by your decision to re-name your Library in her honour. It will give him great pleasure to perform the official re-naming ceremony.” 5

The organising committee were also delighted to have members of Sylvia Ashton-Warner’s family in attendance, with Elliot Henderson, Ashton-Warner’s son, travelling from England and her sister, Norma Lingard, there.

The event was recorded in the Central Leader. 6.

Central Leader, Tuesday 25 August 1987

Addition of the Pare

The Pare, which sits at the entrance to the Māori Collections, was carved by Kapua Riini Atakura , a student of the college. It symbolises the two peoples who entered into the agreement of the Treaty of Waitangi and the promise to care for each other and still retain their cultural identities. It was unveiled in 1988. 7.

Establishment of the Dennis McGrath Wing

The current building on the Epsom Campus, which houses the Sylvia Ashton-Warner Library, is a result of two phases of building work. Also identified as L-Block, the building was initially constructed in the early 1970s and opened in 1974. Designed by architectural firm Thorpe Cutter Pickmere and Douglas, it was considered a modern and advanced structure for its time, supported by “futuristic pre-cast concrete portals”. 8. It even won an award for library building design.

The new College shared library under construction

The new College shared Library under construction. 9.

However, by the mid-’90s the collection had doubled in size, technology requirements were changing, and the staff were engaged in new activities based around user education and information skills and needed better teaching spaces. The student population had also increased in number and there was a pressure for additional study space.

An ambitious project of work was undertaken in 2000 to double the size of the library which resulted in the right-hand Dennis McGrath Wing that you see today. (Dennis McGrath was Principal from 1986 and was appointed to lead the newly established Auckland College of Education which was formed from the separate primary, secondary and early childhood colleges).

The new Dennis McGrath Wing taking shape

The new Dennis McGrath Wing taking shape. 10.

The wing was officially opened by the Rt Hon. Helen Clark on 16 February 2001.

The Rt Hon. Helen Clark unveils the plaque with Dennis McGrath looking on.

The Rt Hon. Helen Clark unveils the plaque with Dennis McGrath looking on. 11.

It was at this point that the newly created Māori and Pacific Island Collections were established, and library rooms with designated purposes were set up, including the Information Skills Room, the Seminar Room, and a room for visually disabled students to use specific software.

Pou commissioned

Mark Klaricich with Pou

With the addition of the new wing, a Pou was commissioned to sit in the newly formed front courtyard to the library. The work was undertaken by Mark Klaricich (seen above), and he explained at the time:

“…the faces and figures seen are all mirrors of ourselves. They are like a snapshot of the state of our heart, mind and spirit in whatever aspect of our lives. On one side the peaceful pose of those who have found their feet. On the other, those straggling away from initial chaos. However, from unknown chaos, order is eventually glimpsed. … This Pou – whakairo celebrates the quest for knowledge, the achievement of goals, and the bold step into the now.” 12.

The Pou is part of the University of Auckland Art Collection and will be relocated as part of a broader programme of work concerning art at the Epsom Campus.

The library comes under the wing of the University

The Auckland College of Education was amalgamated with the University of Auckland in 2004 and the library became part of Te Tumu Herenga | Libraries and Learning Services.

In April 2022 the library took on the new role of delivering the Student Hubs, Epsom Campus service, and in 2024, services and collections are transferring to Te Herenga Mātauranga Whānui | General Library at the City Campus.

What is happening to the name of the library?

The library at Tai Tokerau continues to bear the Sylvia Ashton-Warner name. Read more about Sylvia Ashton-Warner Library at Tai Tokerau.

Sylvia Ashton-Warner’s papers and ephemera will be moved to Special Collections in the General Library and will be listed as the “Sylvia Ashton-Warner papers” in the Manuscripts and Archives database.

This collection is managed by the Cultural Collections team and is available for viewing by researchers in the Special Collections Reading Room, Level G, General Library.

The physical spaces and collection locations may change over time, but the close relationship between Te Tumu Herenga and the Faculty of Education and Social Work remains strong.

He hono tangata e kore e motu; ka pa he taura waka e motuUnlike a canoe rope, a human bond cannot be severed.

Featured image: Unveiling of the Pare 1988.


  1. (2023, September 28). The Sylvia Ashton-Warner Library at Epsom is closing. Libraries and Learning Services. https://www.news.library.auckland.ac.nz/2023/09/28/epsom-library-closure/
  2. Munroe, R. (1986, November 10). Name of College Library; To Auckland College of Education Council. Library Committee Memo.  ACE Sylvia Ashton-Warner Library Re-naming. Auckland College of Education Archives Box 1429.
  3. Middleton, S. (2001). What’s in a name? The naming of the Sylvia Ashton-Warner Library at the Auckland College of Education. ACE Papers, Issue 10: Sylvia Ashton-Warner – Special Edition, Paper 2, 32–42. https://researchspace.auckland.ac.nz/handle/2292/25100
  4. Auckland College of Education. (1987) Invitation. ACE Sylvia Ashton-Warner Library Re-naming. Auckland College of Education Archives Box 1429.
  5. Office of the Governor General, Wellington, New Zealand. (1987, May 5). Correspondence to Mr R G Munroe. ACE Sylvia Ashton-Warner Library Re-naming. Auckland College of Education Archives Box 1429.
  6. (1987, August 25). [News item]. Central Leader. ACE Sylvia Ashton-Warner Library Re-naming. Auckland College of Education Archives Box 1429.
  7. (1988). [Unveiling of the Pare]. ACE 1989 Miscellaneous including Māori lintel. Auckland College of Education Archives Box
  8. (2023). Discovery Trail. 18 – Sylvia Ashton-Warner Library: L-Block. Faculty of Education and Social Work. https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/education/study-with-us/epsomcampus/discovery-trail/sylvia-ashton-warner-library–l-block.html
  9. [n.d.] The new College shared Library under construction. Auckland College of Education Archives. Photograph courtesy of Derek Olphert.
  10. (2000). [Dennis McGrath Wing under construction, front view]. Photos – Library extension being built and interiors 2000?, Auckland College of Education Archives Box 1410.
  11. (2001, February 16). [Rt Hon. Helen Clark unveils the plaque with Dennis McGrath looking on]. Album, Auckland College of Education Archives Box 1458.
  12. Klaricich, M. (2001, February). Te Reo Akona. Life Learning. ACE Library Pou. Auckland College of Education Archives Box 1429.

If you would like to explore more about the archival materials mentioned here please contact the University of Auckland Archives.