I can imagine a librarian; call him Norris. Norris is sitting on a verandah, drinking an iced tea that's just started to sweat in the weekend sun. He's reading a book that re-interprets the reign of King Richard III in the light of a vampiric illness, but his eyes just move over the same few lines.

Norris is really thinking about how he can make his library a more pleasant place to be, somewhere people like to hang out. Perhaps a potplant or two? Maybe some artwork from local residents? We could even arrange some sort of special with the café downstairs. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Your problem, dear Norris, is that your library is built to house books. Everything about it is there to keep them organized, contained and available. It's a warehouse—nothing more. Adding a pot-plant will make it a warehouse with a pot-plant. In this way, books are worse than boxes. Books have a force of their own. Too many together in one space can become oppressive. Being in such a place is like standing at the edge of a great cliff, or sharing a cage with a tiger: awe-inspiring, exhilarating, terrifying; never comfortable. Face it Norris, it's too late for you and your library.

In another place, a place where the ducks rule and the traffic lights whistle, in a university town without a university, in a village where the square at night is home to racer boys and a fluorescent cross of many colours, there is a Library.

It's hard to say what makes this Library different. Other libraries feel like temples, or crypts; this one feels like a big lounge room. There's not the buzz of an urban café, but there's not the usual solemn quiet either. From the main floor you can see the CD and film area downstairs. Around the corner from the non-fiction area there's a public phone. The walls have reds and blues and yellows. On the north side there reading chairs next to large windows that look onto the town square and the town's duck lords. While I was there a boy played the piano part of Bohemian Rhapsody from memory. Anyone could easily spend a whole day here and reckon it pleasant one.

Obviously it was intended to be this way from the beginning. The comfort of the Library is partly because it is whole, not a few token efforts scraped together. The planners must have asked themselves "How can we make this a pleasant place to be" over and over. They had a core value by which all decisions could be measured. They have sacrificed some virtues—there are many fewer books than the space permits—in order to excel in this hospitality.

Perhaps poor Norris can take comfort in this. His library may never quite be the placethat Palmerston North Library is, but it can certainly have more books. After all, what's a library for?