A public library, responsible to and funded by the Gisborne District Council, the H.B. Williams Memorial Library, along with 7 community libraries, serves the 45,000 people of the Gisborne and East Coast district.


Located in the first city in the southern hemisphere to see the morning sun – the library has had a long history by New Zealand standards. It first opened in 1869 as Turanga Library, in a room in the courthouse at a time when there were no roads overland and visitors came by horseback or boat to the district.

As the library grew it moved to various sites until 1967, when a local family gifted a new building in memory of their father. Thus the H.B. Williams Memorial Library was established much as we know it today. The building is a classic example of 1960s architecture and has adapted well to the advent of the information technology.

Stained-glass window

Inanahi ki Tenei Whakatipuranga
Yesterdays, Yesteryears and the time in between until Tomorrow

Unveiled in 1993, the window measures 39.5 square metres, completely covering one end of the building. Ninety five percent of the glass is handblown, Stained glass windowhandmade glass selected in the United States of America by designer Steve Hutton. Maori kaumatua monitored construction, ensuring the window was historically and spiritually correct. The design depicts the passage of time and development of Tairawhiti (Gisborne District) from volcanic origins to present day. Midway through the design is an impression of Te Toka a Taiau, a rock symbolising the boundary that lies between the Ngati Porou and Rongowhakaata tribes. Crystal and shards of gemstones have been incorporated into the window encouraging close inspection.

H.B. Williams Memorial Library Book Trust

The trust was formed in 1983 to provide additional funds for the purchase of books for the Gisborne District. An independent charitable trust, it is administered by three trustees who decide each year how the money should be spent.

Donations from the public are added to the capital fund. Only the interest is able to be spent on books so every donation made to the Trust continues to work for the community.

Anyone can contribute to the trust…

  • Bequest (make provision in your will)
  • Donations in memory of a family member or friend
  • Service groups, clubs and societies
  • Mark a company promotion or anniversary
  • Leave loose coins in the donations box at the library