The Bad Old Days

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  Students studying at Wellington Public Library. Negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1958/3627-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

These library rules date from about 1913 – the very early days of CPIT’s library. They’re an interesting insight into a different way of doing things.


  1. Each pupil may have out of the library one book and no more at one time. So, obviously, no assignments calling for ‘at least 10 sources’…
  2. Inclusive of days of delivery and return, one week will be allowed for each book. Such lending may be renewed. One week? What can I read in one week?
  3.  If a book shall not be returned at the proper time, the borrower shall be liable for a fine of one penny per day for each day over date. For comparison, a penny would buy you a sandwich or a cup of tea in 1913 – so about $4 per day in today’s money.
  4. Books are not transferable.
  5. Books cannot be changed twice on the same day. Tough luck if you chose the wrong one.
  6. If a book shall be written in or torn, or otherwise damaged, the borrower may be required to pay the value of the book or to replace it. Some things never change!
  7. Until a pupil shall have paid the School charge, and also all fines and moneys due by him on account of books detained, lost or damaged, he shall not be entitled to use the library.

I’m sure there were also rules about quietness in the library, and about eating and drinking. I hope we’ve moved on a bit now!


CPIT Library, 2012

We try to keep our rules to a minimum, but sometimes we can’t please everyone. To avoid the dreaded late fees, keep an eye on the date your books are due, or try electronic books – they return themselves, always on time.

For a complete run-down of the library’s user regulations, see the library homepage, or pick up an ‘Everything you want to know about borrowing from the library’ pamphlet from the library desk.

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2 Responses to The Bad Old Days

  1. Marion says:

    Why call it the bad old days? Just the different days. Use your imagination and take a walk back to those times –
    1.books were perhaps more precious resources – expensive and less of them.
    2. People had less distractions and the opportunity to learn was highly valued because less people had it – so you would concentrate on your book for that week.
    3 to 7. See above about precious resources and opportunity

    It is easy to make throw away remarks about bad old days but while there are great things going on today not everything is as good as it was in 1913 – I think they would have had a higher proportion of students who valued the opportunities they were given. Today I think people have an expectation that they will have access, learning and resources on their terms and perhaps because of that they value it less.

  2. brockclaire says:

    Thanks Marion – I used ‘the bad old days’ as a title, hoping to provoke comment, and it worked!

    I think you’re absolutely right about the value of resources – we know that the library here was very small in those days, so to keep the books circulating it was important to have and enforce rules such as these.

    I also hope that our students do value their access to the range of resources that we offer. Polytech study has changed a lot since 1913, and more and more courses are much more ‘academic’ than they used to be, and this has increased the importance of the library to many students. Hopefully, the changes to our circulation policies over the years have made the library a more welcoming place.

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